Legislature(2001 - 2002)
05/08/2002 08:08 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 531 - ELECTIONEERING COMMUNICATIONS/DISCLOSURES [Contains discussion of SB 363 and HB 177] Number 2224 CHAIR COGHILL announced that the committee would resume the hearing on HOUSE BILL NO. 531, "An Act relating to communications and elections, to reporting of contributions and expenditures, and to campaign misconduct in the second degree; relating to disclosure by individuals of contributions to candidates; and providing for an effective date." Number 2299 REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD made a motion to adopt Amendment 1, which read: Page 2, line 17: Delete "advertising" Insert "communication [ADVERTISING]" There being no objection, Amendment 1 was adopted. Number 2375 REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD made a motion to adopt Amendment 2, which read: Page 4, line 17, following "candidate": Insert "or proposition, as that term is defined in AS 15.13.065(c)" CHAIR COGHILL objected. Number 2460 REPRESENTATIVE FATE asked what inserting "proposition" does to the intent of the bill. Number 2484 MS. MILES answered that current law requires all political communication with respect to candidates or ballot propositions to be reported. With the change in language from "advertisement" to "communication", the specification of ballot proposition being included was left off. Amendment 2, as proposed, would make sure that communications intended to influence the outcome of a ballot question are included and subject to the law. Number 2535 MR. BALASH noted that there may be a similar amendment to this on the Senate floor [to SB 363, the bill similar to HB 531]. Number 2552 The objection was removed. There being no further objection, Amendment 2 was adopted. Number 2588 REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD asked Mr. Balash to explain "nongroup entity". Number 2620 MR. BALASH explained that some of these statutes appear as if nongroup entities are not included, and that is because when Legislative Legal prepares for the upcoming session, it deals with the statutes as they read on the first day of session. Because HB 177 was vetoed by the governor and then overridden by the legislature after session had begun [in 2001], all of the files and databases Legislative Legal was working from didn't include those changes from HB 177. Instead of Legislative Legal trying to keep up on the statutes in real time, it simply throws down a line of demarcation and works from there through the course of the session. There are statutes in place for the revisor to deal with these issues. In no way are nongroups expected or anticipated to be excluded from any of these requirements. REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD referred to page 4, line 16, and said he thought "nongroup entity" should be deleted unless there is a good reason not to. MR. BALASH explained that the reason nongroup entities are excluded in that particular case is due to a U.S. Supreme Court decision [McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm'n] that involved a situation in Ohio where there was a school bond proposition, and a grandmother wanted to do her part to support the efforts of the school district to get the bonding measure passed. She made a flyer and passed it out, but she didn't put a "paid for" statement on it. Under Ohio's election laws, she is required to do that. The ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] helped her challenge it all the way through the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court said in that situation, her speech did not in any way pose a threat or have an appearance of corruption. She wasn't dealing with a public official, and the communication was initiated by her and was also limited - it wasn't a $50,000 ad campaign. The court has said that expenditures that are minor in dollar value and are initiated by an individual don't have to be regulated. They can fall under the First Amendment and get some additional protection. The ad has to be placed by a nongroup entity and cost less than $500. He noted that any ad placed in the newspapers around the state or any direct mailings will cost more than $500. Number 2800 REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD referred to the example Mr. Balash just used and asked if "individual" wouldn't cover that. He wondered if a nongroup entity was like Common Sense [for Alaska] and would it be excluded. MR. BALASH replied whether or not Common Sense for Alaska fits the definition of a nongroup entity is unclear at this point. In HB 177, a nongroup entity was defined by a three-part test: it cannot engage in business, its assets do not belong to any shareholders, and it's not under the influence of business. If Common Sense for Alaska wanted to make expenditures during a campaign season, it would have to demonstrate that it is insulated from the influence of business. REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD said he wasn't sure what a nonentity group is and how it's defined. He wondered if the District 22 Democrats, Common Sense for Alaska, or other issue-type groups are nongroup entities. It seems to him if they're going to be included in HB 177, they should be included in HB 531. Number 2903 MS. MILES acknowledged that the commission staff has also been trying to figure out exactly what a nongroup entity is. She reported that there are none registered. Previously, there was a regulation providing for qualified nonprofit corporations to participate in elections in a manner similar to individuals but with the giving power of a group. There was only one association that had qualified and participated, and that resulted in a significant amount of controversy. In the past legislative session, HB 177 was passed which changed that and described a nongroup entity "as a 'person' other than an individual that takes action the major purpose of which is to influence the outcome of an election and that meets the same three-part test described by the court in ACLU v. State of Alaska following campaign finance reform. That is, they cannot participate in business activities, they do not have shareholders who have a claim on corporate earnings, and that they're independent from the influence of business." MS. MILES pointed out that under the new guidelines provided in HB 177, these nongroup entities could register with the commission and then have the same giving power as an individual. Commission staff doubts there will be any nongroup activity because it makes more sense for these associations to form a standard political action committee. TAPE 02-54, SIDE B Number 2990 MS. MILES said the political action committee may accept contributions and then give up to $1,000 to a candidate. These nongroup entities are small associations informally combined that may wish to combine money and support a candidate. Because their giving level is only half of that of a political action committee and their limitations and restrictions are the same, it really wouldn't make sense for someone to go that route, she noted. Number 2965 CHAIR COGHILL said that pulling [nonentity groups] out in this amendment still doesn't change the conundrum. MS. MILES agreed that that issue would still have to be dealt with. Number 2849 MR. BALASH pointed out that in HB 177, the nongroup entities consistently throughout the statute are treated in a similar fashion to individuals, and that's why they're mentioned in the same breath as an individual in this case; that was done deliberately. [Representative Crawford did not offer other amendments he had prepared.] Number 2777 REPRESENTATIVE FATE moved to report HB 531, as amended, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSHB 531(STA) moved from the House State Affairs Standing Committee.