Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 106

01/31/2006 08:00 AM House STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
HB 160-PUBLIC FUNDS & BALLOT PROPS/CANDIDATES                                                                                 
9:19:19 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON announced that the  next order of business was HOUSE                                                               
BILL NO. 160, "An Act limiting the  use of money of the state and                                                               
its political subdivisions to affect an election."                                                                              
CHAIR  SEATON  noted  for the  record  that  Representative  Bill                                                               
Stoltze, sponsor of  HB 160, had been waiting to  testify but had                                                               
to leave for another meeting.                                                                                                   
9:19:24 AM                                                                                                                    
BEN MULLIGAN, Staff to Representative  Bill Stoltze, Alaska State                                                               
Legislature,  testifying  on  behalf of  Representative  Stoltze,                                                               
sponsor of HB 160, said  he would address questions the committee                                                               
had last year when the bill was introduced.                                                                                     
9:20:31 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO moved  to  adopt  the committee  substitute                                                               
(CS) for HB 160, Version   24-LS0586\X, Kurtz, 1/30/06, as a work                                                               
draft.   There  being  no  objection, Version  X  was before  the                                                               
9:21:02 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. MULLIGAN  explained that Version X  incorporated an amendment                                                               
adopted by  the committee last  year.   In response to  a request                                                               
from Chair Seaton,  he explained that Version  X specifies "state                                                             
election" in  the title.  It  would allow local school  boards to                                                             
advocate for local  municipal bond propositions.   Version X also                                                               
added new language to Section 3, which read as follows:                                                                         
     *Sec. 3. AS 15.13.145(c) is amended to read:                                                                             
               (c) Money held by                                                                                                
                    (1) the division of elections or a                                                                      
     municipal  election official  [AN ENTITY  IDENTIFIED IN                                                                
     (a)(1)-(3) OF THIS SECTION] may be used                                                                                    
                         (A)     [(1)]    to     disseminate                                                                
     information  about the  time and  place of  an election                                                                    
     and to hold an election; or                                                                                            
                         (B) [(2)] to provide the public                                                                    
     with the information described in AS 15.58.020;                                                                        
                    (2) a municipality, school district,                                                                    
     regional  educational   attendance  area,   or  another                                                                
     political  subdivision  of the  state  may  be used  to                                                                
     provide the  public with nonpartisan  information about                                                                
     a ballot  proposition or question   other than  a state                                                                
     ballot  proposition  or  question   or  about  all  the                                                                
     candidates  seeking election  to a  particular [PUBLIC]                                                                    
9:22:31 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEATON said,  "As I  read this,  if it's  a state  bond or                                                               
state  anything,  then they  wouldn't  be  able to  provide  that                                                               
information, is  that correct?   But  a local  ballot proposition                                                               
they could?"                                                                                                                    
9:23:12 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. MULLIGAN answered that's correct.                                                                                           
9:23:42 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  MULLIGAN,  in response  to  a  question from  Representative                                                               
Gatto,  said [a  school  district] could  advertise  for a  local                                                               
ballot proposition on  a state bond, because it would  be a local                                                               
proposition to accept or not accept it.                                                                                         
9:24:08 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER offered an example  of a ballot issue that                                                               
dealt  with municipal  revenue sharing  and  said the  Matanuska-                                                               
Susitna Borough  was "intensely interested in  seeing that pass."                                                               
She asked if under this  proposal the borough would be prohibited                                                               
from lobbying for that.                                                                                                         
9:24:40 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. MULLIGAN answered that's correct.                                                                                           
9:24:45 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO said, "Since  the bonds haven't been passed,                                                               
the money  they're using to  advocate for these bonds  comes from                                                               
some other  source."  He  questioned whether there are  legal and                                                               
illegal sources and if there is  some way to identify if there is                                                               
an illegal source.                                                                                                              
9:25:01 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. MULLIGAN  said money in  a municipality's general  fund could                                                               
be used  to advocate.  He  said currently most state  and federal                                                               
monies are earmarked for a specific purpose.                                                                                    
9:25:44 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEATON noted  that government  obligation  (GO) bonds  can                                                               
only be used for capital projects.                                                                                              
9:25:53 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE RAMRAS  offered an example  in which a  city could                                                               
spend a  half million  dollars to influence  a statewide  vote to                                                               
fail.  If  the proponents of that ballot measure  didn't have the                                                               
means of raising  money, then - as Representative  Ramras said is                                                               
often the  case - one  side would be empowered  and well-financed                                                               
while the other  side would not be able to  gets its message out.                                                               
He offered his understanding that  the proposed legislation would                                                               
"prohibit that kind of influence from a governmental agency."                                                                   
9:26:56 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. MULLIGAN confirmed that is correct.                                                                                         
9:27:03 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said  the last time the  bill was before                                                               
the  committee   he  had  expressed   concern  about   issues  of                                                               
constitutionality.    He  said  he has  since  received  a  legal                                                               
opinion  from Kathryn  Kurtz of  Legislative  Legal and  Research                                                               
Services,  which is  included as  a memorandum  in the  committee                                                               
packet.  He  read portions of the letter, and  he stated that his                                                               
concerns are now alleviated.                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  asked, "This does prohibit  ... the use                                                               
of any money  held by the municipality, whether  it's state money                                                               
or any other money, right?"                                                                                                     
9:29:29 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. MULLIGAN answered that's correct.                                                                                           
9:29:37 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  directed attention to language  on page                                                               
2, lines 7-8, which read as follows:                                                                                            
               (c) Money held by                                                                                                
               (1) the division of elections or a                                                                           
     municipal election official                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  stated that  he is  not certain  if the                                                               
money is  technically held by  the Division of Elections  or held                                                               
by a  municipal election official.   He said, "I think  the money                                                               
is technically  held in  the treasury."   He  said if  that's the                                                               
case,  then HB  160 would  not achieve  its desired  effect.   He                                                               
recommended having legal counsel check on that.                                                                                 
9:30:46 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. MULLIGAN said he would have that question addressed.                                                                        
9:30:55 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEATON directed  attention to  page 1,  on which  he noted                                                               
there  is a  list  of those  entities that  cannot  use money  to                                                               
influence  ["the outcome  of the  election  of a  candidate to  a                                                               
state  or  municipal  office  or   the  outcome  of  an  election                                                           
concerning  a  state  ballot proposition"].    He  then  directed                                                           
attention to Section 2, which read as follows:                                                                                  
     *Sec.2. AS 15.13.145(b) is amended to read:                                                                              
               (b) Money held by an entity identified in                                                                        
     (a)(3)  [(a)(1)-(3)] of  this  section may  be used  to                                                                
     influence  the outcome  of  a  municipal [AN]  election                                                                
     concerning a  ballot proposition or question,  but only                                                                    
     if the  funds have  been specifically  appropriated for                                                                    
          that purpose by [A STATE LAW OR] a municipal                                                                          
CHAIR   SEATON  said,   "So,  normally   you  can't   unless  you                                                               
specifically have  an ordinance  -- by  ordinance, not  any other                                                               
9:32:08 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. MULLIGAN  responded, "They  can use  the money  to distribute                                                               
nonpartisan information or those designated  in Section 3, not to                                                               
influence the  outcome.  So, ...  if you designate that  money to                                                               
be  used  to  distribute  information   about  ...  a  given  ...                                                               
municipal  ballot proposition  at  the time,  they can  designate                                                               
that money and use that for that purpose."                                                                                      
CHAIR SEATON added, "To influence the election."                                                                                
9:33:44 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  MULLIGAN,  in response  to  a  question from  Representative                                                               
Gruenberg,  noted that  Ms. Kurtz  said if  a future  legislature                                                               
wants to  permit state entities  to use state funds  to influence                                                               
the outcome  of elections concerning ballot  propositions, it can                                                               
amend the law.                                                                                                                  
9:34:04 AM                                                                                                                    
BROOKE   MILES,  Executive   Director,   Alaska  Public   Offices                                                               
Commission (APOC),  told the committee that  the commission takes                                                               
a neutral position on the bill.                                                                                                 
9:36:02 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEATON,  in  response  to   a  question  from  Ms.  Miles,                                                               
specified that  certain language she had  expressed concern about                                                               
is deleted from Version X.                                                                                                      
9:36:18 AM                                                                                                                    
LARRY  WIGET, Director,  Government  Relations, Anchorage  School                                                               
District,  testified on  behalf  of the  district  in support  of                                                               
allowing school districts to provide  the public with nonpartisan                                                               
information  regarding  a  ballot   proposition.    He  said  the                                                               
district  would  also  appreciate  having  the  same  ability  to                                                               
provide   the   public   with  nonpartisan   ballot   proposition                                                               
information  for  state ballots,  particularly  in  regard to  GO                                                               
bonds or  other statewide  bonds that  would directly  impact the                                                               
school   district,   in   terms  of   school   construction   and                                                               
MR. WIGET  said at the  local level, under the  current municipal                                                               
ethics law, the  district is not allowed to advocate  yeah or nay                                                               
for  bond propositions,  but  may only  provide  its public  with                                                               
information.   He said the  district would appreciate  having the                                                               
ability to provide  the voters of the  community with information                                                               
on  statewide  ballot  propositions  that  impact  the  Anchorage                                                               
School District.                                                                                                                
9:37:58 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  WIGET,  in  response  to   a  question  from  Representative                                                               
Gruenberg, clarified that he would  like the language "other than                                                           
a state  ballot proposition or  question" removed from  [page 2],                                                           
lines 16-17.   He further clarified that on the  local level, all                                                               
the  information   that  the  district  sends   out  through  its                                                               
"dissemination  process" is  approved  by local  bond council  to                                                               
ensure a  high level of  neutrality in  order not to  influence a                                                               
level  of outcome.    He  said, "Our  basic  goal  is to  provide                                                               
information from  which our voters  can make an  educated guess."                                                               
He indicated that  the community makes up its own  mind, based on                                                               
the information.                                                                                                                
9:38:51 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON asked Mr. Wiget if  he understands that Section 2 on                                                               
page 2  would "allow for advocacy  for a position on  a municipal                                                               
bond ballot  proposition if the assembly  would specifically pass                                                               
a municipal ordinance allowing for that."                                                                                       
9:39:16 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. WIGET said he does.                                                                                                         
9:39:26 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG referred  again to lines 16  and 17, and                                                               
clarified that  Mr. Wiget  would like the  school district  to be                                                               
able  to advocate  on a  state ballot  proposition.   He observed                                                               
that Section 2 only applies to municipal elections.                                                                             
9:39:59 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER  asked Mr. Wiget  if he is  proposing that                                                               
school districts  be taken out  "of the  effect of this  bill" in                                                               
order that  the school district  could lobby for issues  that are                                                               
statewide issues that affect school districts.                                                                                  
9:40:19 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  WIGET  responded that  the  issue  is  not  to lobby  for  a                                                               
position, but  to be able  to provide information from  which the                                                               
voters can make a decision to vote yeah or nay.                                                                                 
9:40:43 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  observed that  the language on  page 2,                                                               
line   14,  includes   not  just   school  districts,   but  also                                                               
municipalities,  regional   educational  attendance   areas,  and                                                               
political subdivisions of the state.   He indicated that he would                                                               
like to know how those other entities felt about the language.                                                                  
9:41:17 AM                                                                                                                    
KATHY  WASSERMAN, Alaska  Municipal  League  (AML), testified  as                                                               
     The Alaska Municipal League is  opposed to HB 160.  The                                                                    
     first and most important reason  is that it attempts to                                                                    
     remove local control.                                                                                                      
     There have  been and  will continue  to be  many issues                                                                    
     that   this   state   faces   that   impact   different                                                                    
     communities in many different ways.                                                                                        
     We  would defend  local  governments'  right to  inform                                                                    
     residents, in  as fair a  manner as possible,  what the                                                                    
     ramifications  of state  election results  might entail                                                                    
     for their community.                                                                                                       
     Many times, local assemblies and  councils take a stand                                                                    
     - through  resolutions, proclamations,  and so  forth -                                                                    
     on state issues  which may then find their  way back to                                                                    
     the  state voting  booth.   To say  "nothing," as  this                                                                    
     bill  mentions, does  not  reflect nonpartisanship;  it                                                                    
     reflects  irresponsibility.    A   good  manager  of  a                                                                    
     business  or a  city owes  [his/her] employees  and the                                                                    
     constituents as  much information  as possible  to make                                                                    
     an informed decision.                                                                                                      
     Most  small  communities  have  no  other  organization                                                                    
     within  their community  to pass  that information  on.                                                                    
     The local government and the  schools are sometimes the                                                                    
     only places to  go to get your questions  answered.  In                                                                    
     larger communities, the local  government does not have                                                                    
     to  be the  only organization  giving any  information,                                                                    
     but why  would the government be  the only organization                                                                    
     prohibited from giving that information?                                                                                   
     Local government  is made up  of local  people, elected                                                                    
     by  their  neighbors.   Why  would  the state  wish  to                                                                    
     silence  those elected  officials from  informing their                                                                    
     constituents on impacts to their area?                                                                                     
     One example  that comes  to mind is  a couple  of years                                                                    
     ago we had  a state vote that dealt with  the gas line.                                                                    
     Would that have kept  the Fairbanks North Star Borough,                                                                    
     the City of Valdez, and  the North Slope [Borough] from                                                                    
     speaking  to the  issue?   In  that  case, we  probably                                                                    
     could have heard  input from the oil  producers and the                                                                    
     environmentalist  -  not  that there's  anything  wrong                                                                    
     with  that, but  that is  only a  section of  the whole                                                                    
     story.  So, I would ask that you not pass this bill.                                                                       
[MS. WASSERMAN'S  written testimony is included  in the committee                                                               
9:43:57 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   RAMRAS  stated   his   understanding  that   Ms.                                                               
Wasserman  testified  that  local  bodies  pass  resolutions  and                                                               
represent local constituencies.  He said:                                                                                       
     This  bill  doesn't  prevent local  bodies  from  doing                                                                    
     that,  it just  prevents  them from  then leveraging  a                                                                    
     resolution into a local  municipality spending money to                                                                    
     represent an  opinion.   Earned media  isn't prohibited                                                                    
     by  this  bill.    Am  I  misunderstanding  what  local                                                                    
     municipalities, assemblies, and  whatnot are allowed to                                                                    
9:44:31 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  WASSERMAN   stated  her  understanding  that   there  is  no                                                               
differential between how  that money is spent.   She queried, "If                                                               
a stipend  is given  to assembly  or council  members, if  a city                                                               
manager is  indeed paid for  his time  and he researches  a state                                                               
issue in  order to  give information across,  where does  it stop                                                               
where  money is  spent?   It  doesn't necessarily  just speak  to                                                               
9:45:09 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE RAMRAS asked  Ms. Wasserman if she  feels that the                                                               
bill   would   prohibit   local   municipalities   from   passing                                                               
resolutions to take  a position for or against a  bond issue or a                                                               
matter that comes before the state.                                                                                             
9:45:19 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. WASSERMAN replied  that she feels the bill does  not give the                                                               
municipality the ability  to speak on behalf of state  issues - a                                                               
resolution being a small part of that.                                                                                          
9:45:36 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON asked Ms. Wasserman to  clarify if she is saying the                                                               
bill would  allow [a municipality]  to pass a resolution,  but it                                                               
could not advertise  the resolution or state  the city's position                                                               
in the event of an election.                                                                                                    
9:45:48 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. WASSERMAN  answered, "Unless  there's something in  this bill                                                               
that I  don't see, I don't  think you could pass  a resolution, I                                                               
don't  think  you  could  take  a  stand,  you  can  just  simply                                                               
advertise the time and the place  of the election.  I'm just very                                                               
concerned that local  government ... would not have  the right to                                                               
make their wishes known or to inform, more than anything."                                                                      
9:46:15 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE RAMRAS said the bill  doesn't seem to restrict the                                                               
freedom of  speech of  a municipality taking  a position,  but it                                                               
does  restrict  that  municipality  from  spending  discretionary                                                               
funds to advertise the position that it takes.                                                                                  
9:46:44 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  WASSERMAN responded  that she  doesn't see  anything in  the                                                               
bill  that speaks  to  advertising; she  interprets  the bill  as                                                               
addressing "money spent," which she said is of concern to her.                                                                  
9:47:01 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARDNER,   regarding  money  spent,   stated  her                                                               
understanding that  Ms. Wasserman testified that  a paid employee                                                               
of  the  municipality  who  spends   money  researching  a  state                                                               
proposition would be in violation of the proposed law in HB 160.                                                                
9:47:23 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. WASSERMAN confirmed that is a concern.                                                                                      
9:47:35 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  told  Ms. Wasserman  that  Mr.  Wiget,                                                               
during his testimony, had said  the removal of the phrase, "other                                                           
than a state  ballot proposition or question" from  page 2, lines                                                           
16-17, would be  helpful for the school districts.   He asked Ms.                                                               
Wasserman  if  she  would  support  an  amendment  deleting  that                                                               
9:48:11 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. WASSERMAN answered in the affirmative.                                                                                      
9:49:13 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEATON  directed attention  to  Section  2 [text  provided                                                               
previously], and  interpreted Ms. Wasserman's concern  related to                                                               
that section as follows:                                                                                                        
     You're  saying that  it could  be interpreted  that the                                                                    
     time, effort,  and energy to  pass a resolution  - that                                                                    
     is expenditure of  funds, and if that is  related to an                                                                    
     election question or question that  is going to be on a                                                                    
     ballot,  then  that  might be  prohibited,  because  it                                                                    
     would be  expending money, even  to pass  a resolution,                                                                    
     unless you  first pass  an ordinance  granting specific                                                                    
     authority  to spend  money that  would be  necessary to                                                                    
     generate  the resolution,  because  this specifies  "by                                                                    
9:51:15 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. WASSERMAN confirmed  that she is concerned  about that issue.                                                               
She explained  that some  boroughs include  remote areas,  and if                                                               
travel  by an  official  was  necessary to  inform  people of  an                                                               
upcoming vote, that would be prohibited.                                                                                        
9:51:25 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. MULLIGAN  mentioned "legislation in administrative  code" and                                                               
read as follows:                                                                                                                
     In the absence of  a specific appropriation, an officer                                                                    
     or  an  employee of  an  entity  who is  identified  in                                                                    
     statute  may   use  money  held   by  that   entity  to                                                                    
     communicate about  a ballot proposition or  question if                                                                    
     the communication  is made in  the usual  and customary                                                                    
     performance of the officer or employee's duties.                                                                           
MR. MULLIGAN interpreted  that language to mean  that [an officer                                                               
or  employee] can  research and  report to  the council,  because                                                               
doing so is his job.                                                                                                            
CHAIR SEATON requested language be drafted regarding this issue.                                                                
He asked Mr. Mulligan to coordinate with Ms. Miles.                                                                             
9:53:31 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON announced that HB 160 was heard and held.                                                                          

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