Legislature(1999 - 2000)
03/22/1999 01:08 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HJR 3 - CONST. AM: WILDLIFE INITIATIVES HJR 7 - CONST. AM: INITIATIVE/REFERENDUM PETITIONS HJR 25 - CONST. AM: FISH & WILDLIFE INITIATIVES CHAIRMAN-DESIGNEE GREEN announced the first order of business in HJR 3, Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Alaska relating to initiatives regarding natural resources belonging to the state; HJR 7, Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Alaska relating to initiative and referendum petitions; and HJR 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. Number 0131 REPRESENTATIVE CROFT asked Chairman-designee Green whether it is his intention to move the bills out of committee today. CHAIRMAN-DESIGNEE GREEN replied yes, unless someone brings it to his intention that there is a problem with them constitutionally or legally - the purview of this committee. Whether or not they should go to the House floor is under the purview of a different committee. Number 0177 REPRESENTATIVE CROFT stated Representative Williams' resolution [HJR 7] has the most persuasive argument and for that reason he doesn't think the approach of Representative Bunde (HJR 3) and Representative Ogan [HJR 25] is right. Under the purview of this committee, there isn't anything unconstitutional or legally infirm about the resolutions. It is a policy choice. For those reasons, he is opposed to HJR 3 and HJR 25; HJR 7 presents a closer call. Number 0293 REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI agrees that Representative Williams' resolution is very different than Representative Bunde's in terms of where the bar is set. Representative Williams' resolution talks about the collection of signatures, while Representative Bunde's resolution talks about the actual vote. They are two very distinct resolutions; and, unfortunately, since they were lumped together at the last hearing they are being viewed as the same. Number 0367 REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA stated all three resolutions present significant policy problems. House Joint Resolution 3 and HJR 25 present issues that should be discussed at a constitutional convention, especially since HJR 25 fully removes something that the public had been able to do previously. She also has concerns about HJR 7. Number 0430 CHAIRMAN-DESIGNEE GREEN asked Representative Kerttula whether she feels that none of the three resolutions pose a legal problem, but instead a policy call. REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA replied HJR 3 and HJR 25 may have legal problems and should be part of a constitutional convention. It won't be known, however, until the end of the "court case." Number 0461 REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI stated she is not certain whether the committee has adopted the proposed committee substitute. It was indicated in the affirmative that the committee adopted it at the last hearing. Number 0505 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG made a motion to move HJR 3 from the committee with individual recommendations and the attached fiscal note(s). REPRESENTATIVE CROFT objected. A roll call vote was taken. Representatives Green, Rokeberg and Murkowski voted in favor of the motion. Representatives Croft and Kerttula voted against the motion. The motion failed by a vote of 3-2. House Joint Resolution 3 failed to move from the House Judiciary Standing Committee. Number 0619 CHAIRMAN-DESIGNEE GREEN called for a brief at-ease at 1:17 p.m. and called the meeting back to order at 1:26 p.m. CHAIRMAN-DESIGNEE GREEN noted the arrival of Representative James. CHAIRMAN-DESIGNEE GREEN noted, in failing to pass HJR 3 out of committee, it is still before the committee. He asked Representative Croft to explain his objection. Number 0653 REPRESENTATIVE CROFT stated he is not positive that the initiative process is broken. There have been initiatives on the ballots that he has agreed with and there have been initiatives on the ballots that he has disagreed with. But, it has generally worked to effect the will of the people. There isn't a two-thirds voting requirement of the people for the other provisions and he is not convinced that it should be a requirement for natural resources. If there is something broken, it seems to be how an initiative gets to the ballot rather than requiring a super majority for one particular area. In addition, he is worried that if all three resolutions go to the ballot it will be very confusing. If any of the approaches have merit, it is a permutation of HJR 7. He maintained his objection. Number 0743 REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA agrees with Representative Croft. She reiterated she has constitutional concerns about HJR 3 and HJR 25 because they completely remove a right, especially HJR 25, and there might need to be a constitutional convention rather than an amendment. Number 0815 CHAIRMAN-DESIGNEE GREEN indicated the objection is maintained. A second roll call vote was taken. Representatives Green, Rokeberg, James and Murkowski voted in favor of the motion. Representatives Croft and Kerttula voted against the motion. The motion passed by a vote of 4-2. House Joint Resolution 3 was so moved from the House Judiciary Standing Committee. Number 0857 REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA stated there was quite a bit of testimony indicating that 10 percent of those who voted in the preceding general election within each house district would be difficult to meet. She has empathy with ensuring that the entire state is involved in the process, but nobody wants to see the process close down. She offered an amendment to change "10 percent" to "2 percent". CHAIRMAN-DESIGNEE GREEN objected for discussion purposes. Number 0925 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES shares the same concern, but 10 percent is too high and 2 percent is too low. She is not sure what the figure should be, however. The right number is somewhere between 1 person from each house district and 10 percent. She would accept something bigger, but she will not vote for 2 percent. In addition, it only calls for 30 out of the 40 house districts. The less difficult districts to travel to could be used to get the signatures. Number 1019 CHAIRMAN-DESIGNEE GREEN noted that the average turnout is about 5,000 per district or lower which would only be 500 signatures. He is reluctant to allow the current system because it allows the Rail Belt to have so much influence. The bar should also be high enough so that the ballots are not cluttered each year with resolutions. He maintains leaving it at 10 percent. Number 1145 REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI likes Representative Williams' suggestion of going to all areas of the state. Other states require 8 percent with a signature gathering period of 90 to 150 days. Although 10 percent may be higher, there is a one-year period to collect signatures here in Alaska. She is concerned about the outside organizations that have targeted Alaska as a cheap place to get something on a ballot. It is not like years ago when everybody in the neighborhood was packing around a petition. Nowadays, petition gathers are paid good money and are organized by outside corporations. She supports HJR 7 and is comfortable with going as high as 10 percent. Number 1272 CHAIRMAN-DESIGNEE GREEN called for a brief at-ease at 1:38 p.m. and called the meeting back to order at 1:40 p.m. Number 1278 REPRESENTATIVE CROFT noted that this pertains to both initiatives and referendums which are important rights. He doesn't know how receptive the public will be on restricting its power to decide issues via the initiative process and correct the legislature via the referendum process. The referendum process is an area that the legislature ought to be very careful before touching, given that it is the public's last recall on what the legislature does. Maybe, there ought to be a policy of not touching it. It is not used very often and when it is, it is obvious that the people feel seriously that the legislature has erred. He said, "It may not be for us to tell them how they get that done." Number 1358 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG noted that referendum is referred to in Article XI, section 5 of the state constitution, and the resolution only deals with Article XI, section 3. Number 1387 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES stated it is important to recognize that Alaska has 365 million acres of land with a very small population of which nearly half lives in the Anchorage Bowl. That calls for outreach to ensure the folks in the less populated areas are not left out, even though this might not be a good idea for other states. Once an initiative is on the ballot and it represents those in the Anchorage Bowl, it will pass, and the rest of the votes from the rest of the people will mean nothing. She still thinks 10 percent is too high, especially since there is a low voter turnout in some of the rural areas and it will be some time before there are more people in those areas. Number 1587 REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI asked Representative James what was the discussion in the House State Affairs Standing Committee regarding the percentages. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES replied it was similar to today's discussion, but there wasn't the same type of public testimony. There was a motion to make it 5 percent, but it didn't pass. The committee decided on 10 percent. REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI asked Representative James whether the original bill called for 15 percent. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES replied yes. CHAIRMAN-DESIGNEE GREEN noted that the objection is maintained. A roll call vote was taken. Representatives Green, Rokeberg and James voted against the motion. Representatives Murkowski, Croft and Kerttula voted in favor of the motion. The motion failed by a vote of 3-3. Number 1668 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES made a motion to move CSHJR 7(STA) from the committee with individual recommendations and the attached fiscal note(s). REPRESENTATIVE CROFT objected. A roll call vote was taken. Representatives Green, Rokeberg, James and Murkowski voted in favor of the motion. Representatives Croft and Kerttula voted against the motion. The motion passed by a vote of 4-2. The CSHJR 7(STA) was so moved from the House Judiciary Standing Committee. Number 1747 CHAIRMAN-DESIGNEE GREEN called for a brief at-ease at 1:50 p.m. and called the meeting back to order at 1:51 p.m. Number 1750 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG made a motion to move CSHJR 25(JUD) from the committee with individual recommendations and the attached fiscal note(s). REPRESENTATIVE CROFT objected. REPRESENTATIVE CROFT noted that there is legitimate concern about HJR 25, but the people are smart enough to sort it out. The distinction between the aerial wolf hunt and the wolf snaring initiatives prove that point. The people were able to see the difference between prohibiting an act that didn't comport with a fair chase and protecting a lifestyle choice. He doesn't believe that taking it off the plate is appropriate. Number 1825 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES stated there is no comparison between the two initiatives because shooting wolves from an airplane was already illegal. The people couldn't tell the difference. The advertisements influenced the votes and didn't have anything to do with reality. To say that the people can sort it out is a good argument, if there is a level playing field for both sides. The boards are the best system to manage fish and game, until someone can come up with a better one. The initiative process is not it. There are flaws with the initiative process. It doesn't have a public process. It doesn't have the committees and the testimony that the legislative process has. She sympathizes with the folks that want to do something and the legislature simply doesn't listen to them so they turn to the initiative process. She supports that as a method of passing statutory law, but the valuable resources such as fish and game need the public, committee and legislative processes. "If we want to have a better system of managing fish and game, then we should statutorily change the management--the whole management, not just specific management of specific game and specific fish." Number 1944 REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA noted that this is a representative democracy and the initiative process is probably the cleanest and most public oriented part of it because once an initiative is on the ballot everybody has the right to vote on it. She is concerned about restricting that process since people in Alaska feel strongly about natural resource issues. It is also ironic to see the people who supported "the resolution" that failed coming in to change the process. Number 1983 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES understands that this is a representative form of democracy, but the representative part of government is "out the window" when going to an initiative because each district loses its voice when the "water is muddy." Once an initiative is on the ballot, the votes are in Anchorage. "I don't if you heard that or not, but that's where they are." REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA replied she heard the testimony. Number 2029 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG favors HJR 25 because Article VIII, section 2 of the state constitution clearly sets forth the legislature's responsibility in providing for the utilization, development and conservation of all natural resources belonging to the state for the maximum benefit of the people. The power is reserved to the legislature. He said, "I'm very concerned that the type of initiatives that have occurred...And, I think the point's well taken that with enough money and the changing demographics in this state where people don't have the traditions of hunting and fishing and gathering that we've had here for years, that we would put in jeopardy to a very large investment by an outside interest group that could gradually change our culture. And, I'm not willing to take that risk entirely. Notwithstanding the sound arguments on the other hand for the voice of the people. And, Mr. Chairman, I think that this--if we don't do something it could be the end of commercial fishing in the state of Alaska. If you look at the number of commercial fishers versus the growing power and importance of sport fishery, and I think justifiably so in certain instances, but if we end up by ballot box animal husbandry and theological choices, I think we're going to be wronged." He will vote yes. Number 2098 REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI is concerned that HJR 25 is closer to a revision of the constitution as opposed to an amendment. It is completely taking away the ability of the people to vote on fish and wildlife issues. It takes the state closer to the need for a constitutional convention. She is not comfortable with that. Number 2141 CHAIRMAN-DESIGNEE GREEN called for a brief at-ease at 2:00 p.m. and called the meeting back to order at 2:02 p.m. Number 2148 CHAIRMAN-DESIGNEE GREEN noted that Representative Murkowski brings up a very good point. He referred to a memorandum from Legislative Legal Services dated March 19, 1999 which states that all three resolutions are constitutional as a method of eliminating initiatives, and that they probably won't go to the point that the state supreme court went to in Bess v. Ulmer. Number 2212 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES stated the Bess case affected several parts of the constitution. She asked what other part of the constitution would HJR 25 affect. Number 2233 KEVIN JARDELL, Legislative Assistant to Representative Joe Green, Alaska State Legislature, stated that testimony on Bess v. Ulmer indicates it is difficult to determine what will be a revision and what will be an amendment. There were three constitutional amendments before the Alaska Supreme Court, and it found that two were amendments and one was a revision. The revision on a scale of 1 to 10 of how much it affects the constitution was a 10. It affected almost every aspect of the constitution. The four-part test, the extent that it affects the whole constitution and a person's understanding of the implications of an amendment, was laid down in that case. Number 2299 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked Mr. Jardell whether any constitutional amendment with any degree of controversy would be challenged in court prior to going to the ballot because of the Bess case as a matter of course. MR. JARDELL replied it is safe to say that the supreme court could find factual determinations to make a decision on a challenge. It is really hard to allow Bess to determine which resolution should go forward. It is a preliminary case and it will take further case law to narrow down what is a revision and what is an amendment, unless the supreme court gives a bright-line test, which is not expected. Number 2347 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG noted the only thing that could dissuade counsel from introducing lawsuits is the Senate Finance Standing Committee. Number 2373 CORY WINCHELL, Administrative Assistant to Representative Pete Kott, Alaska State Legislature, stated that the memorandum dated March 19, 1999 from Legislative Legal Services talks about the powers enumerated by the legislature and the Bess decision. The courts have been slicing away at the initiative process in regards to natural resources, fish, and wildlife for about 20 years now. They have made inroads. The courts didn't want ballot-box voting for allocation issues such as fish stocks, mining, natural resources, etc. The memorandum indicated, based on legal precedent available in this state, that the legislature has the power to propose a constitutional amendment that would, if approved by the people, reduce the power of the people to enact laws relating to fish and game by initiative. CHAIRMAN-DESIGNEE GREEN noted it sounds Draconian. Number 2451 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG made a motion to move CSHJR 25(JUD) from the committee with individual recommendations and the attached fiscal note(s). REPRESENTATIVE CROFT objected. TAPE 99-16, SIDE B Number 0001 REPRESENTATIVE CROFT continued. There is confusion on the Bess case because of expansiveness. The prisoners' rights proposed amendment affected everything. The supreme court eliminated the sentence that said, "No provision of this constitution may be interpreted to require the State to recognize or permit marriage between individuals of the same sex.", in the marriage proposed amendment. The redistricting proposed amendment affected nine different provisions of the state constitution, but the supreme court said it was understandable. Therefore, he is not sure whether there will be that much trouble with this case. It is not going to be a huge burden. CHAIRMAN-DESIGNEE GREEN noted that the objection is maintained. A roll call vote was taken. Representatives Green, Rokeberg, James and Murkowski voted in favor of the motion. Representatives Croft and Kerttula voted against the motion. The motion passed by a vote of 4-2. The CSHJR 25(JUD) was so moved from the House Judiciary Standing Committee.