Legislature(2001 - 2002)

04/19/2001 08:04 AM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 189 - REPEAL TERM LIMITS/TERM LIMITS PLEDGES                                                                               
Number 0790                                                                                                                     
CHAIR COGHILL 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."                                                                                
Number 0189                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  NORMAN ROKEBERG,  Alaska State  Legislature, came                                                               
forward  to testify  as  chair of  the  House Judiciary  Standing                                                               
Committee, sponsor of  HB 189.  He explained that  HB 189 repeals                                                               
statutory  provisions  relating to  term  limits  and term  limit                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG  went over  the sponsor  statement, which                                                               
     On  February  28, 2001,  in  a  case entitled  Cook  v.                                                                  
     Gralike, et al., the United  States Supreme Court ruled                                                                  
     that printing term limit pledges  on the ballot next to                                                                    
     a Congressional  candidate's name  is unconstitutional.                                                                    
     The  Missouri  act  which   was  struck  down  required                                                                    
     "DISREGARDED VOTERS' INSTRUCTION ON  TERM LIMITS" to be                                                                    
     printed on ballots  by the names of  members failing to                                                                    
     take  certain  legislative  acts   in  support  of  the                                                                    
     proposed term  limit amendment.  It  also provided that                                                                    
     "DECLINED TO PLEDGE TO SUPPORT  TERM LIMITS" be printed                                                                    
     by the  names of the non-incumbent  candidates refusing                                                                    
     to  take  a  "Term  Limit"  pledge  to  bring  about  a                                                                    
     specified "Congressional Term Limits Amendment."                                                                           
     Through   the   Elections  Clause,   the   Constitution                                                                    
     delegated  to  the states  the  power  to regulate  the                                                                    
     "Times,  Places,   Manner  of  holding   Elections  for                                                                    
     Senators and  Representatives," subject  to a  grant of                                                                    
     authority   to  Congress   to  "make   or  alter   such                                                                    
     Regulations."   The states  may regulate  the incidents                                                                    
     of  such elections,  including  balloting, only  within                                                                    
     the exclusive  delegation of power under  the Elections                                                                    
     The  Supreme  Court  found   that  the  requirement  of                                                                    
     printing   on  the   ballot  a   candidate's  lack   of                                                                    
     acceptance of a term limit  pledge was not a procedural                                                                    
     regulation.     It  did  not   regulate  the   time  of                                                                    
     elections; it did not regulate  the place of elections;                                                                    
     nor did it  regulate the manner of  elections.  Rather,                                                                    
     the court  found, the requirement was  plainly designed                                                                    
     to  favor candidates  who are  willing  to support  the                                                                    
     particular  form of  a term  limits  amendment, and  to                                                                    
     disfavor those  who either oppose term  limits entirely                                                                    
     or who  would prefer a  different proposal.   The Court                                                                    
     stated  that   "...  it seems  clear  that the  adverse                                                                    
     labels handicap  candidates at  the most  crucial state                                                                    
     in the election process --  the instant before the vote                                                                    
     is  cast.   The  labels  imply  that  the issue  is  an                                                                    
     important -- perhaps paramount  -- consideration in the                                                                    
     citizen's  choice, which  may decisively  influence the                                                                    
     citizen to  cast his ballot against  candidates branded                                                                    
     as  unfaithful.     Thus,   far  from   regulating  the                                                                    
     procedural  mechanisms of  elections, the  Missouri act                                                                    
     attempts   to  dictate   electoral   outcomes.     Such                                                                    
     'regulation' of  congressional elections simply  is not                                                                    
     authorized by the 'Elections Clause.'"                                                                                     
     Alaska   statutes   AS   15.15.500-575   require   that                                                                    
     "VIOLATED VOTER INSTRUCTION ON  TERM LIMITS" be printed                                                                    
     on the  ballot adjacent to  the name of  any respective                                                                    
     state  Senator or  Representative  who  failed to  take                                                                    
     appropriate action  in support of a  congressional term                                                                    
     limit  amendment   to  the  constitution,   during  the                                                                    
     preceding term  of office.   The same shall  be printed                                                                    
     on  the  ballot adjacent  to  the  name of  any  United                                                                    
     States  Senator or  Representative  who  also fails  to                                                                    
     take appropriate action during the preceding term.                                                                         
     Non-incumbent candidates for  United States Senator and                                                                    
     Representative,  and state  Senator and  Representative                                                                    
     who decline to  take a "Term Limits"  pledge shall have                                                                    
     "DECLINED  TO  TAKE  PLEDGE  TO  SUPPORT  TERM  LIMITS"                                                                    
     printed  adjacent to  their name  on every  primary and                                                                    
     general election ballot.                                                                                                   
     Any candidate  for the United  States Congress  and the                                                                    
     Alaska  Legislature  is  permitted  to  submit  to  the                                                                    
     lieutenant  governor  an  executed  copy  of  the  Term                                                                    
     Limits  Pledge  set  for  in   AS  15.15.560(b).    The                                                                    
     lieutenant  governor  shall  place  on  every  election                                                                    
     ballot "Signed  TERM LIMITS pledge: Will  serve no more                                                                    
     than  [3 terms]  [2 terms]"  next  to the  name of  any                                                                    
     candidate  who  has  ever   executed  the  Term  Limits                                                                    
     pledge.  In addition,  "Broke TERM LIMITS pledge" shall                                                                    
     be  placed on  every ballot  next  to the  name of  any                                                                    
     candidate,  who at  any  time  executes the  applicable                                                                    
     Term  Limits  Pledge,  and thereafter  qualifies  as  a                                                                    
     candidate for  a term that  would exceed the  number of                                                                    
     terms or  years set for  in the applicable  Term Limits                                                                    
     Since the  Alaska statutes are  so similar to  those of                                                                    
     Missouri,  this  United  States  Supreme  Court  ruling                                                                    
     suggests that our statutes  are unconstitutional.  This                                                                    
     bill will repeal these unconstitutional statutes.                                                                          
     The committee urges your support of this bill.                                                                             
Number 1200                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  ROKEBERG said  he  submits that  the pledge  that                                                               
candidates  for the  Alaska legislature  are  required to  either                                                               
decline  or [find  it] unconstitutional.    He said  he was  very                                                               
surprised that  it found its  way onto the ballot,  and expressed                                                               
disappointment  with the  lieutenant  governor  and the  attorney                                                               
general for not  finding it unconstitutional.  He  said there has                                                               
been adjudication throughout the country on the issue.                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG  said he  had been  "a rabid  term limits                                                               
supporter"  when first  elected to  the legislature.   "As  I was                                                               
here longer,  my wisdom  started growing,"  he testified,  and he                                                               
now thinks it takes two to four  years to learn the job.  He said                                                               
he thinks  he would support term  limit pledges if they  were for                                                               
"eight years in  one house and four in the  other or twelve years                                                               
or whatever  -- or none at  all," but he thinks  that in Alaska's                                                               
statute, a candidate  has to agree to serving no  more than eight                                                               
years within a 16-year period.                                                                                                  
CHAIR COGHILL said, "That is if you sign the pledge."                                                                           
Number 1477                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG said he does  not agree with the existing                                                               
limitation.  He explained:                                                                                                      
     The  voters have  forced me  into a  situation where  I                                                                    
     either have to sign or  not sign for something I really                                                                    
     believe  in  philosophically,  that  is  to  say,  term                                                                    
     limits.    But because  I  disagree  with the  specific                                                                    
     number of  years, that puts  me at odds with  the whole                                                                    
     situation.  So  I would have a "scarlet letter."   As a                                                                    
     matter of fact, I signed  a term limit pledge last time                                                                    
     because  I   thought  it   was  representative   of  my                                                                    
     philosophy.   Now, because I introduced  this bill, the                                                                    
     lieutenant  governor  is  going  to  have  to  put  the                                                                    
       "scarlet letter" next to my name.  So I'd ask the                                                                        
        committee to pass this bill so I won't have that                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  ROKEBERG  noted  that committee  members  had  in                                                               
their  packets a  letter from  a former  state attorney  general,                                                               
John Havelock, in which he states his support for HB 189.                                                                       
Number 1425                                                                                                                     
CHAIR COGHILL asked if those who  have signed the pledge would be                                                               
released from that pledge if HB 189 were to pass.                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG said they would.                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG  mentioned a  1998 Alaska  State attorney                                                               
general's opinion  that found a  portion of the state  statute to                                                               
be  unconstitutional.   [That opinion  was included  in committee                                                               
members' packets.]  He explained, "The  term limits pledge  as it                                                               
relates specifically  to Congressional candidates  (Alaska's U.S.                                                               
senators and  congressman) [is  unconstitutional] because  of the                                                               
Supreme Court case."                                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG  said, "It  seems to  me that  those same                                                               
arguments, albeit applying in a  broader picture, [also apply] to                                                               
the  state candidates  for the  state legislature.   I  think the                                                               
people of  the state of Alaska  erred in the construction  of the                                                               
initiative   that   was   put    forward   to   them   and   it's                                                               
unconstitutional based on First Amendment grounds."                                                                             
CHAIR COGHILL commented, "A point well taken."                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES added, "I second it."                                                                                      
Number 1580                                                                                                                     
CHAIR COGHILL said his major  question concerned the releasing of                                                               
those who  had already signed  the pledge.   He said  he supposed                                                               
that  those who  agree  with  the concept  of  term limits  could                                                               
publicly make note of the fact that that it is their philosophy.                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG responded, "It's called campaigning."                                                                   
Number 1541                                                                                                                     
CHAIR COGHILL said one of the  reasons he did not sign the pledge                                                               
was  because he  wants the  people in  the district  to make  the                                                               
determination [of how long he will serve].                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  ROKEBERG agreed,  saying,  "The  major method  of                                                               
term limiting is the ballot box.  Let the voters decide."                                                                       
Number 1594                                                                                                                     
CHAIR COGHILL asked,  "Do you see any other  questions that might                                                               
arise from us taking it off this statute?"                                                                                      
GAIL   FENUMIAI,  Election   Program   Specialist,  Division   of                                                               
Elections, Office of the Lieutenant Governor, replied:                                                                          
     No, in  fact, the  division was just  contemplating how                                                                    
     to  go  about  monitoring  this  whole  voluntary  term                                                                    
     limits  pledge, which  is  the only  part  ... of  this                                                                    
     section  that   would  be   repealed  ...   because  as                                                                    
     Representative Rokeberg pointed  out, the first section                                                                    
     to this  statute, 15.15.500 to 15.15.535,  ...[was] the                                                                    
     mandatory  term limits  pledge  ...  that was  declared                                                                    
     unconstitutional  by the  courts,  and so  we were  not                                                                    
     enforcing  that at  all.   So  no, it'll  free up  some                                                                    
     space on  the ballots ...  now without having  to print                                                                    
     that little  line below people  who did decide  to take                                                                    
     that voluntary pledge.                                                                                                     
Number 1654                                                                                                                     
CHAIR COGHILL said a ballot  is for selecting candidates, not for                                                               
disseminating information.                                                                                                      
Number 1694                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE STEVENS said he understood  this is a state issue,                                                               
but asked  what is now  the current law  on the federal  level as                                                               
far as Senators and Representatives in Congress.                                                                                
Number 1721                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG  said the Supreme Court  case decision in                                                               
February    found    "any    provisions   regarding    that    as                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE STEVENS  surmised, "So  we'll see some  changes in                                                               
that as well".                                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG replied,:                                                                                               
     Right.    Frankly, without  that  case  coming down,  I                                                                    
     would   not   probably   have  brought   forward   this                                                                    
     legislation in  fear of being castigated  by the public                                                                    
     as trying  to overturn  the initiative process  and the                                                                    
     will  of the  voters.   I  just think  the  way it  was                                                                    
     constructed and  how it's done  is unfair;  it's unfair                                                                    
     to  the candidates  who run  for  office and  therefore                                                                    
     unfair to the people of the state of Alaska.                                                                               
Number 1489                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES  said she didn't  think that  repealing this                                                               
law  would  stop various  groups  who  believe strongly  in  term                                                               
limits from trying to get candidates  to pledge to them that they                                                               
would support  term limits.  She  said she does not  believe that                                                               
signing a  pledge is a good  idea "because you may  find out some                                                               
additional  information that  you  didn't know  before, and  then                                                               
you'd  like  to  break  it,  and breaking  pledges  is  just  ...                                                               
something you  don't do in  this job. So I  try not to  make firm                                                               
commitments on anything.   I just try to say  I'll watch the bill                                                               
and I'll see what I do when it's  on the House floor and I'll see                                                               
what it says."                                                                                                                  
Number 1829                                                                                                                     
JENNIFER  RUDINGER, Executive  Director,  Alaska Civil  Liberties                                                               
Union  (AkCLU), came  forward to  testify in  support of  HB 189.                                                               
She  said  the AkCLU's  position  has  nothing  to do  with  term                                                               
limits.   "It is simply  that the ballot  itself is no  place for                                                               
election propaganda,"  she said;  "the voters have  a right  to a                                                               
ballot that  is clean  and that  candidates have  a right  not to                                                               
have  either 'scarlet  letters' or,  in this  case, 'gold  stars'                                                               
next to their names."                                                                                                           
MS. RUDINGER said the AkCLU was  close to filing a lawsuit on the                                                               
original "scarlet letter  law" that never took  effect.  Alaska's                                                               
scarlet  letter law  that Attorney  General  Bruce Botelho  ruled                                                               
unconstitutional a few  years ago was similar  to Missouri's, she                                                               
said.   The difference  between them was  that the  Missouri bill                                                               
put something by a candidate's  name indicating whether or not he                                                               
or  she chose  to sign  the pledge.  The AkCLU  calls Alaska's  a                                                               
"gold star" law  because if a person doesn't sign  the pledge, it                                                               
doesn't say  anything by that  person's name  on the ballot.   It                                                               
only says something  by the names of those who  chose to sign the                                                               
MS. RUDINGER  said the  ACLU of  Idaho successfully  challenged a                                                               
law essentially the same as Alaska's,  a gold star law.  The ACLU                                                               
of Idaho  took it to the  Supreme Court of Idaho  on two grounds,                                                               
free  speech  rights of  candidates  and  the rights  of  voters.                                                               
Although they won on rights of  voters, the court did not rule on                                                               
the free speech issue.  The Idaho court said:                                                                                   
     While  respondents have  argued  that the  state has  a                                                                    
     legitimate   interest   in    providing   voters   with                                                                    
     information, they have failed  to demonstrate that such                                                                    
     an  interest  is compelling  and  that  the statute  is                                                                    
     necessary to  further that  interest.   The information                                                                    
     the state seeks  to make available to  voters is easily                                                                    
     obtainable through  a variety of other  sources, namely                                                                    
     media   sources   and   the   candidate's   own   voter                                                                    
     information materials.   The statute cannot  be said to                                                                    
     be  necessary  to  provide   that  information  to  the                                                                    
     voters.   In  addition,  while the  state  does have  a                                                                    
     compelling interest in protecting  the integrity of the                                                                    
     electoral process, the ballot  legend authorized by the                                                                    
     statute  undermines ballot  integrity by  "transforming                                                                    
     it [the ballot] from a  means of choosing candidates to                                                                    
     a billboard for political advertising."                                                                                    
MS. RUDINGER said that is the  crux of the ACLU's objection.  "We                                                               
don't care  what the issue is,"  she explained; "we do  not think                                                               
that  the ballot  is the  place for  this kind  of speech."   The                                                               
AkCLU is happy not  to have to go to court if  HB 189 passes, and                                                               
"We are here in support of it," she concluded.                                                                                  
Number 2057                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  CRAWFORD commented,  "I feel  like I  woke up  in                                                               
some  sort   of  alternate  reality   this  morning.     We  have                                                               
Republicans  talking against  term limits  pledges and  the AkCLU                                                               
backing them  up.  I  don't know what's  happened."  He  said he,                                                               
too, supported HB 189.                                                                                                          
CHAIR  COGHILL  added, "We're  all  going  to  walk out  of  here                                                               
joining hands."                                                                                                                 
Number 2097                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  HAYES claimed  a conflict  of interest,  as could                                                               
all members,  because HB 189  affected him.   He called  the bill                                                               
Number 2115                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE FATE moved to report  HB 189 out of committee with                                                               
individual  recommendations  and  the  accompanying  zero  fiscal                                                               
note.   There being  no objection,  HB 189 was  moved out  of the                                                               
House State Affairs Standing Committee.                                                                                         
CHAIR  COGHILL  declared  a  brief  at-ease at  8:32  a.m.    The                                                               
committee was called back to order at 8:35 a.m.                                                                                 

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