Legislature(1997 - 1998)

03/05/1998 08:02 AM House STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 413 - INITIATIVE PETITION COMPENSATION                                      
Number 0337                                                                    
CHAIR JAMES stated that the next order of business would be HB 413,            
"An Act relating to disclosure of compensation paid to sponsors of             
initiative petitions; placing limitations on the compensation that             
may be paid to sponsors of initiative petitions; and prohibiting               
payments to persons who sign or refrain from signing initiative                
petitions."   She stated that there is a committee substitute and              
asked sponsor, Representative to Elton talk to the changes.                    
Number 0350                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KIM ELTON stated that the committee substitute has              
a new Section 2 and 3, and then the other sections are renumbered              
accordingly.  He explained that Section 2 provides that a group,               
that sponsors an initiative or other groups that are formed to                 
either support or oppose the initiative must report within 30 days             
after filing with the Lieutenant Governor's office and shall report            
also with 30 days after solicitation or acceptance of an                       
contribution has occurred.  He stated that after the initial                   
reporting, they must report within 10 calendar days after the end              
of each calendar year quarter.                                                 
Number 0353                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE ELTON stated that Section 3 redefines "group", the              
reason this section is in the bill is because under the Alaska                 
Public Officers Commission's (APOC) statutes there is a requirement            
for groups to report.  He stated that the requirement has been in              
statute since 1977, but because the definition of group has been               
somewhat vague, they had to redefine it.  He stated that the only              
other change in the bill is a change in Section 4, page 3, the                 
words "and disclosure" have been added.                                        
CHAIR JAMES asked where in Section 2, is it outlined when the                  
reports are due, is that a requirement for any group or is it going            
to have a separate reporting schedule.                                         
REPRESENTATIVE ELTON replied that it would be for any group that               
sponsors an initiative petition or any other group that forms in               
support of that initiative or in opposition to that initiative.                
CHAIR JAMES stated that there are groups that are recognized as                
groups who are currently on a reporting system.  She asked if this             
reporting system is different from theirs.                                     
REPRESENTATIVE ELTON replied that this bill adopts fairly closely              
a provision that has been in statute since 1977, that has never                
been enforced due to confusion of the definition of groups.                    
CHAIR JAMES asked Brooke Miles to come up.  She stated that the                
reason she is asking this question is because now there is a new               
group that is going to be reporting that has not been reporting.               
She stated that her concern is whether or not that group should                
comply at the same reporting dates as other groups for simplicity,             
as opposed to setting separate reporting times.                                
Number 0414                                                                    
BROOKE MILES, Alaska Public Officers Commission, stated that                   
currently what APOC requires from initiative groups is that they               
file a registration as a group within 30 days of having their                  
petition certified by the Division of Elections, subsequent to that            
they are filing reports within 10 days after each calendar quarter,            
so they are already under this separate reporting requirement.  In             
part it is because of how initiative groups form and report.  Once             
the regular election report for other groups kick in they then go              
to that pattern. She stated that the quarterly requirement on                  
groups is just preliminary.                                                    
CHAIR JAMES asked if it was true that if there was a Political                 
Action Committee (PAC) that was recognized as a group, that PAC                
would only have to report during the election cycle, the rest of               
the year they wouldn't have to report.                                         
MS. MILES replied that was correct.  PAC report on the same                    
schedule as candidates.  This bill would require fuller disclosure             
by these initiative groups.  She stated that under current law it              
has been the commission's staff advice to filers that they are not             
required to file their financial disclosure reports concerning                 
their contributions and expenditures until after the signature                 
gathering process.  This bill would require disclosure of their                
contributions and expenditures during the...                                   
CHAIR JAMES stated that her concern is how that schedule fit into              
the existing schedule as far as workloads.                                     
Number 0449                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE ETHAN BERKOWITZ stated that he just looked at the               
changes and stated that he would like to have a minimal amount for             
the expenditures in Section 2.  For example, if he and                         
Representative  James decided to oppose a referendum, and made a               
long distant phone call to another legislator, that phone call                 
would be considered an expenditure.  He stated that this places an             
unfair burden on the citizen who is trying to get involved in the              
process.  He stated that the requirement now is that one has to                
make a report after there is an expenditure and a group is defined             
as two or more people acting together to sponsor or oppose an                  
initiative.  He stated that if two people decided they did not like            
an initiative,  wanted to do something about it, felt a third                  
person was needed and an expenditure was made to contact that                  
person, they would therefore, come within the reach of that                    
statute.  He stated that he did not believe that was the intent of             
the definition of group.  He thought that the definition's intent              
was to apply to folks that are truly organized and have made more              
than a minimal expenditure.                                                    
Number 0476                                                                    
CHAIR JAMES stated that what she visualized this to be, is that the            
report is not just based on the making of an expenditure but the               
solicitation or acceptance of a contribution.  She explained that              
if one was in a group and the group had not taken any contributions            
and he made a call to a third person that would be his personal                
expense and would not trigger a report.  She stated that if he did             
take in some money and an account was established that would                   
trigger compliance.  She stated that you can't make an expenditure             
when there isn't a contribution.                                               
Number 0487                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ stated that part of the problem is with               
the word "or" on line 8, page 2.  He stated that once the                      
expenditure is made it has nothing to do with the solicitation.  He            
stated that if "or the making of an expenditure" was removed that              
would be fine.                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE HODGINS stated that it was his understanding that               
this bill was to come forward similar to the APOC reporting for                
candidates.  He asked if it was true that there is a report that               
one fills out if less then $1,000 is spent and would that work with            
CHAIR JAMES stated that her sense of what needs to be done is that             
the people need to register when they form and if they are not                 
going to be spending more than $1000, maybe they do not need to                
report.  She stated that an initiative is just as much a political             
issue as any other ballot measure.  You can't make an expenditure              
without having a contribution.  She stated that most likely if an              
expenditure was made a contribution would then be received.                    
Number 0515                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE ELTON stated that is only the period of time that               
the initiative group is out there soliciting signatures.  He stated            
that this would apply to groups that were trying to effect the                 
gathering of signatures.  He stated that he did not think that they            
were creating a problem with the "or the making of an expenditure",            
if indeed the group that applies to the initiative petition                    
signature gathering phase is the same definition of group that they            
apply to any other campaign.                                                   
MS. MILES stated that the nature of groups that support a ballot               
proposition is different from other groups and they have a                     
different kind of constitutional protection.  Therefore, there has             
never been a limit on what individuals can contribute to those                 
Number 0537                                                                    
CHAIR JAMES asked if she was comfortable with the groups not filing            
if they are not making any expenditures or taking any                          
MS. MILES replied that they would still have to register and in                
fact they would have to file a report.                                         
CHAIR JAMES asked if it says that in the bill because she did not              
see that and asked if this currently is being done.                            
MS. MILES replied that it is being done after the initial petition             
is certified by the Division of Elections to go forward, within 30             
days of that date the commission requires registration.                        
CHAIR JAMES asked but they can not get that petition done for free.            
MS. MILES responded that she did not know what the cost of that is.            
Number 0555                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE IVAN IVAN stated that he understood Representative              
Berkowitz's question.  There is a void between starting up and                 
being formed.  In the processing of forming one starts by                      
registering and then accounts for all the contributions or                     
REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked how he envisioned this being applied if             
there is a referendum and a newspaper runs an editorial for                    
signatures, the commercial value being $500 a day.                             
REPRESENTATIVE ELTON replied that it would have a value and                    
therefore be a reportable expense.                                             
Number 0579                                                                    
MS. MILES stated that editorials published in newspapers are not               
subject to campaign disclosure law.                                            
REPRESENTATIVE ELTON asked what if the newspaper did the ad space.             
MS. MILES replied that if a newspaper did the ad on its own behalf,            
then that would be subject to disclosure, if it was an editorial it            
would not.                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE ELTON asked Ms. Miles about the scenario that                   
Representative Berkowitz gave.                                                 
MS. MILES replied that the commission would not view it as an                  
expenditure under the statute.  However, she has two suggestions               
that would help with that:  change the word "or" to "and" and  that            
expenditures that meet certain criteria and were less then $250 not            
be subject to campaign disclosure.                                             
REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked what is the difference between an                   
editorial and an advertisement.                                                
Number 0603                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE ELTON stated that an editorial is always placed on              
one page and should always be labeled either as part of an opinion             
page or the individual editorial itself being labeled as opinion.              
He stated that as far as the type of speech; the editorial                     
persuasive speech has always been viewed as being non-commercial               
and the advertising persuasive speech has always been tagged as                
being commercial.                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY stated that he would assume that it is an                 
editorial on a page other than the front page.                                 
REPRESENTATIVE ELTON stated that mostly it is, there are some                  
publications that will have an opinion on a front page but it does             
not happen very often with general circulation newspapers.                     
Number 0627                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked if a newspaper could then put an                    
editorial an any page that they want and if they call it an                    
editorial, it's an editorial and if they call it an advertisement,             
it's an advertisement.                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE ELTON replied that if they do move an editorial to              
the front page, it would be labeled "editorial" or "opinion".  He              
stated that generally a page is either labeled the editorial page              
or the opinion page.                                                           
CHAIR JAMES stated that when it is on the front page it might be               
questionable whether it is opinion or news.  She stated that                   
sometimes journalists do take licenses to put opinions in news.                
She stated that she did not think that would be considered to be               
paid advertising.                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked how would someone tell the difference on            
a radio broadcast between an editorial, a news report and an                   
REPRESENTATIVE ELTON stated he would not want this to be taken as              
a definitive answer, but the superstation often orally labels the              
broadcast to be opinion or whatever.  In the broadcast media he                
believed, that if it is advertising, who paid for the ad needs to              
be stated.                                                                     
Number 0660                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON made a motion to move proposed CSHB 413, 0-               
LS1298\B, Glover, 3/4/98.                                                      
CHAIR JAMES asked if there was an objection.  Hearing none, CSHB
413 is before the committee.                                                   
Number 0670                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON made a motion to change "or" on page 2, line              
7, to "and".                                                                   
CHAIR JAMES stated that she wanted to speak to that because she                
could visualize having solicitation and no expenses until they                 
received a lot of money.  She questioned if amending it to "and" is            
the answer.  She stated that if a group makes an expenditure, that             
means that money would be coming in to cover the expenditure,  a               
small expenditure such as a phone call would probably not be                   
applicable.  She stated that she preferred the standing language,              
and does not see the problem.  She asserted that she is speaking in            
opposition to the amendment.                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ stated that he understood what she was                
saying but had to disagree.  He stated that with the scenario of a             
long distance phone call, he would not have asked for any money,               
nor received any money.                                                        
CHAIR JAMES stated that he would then not be acting as a group.                
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ stated that if two people decide that they            
are going to oppose something then that is the formation of a                  
group.  If they then make a phone call that is then the                        
expenditure.  A group is just two or more people that come                     
together, acting jointly to support or oppose a referendum.                    
Number 0708                                                                    
CHAIR JAMES stated that once a group is formed and an expenditure              
is then made to go forward, then the group in essence must comply.             
TAPE 98-30, SIDE B                                                             
Number 0001                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE HODGINS stated that the only thing that bothers him             
is that an unlimited amount of money can be put by a single                    
individual or a single group if there is an initiative or a                    
referendum.  He stated that he could see that as a "get out to vote            
type scenario."  For example it would behoove the Native groups to             
put out a lot of money to be able to get the people out to vote on             
the subsistence issue.                                                         
Number 0022                                                                    
CHAIR JAMES stated that she was surprised at that too, but her                 
attitude towards campaign finance is to let anybody contribute as              
much as they want but just make it reportable.                                 
REPRESENTATIVE IVAN stated that his basic feeling is that we are               
impinging on democracy.  He stated that people will be afraid to               
say anything.  He stated that this is too restrictive as far as he             
is concerned.                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY stated that the question was brought up about             
"get out the votes".  He asked if they are making the attempt to               
draw the line between referendum and public service messages.                  
CHAIR JAMES asked how are the people dealt with who are neutral on             
issues and are just getting the information out.                               
MS. MILES replied that generally that is not subject to the                    
campaign disclosure law when it is neutral information, concerning             
a ballot proposition.  She stated often a municipality will send               
out a brochure saying this is why the proposition is on the ballet             
and it will explain what it means.  She stated the groups that                 
conform to support or oppose that proposition are subject to the               
REPRESENTATIVE ELTON stated that the scenarios that they are                   
hearing about what groups can and can't do come into play at any               
other election and do not apply to groups that are formed on just              
initiatives.  He stated that maybe we are trying to micro-manage a             
situation that APOC has been dealing with on every other election.             
Number 0116                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON stated that what the bill is doing is to                  
incorporate the initiative process under the same rules in the same            
sort of disclosure.  He stated that he would withdraw his                      
CHAIR JAMES asked if there was any objections.  Hearing none, it               
was so ordered.                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON stated that he agreed with Representative                 
Ivan and agreed that what is really needed is to just make sure                
everything is disclosed.  The bill does a couple of things that                
helps that.  He stated that the people that are signing petitions              
need to know if the petition signers are doing it for money or                 
because they are true believers.  He stated that many petitions                
drives are for ulterior motives or at least for one or more motive.            
Number 0170                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON made a motion to move CSHB 413(STA),0-                    
LS1298\B, Glover, 3\4\98, with individual recommendations.                     
CHAIR JAMES asked if adding the reporting procedure to the bill                
would give it a fiscal note.                                                   
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER stated that the fiscal note is zero.                 
CHAIR JAMES asked if there was an objection.                                   
REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY objected.  He stated that there are some                  
onerous provisions in the bill that would not stand up to the                  
lightest scrutiny of review regarding meeting the requirements free            
speech.  He stated that he did not think that the bill was                     
addressing the public's right to know, instead it is trying to                 
squelch free speech.                                                           
CHAIR JAMES replied that she understood and certainly did not want             
to do any squelching of free speech but she reads the bill                     
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ stated that the bill encourages free                  
speech, because it encourages the disclosure and then there is an              
informed public.  An informed public is what is necessary for the              
best type of speech.                                                           
Number 0207                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE ELTON stated that he felt the bill that came into               
the committee is not quite as good as the one that is going out.               
He stated that he appreciated the efforts of the chair.                        
CHAIR JAMES asked for a roll call vote.  Representatives Berkowitz,            
Elton, Ivan, Dyson, Hodgins and James voted in favor of the bill.              
Representative Vezey voted against it.  Therefore, CSHB 413(STA)               
was moved from the House State Affairs Standing Committee.                     

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