Legislature(2001 - 2002)

04/21/2001 11:24 AM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 189 - REPEAL TERM LIMITS/TERM LIMITS PLEDGES                                                                               
Number 2148                                                                                                                     
CHAIR ROKEBERG  announced that the  next order of  business would                                                               
be HOUSE  BILL NO.  189, "An  Act repealing  statutory provisions                                                               
relating to term limits and term limit pledges."                                                                                
CHAIR  ROKEBERG,  speaking  on  behalf  of  the  House  Judiciary                                                               
Standing Committee,  sponsor of HB  189, said he is  very pleased                                                               
with the bill.  He explained  that it repeals those provisions of                                                               
Alaska's election law that relate  to what he called the "scarlet                                                               
letter"  or  the   "gold  star"  that  appears   on  the  ballots                                                               
indicating  term limit  pledges.   "Recently,  the United  States                                                               
Supreme Court  held that  the provisions as  they relate  to this                                                               
issue   are   unconstitutional   under  the   Elections   Process                                                               
provisions delegated  to the states by  the [U.S.] Constitution,"                                                               
he said.   So those provisions that apply to  members of the U.S.                                                               
House of  Representatives and the  U.S. Senate as relate  to term                                                               
limits are  unconstitutional under  the Cook v.  Gralike decision                                                             
[in committee members' packets].                                                                                                
CHAIR  ROKEBERG further  pointed out  that half  of the  sections                                                               
from  AS  15.15.500  through  AS   15.15.535  were  found  to  be                                                               
unconstitutional according  to the attorney general's  opinion in                                                               
1998, so they  have not been enforced.  They,  too, relate to the                                                               
congressional members, he said.                                                                                                 
Number 2239                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  ROKEBERG said  he thinks  "the overwhelming  testimony and                                                               
logic"  is that  the Cook  v. Gralike  case also  applies to  the                                                             
state  level.  He  said  the  Alaska  law  changed  the  "scarlet                                                               
letter,"  indicating  that  a  candidate  did  not  support  term                                                               
limits, into  a "gold  star," indicating  that the  candidate had                                                               
pledged to  support term limits.   The  Idaho Supreme Court  in a                                                               
December 6, 2000,  ruling, found that "gold  star" provisions are                                                               
unconstitutional because  they infringe on the  fundamental right                                                               
to  vote and  that  there  was no  compelling  state interest  to                                                               
continue printing them on the ballot.                                                                                           
CHAIR  ROKEBERG said  he takes  up  [term limits  and term  limit                                                               
pledges]  "with some  trepidation" because  the statutes  that HB
189  would delete  came  into state  law  through the  initiative                                                               
process and represent  the will of the majority of  the people of                                                               
Alaska that term  limits be applied statutorily.   "But what this                                                               
does is ... broadcast a particular  point of view on the election                                                               
ballot, which  I think is  sacrosanct, and  I think gives  ... an                                                               
... advantage  ... to a particular  candidate.  And I  think that                                                               
it's a  complete abridgment  of the  right of  ...   suffrage and                                                               
free  speech."    He  said  he was  very  disappointed  when  the                                                               
lieutenant governor  certified the initiative because  he felt at                                                               
the time it was not right.                                                                                                      
CHAIR ROKEBERG continued:                                                                                                       
     Particularly galling is the fact  that I, for my entire                                                                    
     political career, have indicated  that I believe in the                                                                    
     concept  of  term limits.    But  I've found  that  the                                                                    
     longer I stay down here  [in the legislature], the more                                                                    
     I  recognize that  it takes  a certain  amount of  time                                                                    
     even to learn  this job, but I do  believe that certain                                                                    
     people overstay  their limits.   So I  have ...  my own                                                                    
     idea:  the  concept that somebody should  serve no more                                                                    
     than  eight  years  in  one   house  and  twelve  years                                                                    
     altogether consecutively;  but that's at  variance with                                                                    
     the  term  limit  pledge  {now  in  statute].    To  be                                                                    
     consistent  under  the state  law,  you  have to  agree                                                                    
     precisely  with the  concept that  you  can only  serve                                                                    
     eight years in sixteen years.   So, therefore, I really                                                                    
     take  umbrage with  this because  even  though I  agree                                                                    
     conceptually in  the idea, if  I don't  agree precisely                                                                    
     with  the dictates  of that  initiative law,  then that                                                                    
     makes me the bad guy.                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  ROKEBERG said  he  was very  pleased  to see  the                                                               
ruling of  the United States  Supreme Court and the  Idaho court.                                                               
He  said  that in  the  House  State Affairs  Standing  Committee                                                               
(HSTA),  there  was testimony  that  the  Alaska Civil  Liberties                                                               
Union (AkCLU) was going to bring  a case on this particular item,                                                               
and because  of this bill, they're  going to wait and  see if the                                                               
bill has success in passage.  "So  ... we can avoid a lawsuit and                                                               
cluttering our courts up with this  issue -- and the expense," he                                                               
Number 2363                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  MEYER asked  if  the committee  would be  hearing                                                               
testimony from the AkCLU.                                                                                                       
CHAIR ROKEBERG said no, and that  he seemed to have misplaced the                                                               
package given  to him the other  day by Jennifer Rudinger  of the                                                               
AkCLU.    He  said  she   had  testified  at  the  HSTA  meeting,                                                               
describing the Idaho case in relation to Alaska law.                                                                            
Number 2397                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ  prefaced his testimony by  saying he is                                                               
not a supporter of term limits.   He said he had couple of points                                                               
he would  like to  make about  the inefficacy  of the  term limit                                                               
pledge.  He has noticed that a  lot of people take the term limit                                                               
pledge and  then violate  it, which  seems to  him to  defeat the                                                               
purpose of taking the pledge.                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ continued:                                                                                             
     The second thing I would like  to point out, and I want                                                                    
     to  congratulate you  for making  the point,  that it's                                                                    
     ridiculous to post someone's  political position on the                                                                    
     ballot.  You know I  offered an amendment the other day                                                                    
     on  the floor  that would  strike "political  position"                                                                    
     from  the  ballot, that  is  to  say, strike  someone's                                                                    
     political affiliation from the  ballot, which is also a                                                                    
     form of  advertisement, and  if the  title [of  HB 189]                                                                    
     was slightly  larger here,  I would  move [to  fit that                                                                    
     in].   But  I appreciate  your sentiment,  and I  think                                                                    
     that consistency  would show that you  would support my                                                                    
     position that  removal of the  term limit  pledge would                                                                    
     also  support removal  of  party  affiliation from  the                                                                    
Number 2445                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  OGAN   commented  that  it  was   an  interesting                                                               
discussion about removing  the indication of party.   "I guess if                                                               
I was  a member of certain  parties, I wouldn't want  that on the                                                               
ballot either," he said.                                                                                                        
CHAIR ROKEBERG  asked Representative Ogan  if he had  any problem                                                               
with the constitutionality of the repeal proposed by HB 189.                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN said he did not.                                                                                            
TAPE 70, SIDE B                                                                                                                 
Number 2475                                                                                                                     
GAIL   FENUMIAI,  Election   Program   Specialist,  Division   of                                                               
Elections,  Office of  the Lieutenant  Governor, came  forward to                                                               
testify.  She said:                                                                                                             
     The division does not have  any problem with the repeal                                                                    
     of this  law.  The  first sections of statute  that you                                                                    
     mentioned  were  already  not  being  enforced  by  the                                                                    
     division because they  had been deemed unconstitutional                                                                    
     and our  attorney general had  advised that  before the                                                                    
     Idaho  case came  out.   But  the Idaho  case said  the                                                                    
     unconstitutionality of the  first sections ... probably                                                                    
     would have  trickled down and applied  to the voluntary                                                                    
     term limits sections as well.                                                                                              
Number 2464                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE MEYER noted  that he has not seen  anything in the                                                               
news about this  being ruled unconstitutional.   "It does concern                                                               
me a  little bit that this  was passed by initiative  and ... now                                                               
we're going to make  it unlawful," he said.  "But  I think if the                                                               
public knew that it was  unconstitutional and what we're doing is                                                               
just  correcting   that  mistake,  it  would   probably  be  more                                                               
CHAIR ROKEBERG explained that the  decision in the Idaho case was                                                               
a very recent one, handed down February 28, 2001.                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE MEYER asked  if a person who signed  the pledge to                                                               
run for no more than eight years is still bound by that pledge.                                                                 
MS. FENUMIAI said she thinks that  if someone had signed a pledge                                                               
in the 2000 election, the pledge now would be null and void.                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE MEYER  sought further clarification:   "I guess my                                                               
point  is, if  somebody signed  a pledge  saying that  they would                                                               
only run for eight  years and then they continue for  12 or 14 or                                                               
16, there's nothing to stop that, right?"                                                                                       
CHAIR ROKEBERG volunteered:                                                                                                     
     As  a matter  of  fact, on  that point,  Representative                                                                    
     Meyer, I had  the occasion when this was  on the ballot                                                                    
     to talk to the author  of the initiative, Bob Bell, ...                                                                    
     and he  told me that  I shouldn't be upset  because the                                                                    
     way  the  initiative  was  drafted,  the  effectiveness                                                                    
     wasn't until the effective date  of the initiative.  So                                                                    
     therefore, even  though I  may have  spent a  few years                                                                    
     already serving,  ... the  eight-year bell  toll didn't                                                                    
     start until it became law.                                                                                                 
CHAIR ROKEBERG  said he thinks it  is a political issue,  "Like I                                                               
say I  support term  limits and  I'm going to  have to  live with                                                               
that if I decide to run in the next election."                                                                                  
Number 2369                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN moved to report  HB 189 out of committee with                                                               
individual  recommendations  and  the  accompanying  zero  fiscal                                                               
note.  There  being no objection, HB 189 was  reported out of the                                                               
House Judiciary Standing Committee.                                                                                             

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