Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 124

03/17/2005 08:00 AM House COMMUNITY & REGIONAL AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
Moved CSHB 117(CRA) Out of Committee
HB 160-PUBLIC FUNDS & BALLOT PROPS/CANDIDATES                                                                                 
9:08:44 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR THOMAS announced  that the next order  of business would                                                               
be HOUSE BILL NO.  160, "An Act limiting the use  of money of the                                                               
state and its political subdivisions to affect an election."                                                                    
9:08:53 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE BILL STOLTZE,  Alaska State Legislature, presented                                                               
HB 160  as a modest  campaign finance reform measure,  which will                                                               
prohibit local  governments from using money  to influence ballot                                                               
measures.  He noted that  there are already prohibitions in place                                                               
with regard  to campaigns  involving candidates.   Representative                                                               
Stoltze opined, from the conversations  that he has had, that the                                                               
public generally  supports this  measure.   In fact,  most people                                                               
thought  it  was already  illegal.    If people  already  believe                                                               
something is  in law, then  it's probably  best to ratify  it, he                                                               
stated.   This legislation protects municipalities,  smaller ones                                                               
in particular, from  political pressures.  He  related his belief                                                               
that  the legislation  includes enough  protections to  allow the                                                               
dissemination of neutral information.                                                                                           
9:11:52 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE NEUMAN asked  whether HB 160 would  limit those on                                                               
school boards from  actively promoting school bonds.   He related                                                               
his understanding  that this  legislation merely  limits spending                                                               
municipal funds on the aforementioned.                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE STOLTZE  responded that  he didn't believe  HB 160                                                               
would  prohibit  one,  such  as   a  school  board  member,  from                                                               
attending  community forums,  although  it may  prohibit such  an                                                               
individual  from [using  municipal  funds] to  travel to  another                                                               
community [to promote/oppose a particular issue].                                                                               
CO-CHAIR  THOMAS turned  attention to  page 1,  lines 13-14,  and                                                               
asked  if  the language  refers  to  employees [of  the  entities                                                               
specified on page 1, lines 9-12].                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE STOLTZE  clarified that  the distinction  would be                                                               
whether  [the  employee]  is  present   as  an  individual  or  a                                                               
representative  of  the  entity   [by  which  the  individual  is                                                               
CO-CHAIR   THOMAS  related   his   understanding  that   although                                                               
municipalities  can't use  [municipal funds  to influence  ballot                                                               
measures], a  member of  the assembly can  campaign and  create a                                                               
group for a ballot measure.                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  STOLTZE   recalled  that  during  the   last  two                                                               
elections  [in Anchorage]  the  superintendent  of the  Anchorage                                                               
School  District  was  involved   in  an  independent  entity  to                                                               
[influence the outcome of a ballot  measure].  He opined that the                                                               
aforementioned was [funded outside  of municipality funds], which                                                               
was appropriate.   He opined  that government  entities shouldn't                                                               
be involved in expending public funds to influence elections.                                                                   
9:14:52 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE NEUMAN surmised then that  the intent of HB 160 is                                                               
to  ensure  that  municipal  funds   aren't  spent  to  influence                                                               
[elections], while allowing  people the freedom to  speak so long                                                               
as  they   aren't  spending  government  funds   to  promote  any                                                               
political activities.                                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE STOLTZE  replied yes,  adding that he  didn't want                                                               
to  stifle  anyone's  Second  Amendment   rights.    Although  an                                                               
assembly member,  for example,  may maintain  a strong  voice for                                                               
his  or  her community,  [that  member]  shouldn't dip  into  the                                                               
government treasury to do so.   There are enough mechanisms, such                                                               
as a  political action committee  (PAC), available  through which                                                               
an   effort  could   be  put   forth.     Representative  Stoltze                                                               
characterized  this as  an  issue of  public  trust, which  often                                                               
backfires  when  one  uses  taxpayers'  money  [to  influence  an                                                               
9:16:57 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX recalled passage  of legislation to promote                                                               
hunting,  trapping, and  fishing as  one of  the commissioner  of                                                               
Alaska Department of  Fish & Game's (ADF&G) duties.   She further                                                               
recalled Representative  Kelly discussing when  outside interests                                                               
enter  the state.    The laws  seem to  prohibit  the state  from                                                               
taking  a position  on ballot  propositions and  this legislation                                                               
seems  to make  it  even  more difficult  for  the  state or  the                                                               
municipality  to  take  positions  against some  of  the  outside                                                               
interests that want to make changes in Alaska.                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE STOLTZE  specified that this  legislation wouldn't                                                               
prohibit the ADF&G commissioner from  stating a position of state                                                               
policy.     However,  the  state  wouldn't   run  advertisements,                                                               
although another  group could use the  department's statements in                                                               
its own private campaign.                                                                                                       
9:20:00 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  LEDOUX expressed  concern  that  one could  argue                                                               
that someone being paid a  salary is using [government] resources                                                               
to  advocate a  matter or  position  if that  individual, in  the                                                               
course  of his  or her  duties specifies  that the  state doesn't                                                               
like something.                                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE STOLTZE clarified  that it's not his  intent for a                                                               
commissioner of ADF&G to be  barred from attending a public forum                                                               
of a  public interest.   This legislation closes a  loophole that                                                               
municipalities can  use funds by  passage of a  simple ordinance.                                                               
He said he would ferret out a legal opinion on that matter.                                                                     
9:21:47 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KOTT surmised then that  HB 160 would prohibit the                                                               
Permanent Fund Corporation from  advocating the percent of market                                                               
value (POMV) with state funds.                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE  STOLTZE related  his  belief  that currently  the                                                               
Permanent Fund  Corporation would be prevented  [from advocating,                                                               
with  the use  of state  funds,  a specific  methodology].   This                                                               
legislation only speaks to closing the municipal loophole.                                                                      
9:22:57 AM                                                                                                                    
KEVIN  RITCHIE,  Executive   Director,  Alaska  Municipal  League                                                               
(AML), agreed  with the  sponsor in that  good government  is the                                                               
issue  and  how  good  government  is implemented  is  key.    He                                                               
commented  that good  government is  dependent upon  the flow  of                                                               
information  between  elected  officials and  residents  [of  the                                                               
area].   The [language  in the legislation]  that speaks  of only                                                               
disseminating the  time and  place of meeting  would be  ripe for                                                               
litigation,  he mentioned.   Mr.  Ritchie provided  the following                                                               
example of  what he characterized  as good government in  which a                                                               
municipality felt  the need to  raise its  sales tax in  order to                                                               
provide adequate  services.   Very seldom will  there be  a local                                                               
advocacy  group  for raising  a  sales  tax.   Because  one  size                                                               
doesn't fit all, it would be  nice to specify what is appropriate                                                               
for municipalities  to do or  not do.   For example, it  would be                                                               
appropriate to  have a  series of  meetings around  the community                                                               
regarding the situation  of the community and what  might be done                                                               
with a proposed sales tax.   Often, good government also includes                                                               
sending out a brochure on the matter.   There is a gray line with                                                               
regard to  what is appropriate or  not and often people  who feel                                                               
"had" vote against  the measure or don't  re-elect those involved                                                               
with  the measure.   Mr.  Ritchie indicated  the need  to clarify                                                               
this  gray  line  without  taking   away  the  ability  of  local                                                               
government to have a conversation with the public on the policy.                                                                
9:27:11 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  NEUMAN  asked  if  Mr.  Ritchie  could  make  any                                                               
suggestions and work with Representative Stoltze on this matter.                                                                
MR. RITCHIE answered that he would  try to work with the sponsor.                                                               
However,  he said  that he  hasn't determined  how to  define the                                                               
gray  line.    He  noted  agreement with  the  bright  line  this                                                               
legislation draws regarding the inability  for public money to be                                                               
used  to influence  the outcome  of an  election of  a candidate.                                                               
However,  a ballot  issue  could  be a  critical  area of  public                                                               
policy and for the municipality not  to have the broad ability to                                                               
participate in the public policy  discussions may cause a problem                                                               
in some areas.                                                                                                                  
9:28:50 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KOTT asked if a  municipality has ever used public                                                               
funds to support or endorse a candidate for office.                                                                             
MR. RITCHIE  said not that  he knew of,  adding that it  would be                                                               
9:29:19 AM                                                                                                                    
BROOKE   MILES,  Executive   Director,   Alaska  Public   Offices                                                               
Commission (APOC), stated  that APOC takes a  neutral position on                                                               
HB  160.   Current  law  prohibits the  state  and its  political                                                               
subdivisions from  spending its  money in  efforts to  support or                                                               
oppose   a  candidate.     However,   current  law   permits  the                                                               
expenditure  of  public  money  to support  or  oppose  a  ballot                                                               
proposition if  the funds are appropriated  specifically for that                                                               
purpose  by  state  law  or   municipal  ordinance.    Since  the                                                               
aforementioned provision  has been in effect  since January 1997,                                                               
the  state  hasn't appropriated  funds  to  support or  oppose  a                                                               
ballot measure.   However, APOC did  have substantial discussions                                                               
with the  Permanent Fund  Corporation last  election year  as the                                                               
corporation  considered what  it  would  do if  POMV  was on  the                                                               
ballot.   The  APOC issued  some  complex informal  advice.   Ms.                                                               
Miles highlighted  that many municipalities and  school districts                                                               
have appropriated  and spent money  to support local  issues such                                                               
as school bonds and capital improvement projects.                                                                               
CO-CHAIR THOMAS announced that HB 160 would be held over.                                                                       

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