Legislature(1997 - 1998)
02/03/1998 01:40 PM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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).