Legislature(1999 - 2000)

04/08/1999 08:05 AM CRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
HB 155 - MUNICIPAL ASSEMBLY APPORTIONMENT                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 2765                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIRMAN HALCRO announced that the final order of business                                                                   
before the committee would be HOUSE BILL NO. 155, "An Act relating                                                              
to municipal assembly forms of representation and apportionment."                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SMALLEY, Sponsor of HB 155, Alaska State                                                                         
Legislature, explained that HB 155 would allow borough governments                                                              
and municipalities to have the state reapportionment plan in place                                                              
before the borough draws up its election districts.  This would                                                                 
eliminate confusion for voters with regard to what precinct the                                                                 
voter belongs.  He informed the committee that the committee packet                                                             
includes a letter from the Alaska Municipal League.  Representative                                                             
Smalley said, "...it says that if there's a determination that                                                                  
existing apportionment fails to meet standards set forth in Alaskan                                                             
statute, the assembly must adopt an ordinance providing                                                                         
reapportionment and present it to the voters within six months of                                                               
its determination under that statute."  He pointed out that it is                                                               
practically impossible for the Kenai Peninsula Borough to develop                                                               
and adopt the state precinct lines since the new lines are unknown,                                                             
yet by law the borough's plan must be in place.  Therefore, it                                                                  
would seem appropriate to require the assembly to adopt its                                                                     
reapportionment plan and bring it to the voters after the state's                                                               
plan has been approved and put in place.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
LINDA MURPHY, Borough Clerk, Kenai Peninsula Borough, testified via                                                             
teleconference from Kenai.  She explained that municipalities with                                                              
districted seats on the assembly and city council must determine                                                                
whether existing apportionment meets state standards within two                                                                 
months of receiving the federal decennial census.  If the                                                                       
determination is that the city is malapportioned, the assembly must                                                             
go before the voters with a reapportionment plan within six months.                                                             
At that time, there is no way to know what the state plan will be.                                                              
Ms. Murphy pointed out that often, the assembly districts are set                                                               
by the then current precinct lines which are changed by the state                                                               
within one to two years.  Currently, the Kenai Peninsula Borough                                                                
has one precinct which has portions of four different assembly                                                                  
seats which causes much confusion for qualifying the candidates for                                                             
those assembly seats.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
TAPE 99-23, SIDE B                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MS. MURPHY informed the committee that there could be three                                                                     
different ballot types; one with no assembly seat, and then two                                                                 
different ballot types with different assembly seats.  Furthermore,                                                             
confusion is caused in the borough office with absentee ballot                                                                  
requests by mail.  This would simplify the process and reduce costs                                                             
since fewer ballot types would have to be produced.  Ms. Murphy                                                                 
also felt that the possibility of a contest of an election based on                                                             
a voter potentially receiving an incorrect ballot would be reduced.                                                             
In conclusion, Ms. Murphy urged passage of HB 155.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Number 2900                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIRMAN HARRIS indicated that state reapportionment laws are                                                                
different than municipality and borough reapportionment.  For                                                                   
example, the state must take into account such things as ethnic                                                                 
diversity during reapportionment.  Co-Chairman Harris noted that                                                                
portions of Anchorage are represented into areas within the                                                                     
borough, but not located within Anchorage itself.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MS. MURPHY said that she was not qualified to speak on the state's                                                              
reapportionment requirements.  She reiterated that she is                                                                       
interested in knowing where the state draws its precinct lines in                                                               
order that borough apportionment can follow the state precinct                                                                  
lines as closely as possible which lessens confusion at the polls.                                                              
In response to Representative Murkowski, Ms. Murphy informed the                                                                
committee that she has been the Kenai Peninsula Borough Clerk for                                                               
the past two years, prior to that she was the City of Seward Clerk                                                              
for 17 years.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI expressed interest in whether Ms. Murphy                                                               
was in the clerk's office during the last census and if so, were                                                                
there problems or confusion.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. MURPHY specified that she was the clerk in Seward during the                                                                
last census.  Seward does not have districted seats, but is part of                                                             
the Kenai Peninsula Borough.  Ms. Murphy was aware of the problems                                                              
the borough was having due to the joint elections meetings with all                                                             
the clerk's in the borough.  The borough was having difficulties                                                                
establishing a plan without knowing what the state's plan would be.                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Number 2744                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIRMAN HARRIS stated that HB 155 would effect all communities                                                              
that have more than one Representative or Senator in their district                                                             
as well as multiple assembly or council members.  How would HB 155                                                              
effect areas such as Fairbanks or Anchorage?  Such areas have more                                                              
House and Senate districts and members than assembly districts and                                                              
members.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS. MURPHY clarified that HB 155 would not have any impact on                                                                   
Senate or House seats, that is dealt with in the state's                                                                        
reapportionment plan.  Furthermore, the Fairbanks Northstar Borough                                                             
would not be effected because that borough does not have districted                                                             
seats.  Ms. Murphy explained that HB 155 would allow those areas                                                                
with districted seats, such as the Kenai Peninsula Borough and the                                                              
Municipality of Anchorage, to base the plan on state precinct lines                                                             
when possible. She acknowledged that there may be times the state                                                               
precinct lines could not be followed, however there would be the                                                                
opportunity to have a better plan than now.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIRMAN HARRIS believed that this tries to mirror the state                                                                 
precinct lines.  He was unsure as to whether HB 155 would require                                                               
following the state precinct lines or merely provides that as an                                                                
option.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MS. MURPHY specified that HB 155 merely provides the option of                                                                  
following state precinct lines.  This would allow the knowledge of                                                              
the state precinct lines during the borough planning process.                                                                   
Additionally, HB 155 would allow the borough to offer the voters a                                                              
new plan if an approved state plan was set aside for some reason                                                                
and state precinct lines change.  Currently, the borough can only                                                               
go to the voters following a census or any time apportionment is                                                                
found not to meet those standards specified in state statute.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON understood that the desire is to allow borough                                                             
redistricting after the state has reapportioned.  He informed the                                                               
committee that he had sat on a local assembly and had his seat                                                                  
sued.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI referred to page 2, lines 24 through 26                                                                
which states, "The assembly may provide, by ordinance, for a change                                                             
in an existing apportionment of the assembly whenever a final state                                                             
redistricting plan is changed as a result of federal or court                                                                   
action."  Is there an opportunity to change it after the adoption                                                               
of a final plan and is there the possibility of court action                                                                    
subsequent to that?                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Number 2448                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
TAMARA COOK, Director, Legislative Legal and Research Services,                                                                 
Legislative Affairs Agency, informed the committee that as a                                                                    
drafter she had a dilemma.  The request was to set up a system                                                                  
which would enable an assembly to become reapportioned only after                                                               
the state was reapportioned which is technically impossible.  Ms.                                                               
Cook explained that Sections 1 and 2 of HB 155 refer to the final                                                               
state redistricting plan adopted under the constitution.                                                                        
Currently, the amended constitution requires that after a federal                                                               
census, members be appointed to a reapportionment board within 30                                                               
days.  After the board members are appointed, the board has 90 days                                                             
in which to declare the final state plan.  She explained that                                                                   
existing law directs assemblies to start this process,                                                                          
reapportionment, two months after a census.  With regard to the                                                                 
constitutional provisions, the assembly action has been delayed by                                                              
two more months under HB 155.  Once there is a state final plan,                                                                
the Department of Justice reviews the plan.  The Department of                                                                  
Justice must respond to the state within about 90 days, but the                                                                 
response can be a request for more information.  There is no                                                                    
specific time period in which the state must gather its information                                                             
in which to justify its plan.  Once the state has provided its                                                                  
justification, there is another period in which the Department of                                                               
Justice must act.  Therefore, the state must deal with an uncertain                                                             
length of federal justice review.  Only after that review, can the                                                              
question of an individual litigate occur.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS. COOK explained that she created a system in which the assembly                                                              
responds to the final plan adopted by the redistricting commission                                                              
without considering the appeal process which could be another two                                                               
years.  Therefore, the assembly has four months within which to                                                                 
respond to the federal census.  At that time, the state proposal is                                                             
known.  Ms. Cook emphasized that the assembly has the option to                                                                 
consider the state final plan, but there is no requirement to do                                                                
so.                                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MS. COOK stated that the change in Section 3 accommodates the                                                                   
possibility of the state plan being thrown out in court or by a                                                                 
decision of the Department of Justice review.  Another layer of                                                                 
flexibility is provided to the assembly.  If the assembly has                                                                   
chosen to follow the state plan, and the state plan is then thrown                                                              
out or adjusted, the assembly may elect to provide a different                                                                  
assembly apportionment plan in an effort to follow the revised                                                                  
state plan.  She  reiterated that this is merely an option.                                                                     
Currently, the assembly has the power to present a new plan any                                                                 
time the assembly determines the current plan is out of                                                                         
apportionment.  However, the current system does not allow the                                                                  
assembly to present a new plan when there is a determination that                                                               
the plan is in apportionment, although not practical.  There is                                                                 
also the consideration of a new plan per voter petition.  Ms. Cook                                                              
clarified that Section 3 of                                                                                                     
HB 155 provides an additional reason, that the state plan has                                                                   
changed, for the assembly to provide a new plan.  In response to                                                                
Representative Murkowski, Ms. Cook specified that the only thing                                                                
mandatory is that an assembly determination must be provided within                                                             
about four months.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Number 2138                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIRMAN HARRIS moved that HB 155 be reported from committee                                                                 
with individual recommendations and the attached zero fiscal note.                                                              
There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                    

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