Legislature(1995 - 1996)

02/21/1995 08:04 AM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 HSTA - 02/21/95                                                               
 HJR 4 - USE OF INITIATIVES TO AMEND CONSTITUTION                            
 Number 619                                                                    
 TOM ANDERSON, Legislative Assistant to Representative Terry Martin,           
 testified on behalf of Representative Martin who was unable to                
 attend the meeting.  He reviewed some previous discussion on HB 4             
 when the State Affairs Committee debated it, and reminded the                 
 committee there was discussion on increasing the percentage of the            
 vote.  He noted that Representative Green offered to submit an                
 amendment, which increases the voting of an initiative from                   
 majority to 55 percent.                                                       
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked someone to refresh her memory,                  
 because she only remembered voting to increase the percentage to              
 two-thirds.  Up to then, there had not been a new bill before the             
 committee that increased it to 55 percent.  If they were to change            
 it to 55 percent, they were, in fact, rescinding their original               
 motion to change it to two-thirds.  She stated that she objected to           
 the motion.                                                                   
 Number 635                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN mentioned offering an amendment after a                  
 lengthy discussion with Mr. Anderson about whether frivolous                  
 changes to the Constitution could be accomplished with a simple               
 majority vote.  The other side of the debate stated that if it                
 required three-fourths or two-thirds, there would never be a                  
 change.  Constitutions are living documents as we have seen by our            
 Federal Constitution, and there have been significant changes.  On            
 the whole, the changes have been good, and sometimes changes are              
 necessary.  His reason for suggesting 55 percent is to try to                 
 strike a balance of allowing the people to be heard when there is             
 a reason for change.  It is conjectural, if they wanted something,            
 that they could get two-thirds, but he feels reasonably sure they             
 could get 55 percent of the votes.                                            
 Number 661                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS noted that he remains strong about a two-               
 thirds vote.  It is historically acceptable, and has been since the           
 beginning of the nation concerning the federal institution.  The              
 citizenry through the years has accepted it, and it is not                    
 impossible to accomplish change under the two-thirds provision.  He           
 said he will personally support the two-thirds vote.                          
 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN responded to the debate by restating that the             
 democratic process is slow moving.  He would like to see some                 
 changes, and subsistence would be one change, and if they had a way           
 to take advantage of this legislation he said they would do it in             
 a heartbeat.  However, looking at the balance of state population             
 this would be democratic process to the majority, but not for the             
 folks on the other side who are being governed, too.                          
 MR. ANDERSON added that, currently, 18 states allow the initiative            
 process for amending of the constitution, and 6 more states allow             
 amending of the statutes in their process.  All of these states               
 require a majority.  He emphasized that none of these states have             
 this two-thirds - all of them are majority.  If it is passed in the           
 House and Senate, we would be the only state requiring two-thirds             
 out of almost half that have the initiative process.                          
 TAPE 95-18, SIDE B                                                            
 Number 000                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said officials are able to debate the issue              
 and understand what is being discussed, and then vote.  The problem           
 with requiring this of the general public is that often the public            
 is not aware; they dont listen to debate.  They expect their                  
 elected officials to go through that rigorous exercise.  He                   
 believes that is why a simple majority has been used so frequently            
 when dealing with the public, as opposed to higher standards for              
 elected official groups.  By adhering rigidly to the higher                   
 percentage he thinks we will not only grind exceedingly slow, we              
 may grind to a halt.                                                          
 Number 031                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said in some ways, Representative Green was           
 advocating the two-thirds, because if there was a real need to                
 change the Constitution, which she agrees is sacred, it would be              
 the responsibility of the group who introduced the initiative to              
 educate enough people to get the two-thirds vote; also to convince            
 them it is in the best interest of the state.  This is so important           
 that she believes it should be a higher standard.                             
 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER said he did not intend to support the                   
 amendment.  He supported the two-thirds, because he thought it                
 would eliminate this bill.  He said he does not like the initiative           
 process.  In his opinion, if people are to vote on changes to the             
 Constitution, the legislature should go through the arduous process           
 of considering an amendment by two-thirds vote.                               
 VICE-CHAIR OGAN stated that an amendment was before the committee,            
 offered by Representative Green, to delete majority and insert                
 at least 55 percent.  He wondered if it was in error, since they              
 amended this to two-thirds.                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN objected, saying the document was amended once           
 and could be amended again.  In order to be precise, the amendment            
 should be voted down.                                                         
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said her impression was that they had                 
 already changed it to two-thirds.  Therefore, the appropriate                 
 amendment should be to delete two-thirds majority and insert 55               
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said he would then recommend modifying his               
 amendment to delete two-thirds and insert at least 55 percent.                
 Vice Chair Ogan declared it so moved.                                         
 VICE-CHAIR OGAN requested a roll call vote.  REPRESENTATIVES                  
 PORTER, ROBINSON, WILLIS and OGAN voted against of the bill.                  
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN voted in favor of the amendment.                         
 Number 140                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON voted to hold the bill over in committee.             
 There were no objections, so the motion to hold the bill passed.              

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