Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/28/1996 08:15 AM House STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 HJR 34 - LIMIT LEGISLATIVE SESSION TO 90 DAYS                               
 The next order of business to come before the House State Affairs             
 Committee was HJR 34.                                                         
 CHAIR JAMES called on Representative Jerry Sander, sponsor of HJR
 Number 1487                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE JERRY SANDERS said he would not read the sponsor               
 statement because everyone here could read.  He announced his wife,           
 children and grandchildren really liked the resolution.  He also              
 believed the Governor would like it too.  He explained the 120 day            
 session had been in existence now for 10 years in Alaska.  It had             
 worked well.  However, it was time to look at the issue again and             
 consider reducing the session length to 90 days.  He said it would            
 not present a problem due to the advancement of computers, for                
 example.  It presented a significant savings of $1.5 million.  He             
 called it a conservative amount, and felt it would be a                       
 considerable amount more when the number of administrative                    
 operations that were moving to Anchorage were considered.  Those              
 members had to fly to Juneau for business of which the state paid             
 for the trip.  He said HJR 34 would be popular in his district.  He           
 also believed it would pass other districts as well.  He said the             
 public perceived that the oil companies paid for this government.             
 He did not believe that, however, and the people would discover               
 that soon.  He predicted that in one year after passing a state               
 income tax, the session would be reduced to 90 days anyway due to             
 the change in the public's perception.  The resolution asked for              
 the people to vote on the issue.  He asked the committee members to           
 take an honest look at the resolution.                                        
 Number 1729                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said he supported the concept of HJR 34.  The            
 resolution would send a clear message.  He said if other states               
 could do it, Alaska could.  He reiterated he strongly supported HJR
 Number 1782                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN said he felt the legislature could accomplish             
 what it did in 120 days in 90 days.  The side effects would be less           
 bills and forced priorities.  It would also create a tendency to              
 "hit the ground running."  He said it would create better                     
 government and better legislation.  He supported the resolution.              
 Number 1856                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said she initially voted against the 120              
 day session, and was glad others did not agree with her because she           
 now believed it was good to have a time limit.  She asked                     
 Representative Sanders if he looked at other options available,               
 such as, one session being longer than another, for example?                  
 Number 1910                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE SANDERS replied, "yes."  He would have written it              
 for 90 days one year and 60 days the other year.  However, he also            
 believed in a one-step-at-a time approach.  He suggested trying a             
 90 day session for a while before cutting one year to 60 days.                
 Number 1937                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked Representative Sanders where the 90             
 days came from?                                                               
 Number 1955                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE SANDERS replied the House of Representatives passed            
 a budget in 90 days which had always been a budget that the public            
 supported.  However, after that 90 day period, there were an                  
 additional 30 days "to go back and put all that money back in."               
 Therefore, the state would be in better shape if it were limited to           
 90 days.                                                                      
 Number 2004                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said she was tired of all the bills being             
 pushed through the legislature.  Furthermore, each bill and fiscal            
 note had to be evaluated by a department.  She also supported a two           
 year budget cycle because the departments had to cater to the                 
 legislature for 120 days out of each year rather than conducting              
 state business.  She asked Representative Sanders what the                    
 extension provision was in the resolution?                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE SANDERS replied it was the same.  There was no                 
 change to the extension provision.                                            
 Number 2135                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN explained the state of Texas only allowed                
 legislation to be introduced on the alternative years, allowing one           
 session to be dedicated to the budget.  It was not fair to compare            
 other states to Alaska due to its short statehood.  A step in that            
 direction was worthwhile, however.                                            
 Number 2226                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER asked Representative Green if Texas did an              
 annual budget?                                                                
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN replied, "yes."  There were states, however,             
 that did biannual budgets.                                                    
 Number 2243                                                                   
 CHAIR JAMES said she supported HJR 34.  She was concerned about               
 comparing Alaska to other states, however, because Alaska did not             
 have a steady revenue source.  Moreover, she was also concerned               
 about the number of bills introduced.  She explained she was                  
 criticized for not hearing some bills this session, but there was             
 only so much that the House State Affairs Committee could do, and             
 do it right.   Furthermore, the rules would have to change.  She              
 suggested that a bill could not pass unless it had been presented             
 in the previous session to prevent unintended consequences of the             
 political bickering.  By presenting a piece of legislation one                
 year, the interim period could be used for discussion with the                
 public before action was taken.  She said the legislators did not             
 hear from the public while in Juneau.  "We hear from a few                    
 dissenters and a few passionate supporters," a very small part of             
 the public.                                                                   
 TAPE 96-43, SIDE A                                                            
 Number 0000                                                                   
 CHAIR JAMES reiterated the rules could be determined given a length           
 of time.  The arguments against were just excuses.                            
 Number 0044                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN stated most of the states that had restricted            
 time entertained public hearings throughout the session.                      
 Furthermore, although those states had a shorter session, they had            
 a longer interim period.  Moreover, most states were far more                 
 austere towards their compensation of their legislators.                      
 Number 0104                                                                   
 CHAIR JAMES said the legislature had made giant strides over the              
 past four years reducing the amount of money spent on the                     
 legislature as-well-as the carry over amount.  She announced Pam              
 Varni, Executive Director, Legislative Affairs Agency, was here to            
 answer any questions regarding the legislature.                               
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN stated the legislature at the same time                  
 increased its per diem.                                                       
 CHAIR JAMES responded everybody focused on the increased per diem             
 even though the legislature cut its staff and unrolled the carry              
 over amount.                                                                  
 Number 0182                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS said he was not sure how he would vote on HJR
 34.  He was concerned about how this would affect the balance of              
 power between he executive and legislative branches.  The Alaskan             
 Governor was the strongest executive in the United States, and the            
 counter balance to the executive branch in the state was the                  
 legislature.  He felt the 120 day session was an excellent idea               
 when it was changed years ago.  He cautioned the committee members            
 when considering shortening it even further to 90 days, however,              
 for fear of a tip in the balance of powers.                                   
 Number 0316                                                                   
 CHAIR JAMES explained regulations distressed the public.  Based on            
 her analysis of the problem, the legislature was not willing to               
 take the time to include specifics in the bills creating more                 
 regulations on the part of the Administration.  Therefore, she                
 agreed with Representative Willis that the balance of powers needed           
 to be looked at further.                                                      
 Number 0367                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER explained four years ago the legislature cut            
 79 positions.  He felt the legislature never did receive full                 
 credit for that so every time he had to opportunity to state that             
 he would.  Furthermore, most of the business in other states was              
 done at the municipal and county levels compared to Alaska.  There            
 was more money spent and issues addressed between King County and             
 the City of Seattle in the state of Washington than Olympia, for              
 example.  Therefore, the Alaska State Legislature was in effect a             
 borough assembly county seat of government for a large percentage             
 of the area of Alaska addressing issues that other states would               
 Number 0479                                                                   
 CHAIR JAMES announced HB 485 and HB 490 would not be heard today              
 due to time constraints.  They would be rescheduled for Saturday,             
 March 30, 1996.                                                               
 Number 0496                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN said if the session was moved to Akiak, the               
 expenses would be reduced as much as possible.  He cited the                  
 diversity, the limited access, and the cultures of Alaska affected            
 the government and how a state was governed compared to any other             
 state.  He was afraid to make a radical change right now.                     
 Number 0575                                                                   
 CHAIR JAMES explained due to redistricting every 10 years, a                  
 freshman legislature was almost inevitable.  She said it was a                
 steep learning curve for her as a freshman four years ago and that            
 needed to also be considered when changing the system.  She cited             
 it was hard to even find the bathrooms for that freshman class.               
 She complimented Representative Scott Ogan for his efforts as one             
 of only a few freshmen legislators last year.                                 
 Number 0642                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said she sympathized with other                       
 Representatives that had businesses outside of their work as a                
 legislator.  She believed in more interim types of work.  She                 
 stated the issue needed to be looked at further.  The entire way of           
 doing business needed to be reconsidered.  She did not think the              
 legislature could get through in 90 days as it currently operated.            
 She reiterated a more serious look was needed and provisions                  
 included to incorporate those changes.                                        
 Number 717                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN said, for the record, he found the bathroom               
 pretty fast when he arrived in Juneau as a freshman.                          
 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN moved that HJR 34 move from the committee with            
 individual recommendations and attached fiscal notes.  Chair James            
 objected.  A roll call vote was not called for, however.                      

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