Legislature(1999 - 2000)

04/26/1999 06:25 PM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 3                                                                                                    
Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State                                                                         
of Alaska relating to initiatives regarding natural                                                                             
resources belonging to the state.                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE CON BUNDE stated that Alaska is a resource                                                                       
dependent State and that trained professionals should manage                                                                    
all our resources.  He suggested that the voters of the                                                                         
State need and want to have confidence that their resources                                                                     
are managed to our best advantage.  Representative Bunde                                                                        
drew attention to how the media impacts public behavior.                                                                        
Representative Bunde stated that HJR 3 would elevate the                                                                        
need to educate voters and that the initiative would                                                                            
eliminate the "momentary majority".  He believed that no one                                                                    
would be opposed to raising the bar if the current system                                                                       
worked well.                                                                                                                    
Representative J. Davies criticized that the role of the                                                                        
Legislature is to filter out ideas that are not so good.                                                                        
This legislation is not a good idea and he countered that if                                                                    
it was good for fish and game initiatives then it should                                                                        
hold true for any other votes which come before the                                                                             
Representative Grussendorf pointed out that the initiative                                                                      
process has only been used 29 times since 1960, five of                                                                         
which addressed resources.  He agreed that the present                                                                          
system works and that the proposed legislation is not                                                                           
Representative Austerman asked if the legislation would deal                                                                    
strictly with management.  Representative Bunde reminded                                                                        
members that HJR 3 would address all natural resources, not                                                                     
just fish and game.  He pointed out that this concern has                                                                       
become a growing problem throughout other states.  Alaska                                                                       
now has an opportunity to prevent future damage to our                                                                          
HJR 3 was HELD in Committee for further consideration.                                                                          
PUBLIC COMMENTS ON HJR 3, HJR 7, & HJR 25                                                                                       
HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 3                                                                                                    
Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State                                                                         
of Alaska relating to initiatives regarding natural                                                                             
resources belonging to the state.                                                                                               
HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 7                                                                                                    
Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State                                                                         
of Alaska relating to initiative and referendum                                                                                 
HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 25                                                                                                   
Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State                                                                         
of Alaska relating to a petition for an initiative or                                                                           
referendum regarding fish or wildlife.                                                                                          
STEVE WHITE, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, NATURAL RESOURCE                                                                       
SECTION, DEPARTMENT OF LAW, directed his comments to                                                                            
concerns with the wildlife initiatives.   He stated that the                                                                    
Legislature needs to clarify why they would be placing fish                                                                     
and wildlife initiatives separate from all other                                                                                
initiatives.  He stated that passage of the legislation                                                                         
would establish a higher bar for those concerns.                                                                                
Representative Austerman asked for clarification regarding                                                                      
comments made by Mr. White.  Mr. White replied that whenever                                                                    
the Court's witness that the Legislature has taken different                                                                    
action with different groups, they need to separate the                                                                         
different categories and look for reasons.  The reason for                                                                      
establishing a higher bar should be discussed and placed on                                                                     
the record for future litigation purposes.                                                                                      
Co-Chair Therriault commented that the prime sponsor's see                                                                      
the need to use wildlife resources, and for that use to be                                                                      
managed on science and logical grounds.  Mr. White noted                                                                        
that the sponsor's comments would to accompany the                                                                              
legislation as it moves forward.                                                                                                
Representative J. Davies questioned why the proposed                                                                            
concerns should be set apart from air and water quality                                                                         
issues.  Representative Bunde pointed out that HJR 3 speaks                                                                     
to all natural resources, not just fish and game.  He                                                                           
reiterated that it would be best that the State's resources                                                                     
be managed wisely and not be subject to the media                                                                               
indoctrination.  Mr. White stated that the Department of Law                                                                    
looks to the Legislature to provide the tools needed to                                                                         
clarify why these initiatives need a higher bar so that the                                                                     
Department of Law can withstand a legal challenge when                                                                          
protecting the legislation.                                                                                                     
Co-Chair Therriault questioned the possible legal challenges                                                                    
when State residents vote to change the Alaska Constitution.                                                                    
Mr. White replied that when the Legislature takes action                                                                        
differentiating two types of topics, the Courts will always                                                                     
look for a reasonable base to guarantee that there are not                                                                      
alternative motives.  Co-Chair Therriault asked if the                                                                          
Department of Law anticipated a challenge that the                                                                              
legislation might violate the U.S. Constitution.  Mr. White                                                                     
did not anticipate that problem.  He noted that this                                                                            
information is an underlining requirement for all types of                                                                      
legislation and that the Department is only trying to                                                                           
strengthen the initiative process.                                                                                              
Representative J. Davies questioned how broad would the                                                                         
resolution be.  He asked if the definition of "natural                                                                          
resources" would be extended.                                                                                                   
Representative Williams asked if the Department placed HJR 7                                                                    
in the same category as the other two initiatives.  Mr.                                                                         
White apologized, pointing out that HJR 7 is a separate                                                                         
issue since it does not distinguish certain types of                                                                            
initiatives, instead applies to all.                                                                                            
Representative Bunde clarified that Alaska is not a                                                                             
manufacturing State.  Alaska is highly dependent upon                                                                           
resources to support its citizens.  He stated that HJR 3                                                                        
would allow 2/3 of Alaskans to make decisions regarding                                                                         
resources and their use.  Representative J. Davies cited                                                                        
that the Legislature should "really" allow the majority of                                                                      
Alaskans to make those decisions.  He recommended that if                                                                       
there is a problem with outside interests coming into                                                                           
Alaska, there should be legislation addressing that concern                                                                     
indicating the amount of money that can be spent in State on                                                                    
advertising.  Representative Bunde argued that the U.S.                                                                         
Supreme Court has taken a strong stance on political speech                                                                     
DICK BISHOP, VICE PRESIDENT, ALASKA OUTDOOR COUNCIL (AOC),                                                                      
FAIRBANKS, noted that AOC voted to support HJR 25.  He                                                                          
stated that they have observed the growing trend to use the                                                                     
initiative process to influence fish and wildlife                                                                               
management.  In most cases, these initiatives have advocated                                                                    
simple actions that affect complex issues.  The approach is                                                                     
usually highly emotional and shows little regard for sound                                                                      
conservation, scientific management or values of others.                                                                        
Mr. Bishop continued, the initiative process bypasses the                                                                       
entire process.  It short circuits thoughtful public                                                                            
involvement.  The Alaska Outdoor Council urges passage of                                                                       
HJR 25.  AOC does not believe that the proposed legislation                                                                     
constraints the initiative process offered by the                                                                               
alternative resolutions.  They each have merit, however,                                                                        
they would not be up to the task of ensuring an effective                                                                       
means of conserving Alaska's fish and wildlife, and                                                                             
protecting fishing, hunting and trapping values.                                                                                
GERON BRUCE, LEGISLATIVE LIAISON, OFFICE OF THE                                                                                 
COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME, stated that the                                                                      
Department has reservations about changing the initiative                                                                       
process to prevent fish and game management issues as                                                                           
recommended in HJR 25.  Additionally, the Department does                                                                       
not believe that requiring a super majority of 2/3 votes                                                                        
cast to adopt an initiative as put forward in HJR 3.                                                                            
Mr. Bruce commented that the Department is proud of the way                                                                     
our system allows the public to be a party to fish and game                                                                     
management decisions.  Through the fish and game advisory                                                                       
committees and the board process, individual Alaskans can                                                                       
have a direct influence on how their fish and game resources                                                                    
are managed, used and conserved.  It is the preference of                                                                       
the Department that the board process be used for making                                                                        
fish and game management decisions because it allows both                                                                       
the Department's scientific information and the public's                                                                        
values and objectives for fish and game management to be                                                                        
considered before any decision is made.                                                                                         
Mr. Bruce noted that many people consider the initiative                                                                        
process to be an essential part of checks and balances that                                                                     
make the democratic system work.  The opportunity for the                                                                       
public to make laws directly gives people a way to prevent                                                                      
special interests from dominating government and in the long                                                                    
run helps maintain public confidence in institutions like                                                                       
the boards of fish and game.                                                                                                    
Mr. Bruce concluded, the view of the Department is that                                                                         
there is no danger to sound fish and game management from                                                                       
the initiative process sufficient to require preventing its                                                                     
application to fish and game management issues.                                                                                 
Additionally, the Department does not think that the                                                                            
requirement for a super majority is warranted.                                                                                  
Co-Chair Mulder asked how many initiatives have been                                                                            
introduced that affected fish and wildlife management.  Mr.                                                                     
Bruce commented that information was available and that he                                                                      
would provide it to Committee members.  Recently, there have                                                                    
been two that have been the subject of much controversy.                                                                        
Co-Chair Mulder asked if the Department had supported any of                                                                    
the initiatives.  Mr. Bruce replied that the Department had                                                                     
not taken a position.  In one of the initiatives, the Court                                                                     
ruled it was not suitable because it dealt with the                                                                             
allocation of issues, while the other two addressed methods                                                                     
and means.  Representative Grussendorf discussed that                                                                           
limited entry had been one of the issues.                                                                                       
Representative Bunde spoke to the result of leaving the                                                                         
initiative process as it currently is.  He asked Mr. Bruce                                                                      
if he was suggesting that "special interests" had                                                                               
manipulative power in the Legislature.   Mr. Bruce commented                                                                    
that he was speaking to the board process.  People who are                                                                      
interested can become involved through regulatory actions.                                                                      
This does not suggest that the larger public does not have                                                                      
ideas regarding how these issues should be handled.                                                                             
Representative Williams inquired how the initiative process                                                                     
could build confidence in the State.  Mr. Bruce explained                                                                       
that it assures people that they can directly take action to                                                                    
make the laws that affect them.  It provides checks and                                                                         
balances throughout the system.                                                                                                 
(Tape Change HFC 99 - 105, Side 2).                                                                                             
Representative J. Davies asked why the State needs to set                                                                       
wildlife decisions apart from other decisions.  He pointed                                                                      
out that the sponsor believes that "science" should take the                                                                    
lead over "emotion".  He advised that some people's emotions                                                                    
might be another person's values.  Currently, there are both                                                                    
scientific and value decisions being decided in the                                                                             
management of fish and game.  The issue of "value" is often                                                                     
driven and it is assumed that a decision can not be made                                                                        
based on science.  It has been suggested that it is                                                                             
important to retain the initiative process, so that those                                                                       
issues of value can be decided through a larger context.                                                                        
Mr. Bruce pointed out that the number of initiatives,                                                                           
illustrates that by and large, the current process works.                                                                       
The Departments prefers that the current process remain.                                                                        
Representative Williams advised that all three bills give                                                                       
more validation toward scientific process.  Mr. Bruce                                                                           
reiterated that the board process is the preferred one of                                                                       
the Department.  Representative Williams questioned if the                                                                      
three initiatives would close that process.  Mr. Bruce                                                                          
replied that HJR 25 would close the process entirely to fish                                                                    
and game issues while HJR 3 would raise the bar.  HJR 7                                                                         
identifies how to place an issue on the ballot.                                                                                 
Public comment on the legislation was concluded.                                                                                
HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 3                                                                                                    
Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State                                                                         
of Alaska relating to initiatives regarding natural                                                                             
resources belonging to the state.                                                                                               
Representative J. Davies questioned the types of natural                                                                        
resource issues that the bill would address.  Representative                                                                    
Bunde envisioned that the bill would cover land resources                                                                       
such as water, timber, mining and fish and game.  He                                                                            
suggested that if the legislation were to pass and become a                                                                     
part of the Alaska Constitution, there would be a legal                                                                         
opinion regarding what constitutes natural resources.                                                                           
Representative J. Davies asked if scenic values of the land                                                                     
would be included in the legislation.  Representative Bunde                                                                     
replied the he personally would like for it to be included.                                                                     
Representative J. Davies questioned if the bill board                                                                           
initiative would fall under this area.  Representative Bunde                                                                    
replied that he was not sure and that was a Department of                                                                       
Transportation and Public Facilities issue.  Representative                                                                     
J. Davies continued, would air pollution issues be included.                                                                    
Representative Bunde replied that he would want them                                                                            
included, however, it would be decided by the Courts.                                                                           
Representative Austerman asked if the Courts would be                                                                           
responsible for defining traditional natural resources.                                                                         
Representative Bunde replied that there would be legal                                                                          
opinions before the legislation was placed on the ballot.                                                                       
He advised that HJR 3 is constitutionally adequate according                                                                    
to the Alaska Supreme Court.                                                                                                    
Representative Bunde MOVED to report HJR 3 out of Committee                                                                     
with individual recommendations and with the attached fiscal                                                                    
note.  Representative J. Davies OBJECTED.                                                                                       
Representative Bunde recognized that people on many side of                                                                     
the issue are not enthusiastic about HJR 3.  He suggested                                                                       
that HJR 3 is a tool whose "time may come", and requested                                                                       
that the resolution be passed out of the House Finance                                                                          
Committee and not moved from the Rules Committee until there                                                                    
is discussion on other options.  He pointed out that if                                                                         
another option has the support of the Legislature, then HJR
3 would not be necessary, however, if there are no other                                                                        
options, he would request that the resolutions be available                                                                     
for the Legislature to discuss.                                                                                                 
Representative Austerman stated that he would not object to                                                                     
moving it out of Committee, however, noted that without a                                                                       
definition of "natural resources", he would not support it.                                                                     
Representative J. Davies maintained his objection, pointing                                                                     
out that the last time a bill was sent to the House Rules                                                                       
Committee for "holding", it was "out of control".  For that                                                                     
reason, he requested that the bill stay in the House Finance                                                                    
A roll call vote was taken on the motion.                                                                                       
IN FAVOR: Williams, Austerman, Bunde, G. Davis, Foster,                                                                         
Kohring, Therriault, Mulder                                                                                                     
OPPOSED:  J. Davies, Grussendorf                                                                                                
Representative Moses was not present for the vote.                                                                              
The MOTION PASSED (8-2)                                                                                                         
HJR 3 was reported out of Committee with "individual                                                                            
recommendations" and with a fiscal note by the Office of the                                                                    
Lt. Governor dated 3/5/99.                                                                                                      

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