Legislature(1997 - 1998)

02/03/1998 01:40 PM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 36                                                  
                                                                               
Proposing amendments to the Constitution of the State                          
of Alaska relating to redistricting of the                                     
legislature, and repealing as obsolete language in the                         
article setting out the apportionment schedule used to                         
elect the members of the first state legislature.                              
                                                                               
JEFF LOGAN, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE JOE GREEN, explained that                    
HJR 36 proposes to amend Article 6 and Article 14 of the                       
Alaska Constitution.                                                           
                                                                               
Article 6 addresses legislative reapportionment.  Mr. Logan                    
proposed changes to reflect rulings by the U.S. and Alaska                     
Supreme Courts, and to enshrine single member legislative                      
districts in the constitution.  The U.S. Supreme Court                         
rulings, Baker v. Carr, 396 U.S. 267, issued in 1962, and                      
Renolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 567, issued in 1964, established                     
the so-called "one person, one vote" apportionment rule.                       
The result of these decisions is that all state legislative                    
bodies in the United States are apportioned on the basis of                    
population.  The Alaska Constitution, as originally                            
written, bases senate districts partly on population, and                      
partly on geography.  The Alaska Supreme Court rulings,                        
Wade v. Nolan, Alaska 414 P.2nd 689, in 1966, Egan v.                          
Hammond, Alaska, 502 p.2nd 856, in 1972, and Groh v. Egan,                     
Alaska 526 P.2d 863, 1974 establishes an equal basis for                       
both civilian and military population.                                         
                                                                               
He continued, Section 4 of HJR 36 would establish single                       
member legislative (House) districts.  The change                              
essentially "constitutionalizes" the status quo.  Single                       
member districts have proven to work well here in Alaska,                      
and in a number of other states.  Along with Alaska,                           
several other states have shifted from multi, to single                        
member districts.                                                              
                                                                               
Finally, Section 9 of HJR 36 repeals Article 14 of the                         
Alaska Constitution.  Article 14 sets out the original                         
reapportionment schedule, which is now obsolete.                               
                                                                               
Co-Chair Therriault explained that through a court case, a                     
determination was made that the census does account for                        
establishing the redistricting base population.  A resident                    
population is based on the census count and redistricting                      
is based on the population resident count.                                     
                                                                               
Co-Chair Therriault asked clarification of language used on                    
Page 1, Line 8, "Within each election".  Mr. Logan noted                       
that language was drafted to delineate between House and                       
Senate districts.  Co-Chair Hanley pointed out that                            
language was clarified in Section 4.                                           
                                                                               
Representative J. Davies asked if the census would count                       
people staying in hotel rooms.  He pointed out such action                     
could drastically affect places with a lot of tourism                          
traffic.  Representative Grussendorf indicated his concern                     
regarding the proliferation of constitutional amendments                       
coming before the Committee.  He stated that the proposed                      
legislation was not needed.  Representative Mulder                             
disagreed, pointing to problems with double member                             
districts.  He suggested that the legislation would clarify                    
the Alaska State Constitution and would eliminate                              
ambiguity.  Representative J. Davies pointed out that the                      
State, to date, does not have multi member's districts and                     
that there has been no problem.  He echoed concern with                        
need for the legislation.                                                      
                                                                               
Co-Chair Therriault stated that if members agree with the                      
single member concept, the proposed legislation would                          
guarantee it be available from this point forward.  Mr.                        
Logan pointed out that in 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court did                     
specify the single member preference.  In that federal                         
judiciary, if a reapportionment plan were written, there                       
would be preference for single member districts. There is a                    
state movement toward this practice.  The sponsor's intent                     
is to keep a reapportionment plan out of court.                                
Representative Grussendorf advised that every plan,                            
regardless, would need to come before the U.S. Department                      
of Justice.                                                                    
                                                                               
Co-Chair Therriault questioned Section 9 and the Articles                      
proposed for deletion.  Mr. Logan responded that Section 7                     
is obsolete resulting from a ruling by the U.S. Supreme                        
Court.  Section 5 addresses deviation between districts.                       
In 1987, the Supreme Court ruled that deviation up to 14.8%                    
would be permissible.  The drafter recommended that this                       
section be deleted.  Article 14 refers to the first                            
reapportionment, which is currently obsolete.                                  
                                                                               
Representative John Davies noted concern with deleting the                     
proposed sections.  He felt that those provisions had been                     
included to address unusual and rapid changes in                               
population.  He recommended amending the provisions rather                     
than deleting them.  Co-Chair Therriault believed that when                    
a census is taken every ten years that would be frequent                       
enough to address rapid growth concerns.                                       
                                                                               
JAMES BALDWIN, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, CIVIL DIVISION,                     
DEPARTMENT OF LAW, commented on the proposed changes                           
contained in the resolution.  He advised that HJR 36 would                     
make substantial shifts from the way that things have been                     
done in the past, which will affect various regions within                     
the State.                                                                     
                                                                               
He understood that the intent proposed in the House                            
Judiciary Committee reference to Page 2, Line 7, was to                        
establish a provision that would prevent military voter                        
surveys, and would then determine what portion of those                        
were not residents and not participating in the electoral                      
process.  There would exist a system to address the non                        
participating military voters and their dependants.  He                        
believed that the legislation had become confused with that                    
which was put forth by Representative Green's staff and the                    
intent achieved in the previous committee hearing.                             
                                                                               
In the last reapportionment case, the Court stipulated that                    
the board had justified not using military surveys as a                        
part of the 1990 reapportionment, but that they had an                         
obligation to go through the exercise of establishing that.                    
The intent of the previous committee was to remove that                        
obligation.  Mr. Baldwin proposed that in today's                              
realignment situation, there could exist an imbalance in                       
certain districts based on the number of non-resident                          
military voters that are counted in the population base in                     
the census.  The Legislature needs to take great care in                       
documenting intention when making these changes with the                       
understanding of legal consequences.                                           
                                                                               
He contended that, military voter's register to vote                           
because they want the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD).  Mr.                      
Baldwin added, in the House Judiciary Committee, there was                     
language added to make the Senate district lines                               
contiguous.  Concern exists with this measure because some                     
districts are not contiguous lines but rather there are                        
bodies of water between them.  The Courts have recommended                     
that the standards of contiguousness are not so rigorous                       
that they must apply to Senate districts, an act, which                        
would create geographic problems within the State.  This                       
application can create serious districting problems in the                     
future and could mean a loss of a Senate seat for State                        
rural areas. That situation would create retrogression.                        
                                                                               
Mr. Baldwin stressed that the Finance Committee must                           
establish a strong defense record so when put to the test,                     
it will be workable to the Justice Department.  A feasible                     
record has not yet been established.                                           
                                                                               
Representative Grussendorf pointed out that the committee                      
substitute version creates twenty (20) Senate districts and                    
then divides them into two (2) House districts.  He                            
believed such action would create problems, and recommended                    
starting with House districts creating an economic                             
compactness, he felt would work more smoothly.                                 
                                                                               
Co-Chair Hanley stated that the way the current                                
constitution reads indicates that "reapportionment shall be                    
based upon civilian population with any election district                      
as reported by the census".  If the previous committee                         
intended to remove "civilian", we would be left with the                       
current constitutional language.                                               
                                                                               
Mr. Baldwin understood that the intent of the House                            
Judiciary Committee was to remove the ability to perform                       
the non-military surveys.  He suggested that the intent be                     
clarified and the correct meaning established.                                 
                                                                               
Co-Chair Hanley felt that including the word "resident"                        
would open up a constitutional bag of worms.  A survey                         
administered only on military bases and not including those                    
people who are not residents, and then trying to apply the                     
same types of restrictions to the rest of the population                       
becomes problematic. A census is what has been used in the                     
past.  Mr. Baldwin advised that concern had been addressed                     
in a Supreme Court case, at which time it was decided that                     
the State had a compelling interest to focus on the                            
military population.  Other populations tend to be more                        
migratory, not staying as long as the military.                                
                                                                               
Co-Chair Hanley reiterated that adding the word "resident"                     
creates a host of problems and that he would support                           
deleting that word.  Mr. Baldwin stated that it was not the                    
intention to exclude the non-resident military voters.  He                     
commented that if that was no longer possible, the                             
Department then would not have the concern.                                    
                                                                               
Co-Chair Therriault asked for further information regarding                    
the version submitted to the Finance Committee and that it                     
reflect action taken in the House Judiciary Committee.                         
                                                                               
HJR 36 was HELD in Committee for further consideration.                        
                                                                               
(Tape Change HFC 98- 14, Side 2).                                              

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