Legislature(2017 - 2018)GRUENBERG 120

04/04/2017 03:00 PM House STATE AFFAIRS

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            HJR  3-CONST. AM: 90 DAY REGULAR SESSION                                                                        
4:49:56 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS  announced that the final  order of business                                                               
would be  HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION  NO. 3, Proposing  amendments to                                                               
the Constitution of the State  of Alaska relating to the duration                                                               
of regular sessions of the legislature.                                                                                         
4:50:11 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE MATT  CLAMAN, Alaska  State Legislature,  as prime                                                               
sponsor of  HJR 3, stated that  it has been over  ten years since                                                               
Alaska   voters  passed   a  ballot   initiative  to   limit  the                                                               
legislative session  to 90  days.  He  maintained that  since the                                                               
implementation  of the  initiative in  2008, the  legislature has                                                               
exceeded  the 90-day  limit  five  times.   He  asserted that  as                                                               
elected officials,  it is  the duty of  legislators to  listen to                                                               
the  people of  Alaska.   The  current pattern  of extending  the                                                               
session to 120 days shows  voters that the legislature is neither                                                               
performing its job  nor performing its job in the  length of time                                                               
expected by the public.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN  relayed that HJR  3 would allow  voters to                                                               
decide once and  for all on the length of  the regular session of                                                               
the legislature  by voting  on an amendment  to the  Alaska State                                                               
Constitution.  He offered that if  the amendment is passed by the                                                               
voters, the length  of the regular session would  be changed from                                                               
120 days to 90 days in the  state constitution.  He noted that if                                                               
the amendment failed, he would  support legislation to change the                                                               
Alaska Statutes  to reflect 120  days, which would  be consistent                                                               
with the public's intent.                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE   CLAMAN  emphasized   that  the   public  elected                                                               
legislators to  make tough choices  and to make these  choices on                                                               
time and  under budget.   He asserted that the  legislature needs                                                               
to maintain public confidence in the elective system.                                                                           
4:51:29 PM                                                                                                                    
SARA  PERMAN, Staff,  Representative  Matt  Claman, Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature, on  behalf of  Representative Claman,  prime sponsor                                                               
of HJR 3,  stated that HJR 3 would put  a proposed constitutional                                                               
amendment on the  ballot to change the length  of the legislative                                                               
session from  120 days to  90 days.   She reiterated  that Alaska                                                               
voted in  November 2006  to shorten the  duration of  the regular                                                               
legislative  session  to  90  days;  since  the  initiative  took                                                               
effect,  the  legislature  has exceeded  the  90-day  limit  five                                                               
times, costing Alaskans more than $900,000.                                                                                     
MS.   PERMAN   explained   that  currently   the   Alaska   State                                                               
Constitution and  the Alaska Statutes are  inconsistent regarding                                                               
legislative session  duration.  She cited  AS 24.05.150(b), which                                                               
read:   "The  Legislature shall  adjourn from  a regular  session                                                               
within  90  consecutive  calendar  days, including  the  day  the                                                               
legislature  first  convenes  in  that  regular  session."    She                                                               
referred  to  Article   II,  Section  8,  of   the  Alaska  State                                                               
Constitution, which  read:  "The  legislature shall  adjourn from                                                               
regular  session no  later than  one  hundred twenty  consecutive                                                               
calendar days from the date it convenes".                                                                                       
MS.  PERMAN   asserted  that  HJR   3  would  update   the  state                                                               
constitution  by changing  120 days  to  90 days,  if the  public                                                               
votes in  favor of the  constitutional amendment.  She  said that                                                               
Section 1  of HJR 3 would  amend Article II, Section  8, to state                                                               
"not later  than ninety days".   Section 2  of HJR 3  would amend                                                               
[Article XV] to  state that the amendment to  Article II, Section                                                               
8, would  apply during the  first regular session of  the Thirty-                                                               
First  Alaska  State  Legislature, [2019-2020],  and  thereafter.                                                               
She  said that  Section  3  of HJR  3  states  that the  proposed                                                               
amendments  would be  placed on  the ballot  in the  next general                                                               
MS. PERMAN  relayed that  in 1984  the Alaska  State Constitution                                                               
was amended  from an undefined  session length to 120  days after                                                               
legislators were  racking up costs (indisc.)  oil tax structures.                                                               
She said  that in 1981, session  lasted 165 days.   She explained                                                               
that the framers of the  state constitution did not initially set                                                               
a limit  for the length  of session,  but she added  that clearly                                                               
without  session  duration  limits,   the  legislature  does  not                                                               
resolve business in a timely and cost-effective manner.                                                                         
MS. PERMAN related  that last year's extended  session lasted 121                                                               
days  and cost  the state  $698,772, which  does not  include the                                                               
later  special sessions.   She  maintained  that the  legislature                                                               
should  eliminate the  inconsistencies between  the Alaska  State                                                               
Constitution and the Alaska Statutes  and demonstrate to Alaskans                                                               
that legislators  are "here to do  the job they elected  us to do                                                               
in the time they have designated."                                                                                              
MS. PERMAN  noted that  the proposed  amendment would  not remove                                                               
the legislature's ability to extend  session one time by ten days                                                               
by  a two-thirds  majority vote;  that allowance  will remain  in                                                               
Article  II, Section  8, of  the  state constitution.   She  also                                                               
mentioned that  the Office of  the Governor has assigned  a zero-                                                               
fiscal note.                                                                                                                    
4:54:08 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KNOPP stated that he  agrees in concept and has no                                                               
doubt that if put on the  ballot, Alaskans will vote for a 90-day                                                               
session limit.  He said that  his concern is that the legislature                                                               
has only been  successful in limiting the session to  the 90 days                                                               
two times.   He opined  that he is  not sure the  legislature can                                                               
get its  work done in 90  days.  He offered  that the legislature                                                               
may have to  consider how it conducts business,  and he suggested                                                               
that there would be unending special sessions.                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN  answered that  when the initiative  for 90                                                               
days passed, the  legislature should have changed the  way it did                                                               
business.   He  noted the  length  of time  legislators spent  in                                                               
budget sub-committees.  He said,  "I'm not pointing the finger at                                                               
anyone, it's  part of the process."   He offered the  scenario of                                                               
legislators  recognizing  that   budget  sub-committees  must  be                                                               
concluded within 30  days.  He said, "We would  be in much better                                                               
shape  in terms  of debating  budget  issues if  we ...  realized                                                               
there was  a meaningful deadline  that we  needed to meet  to get                                                               
finished  in 90  days."   He  asserted that  he  agrees that  the                                                               
legislature  needs to  change the  structure of  how business  is                                                               
done.   He relayed that  when he is in  his home district,  he is                                                               
asked, "What's taking so long?"   When the answer is, "We're just                                                               
not very  good at getting our  work done," the response  is, "You                                                               
just need  to get  better."  He  reiterated that  legislators are                                                               
not  hired to  delay but  to  figure out  ways to  do their  work                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE KNOPP asked if there  is any suggestion for how to                                                               
limit  the [number  of] special  sessions through  constitutional                                                               
amendment; a special  session may be necessary once  or twice but                                                               
should not be called endlessly "to get your way."                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN responded that he  would not have a problem                                                               
with trying to limit the  authority allowing for repeated special                                                               
sessions.  He  maintained that a special session is  called for a                                                               
specific  purpose  or limited  items.    For example,  a  special                                                               
session was  called in October 2015  for oil and gas  tax related                                                               
issues;  it  was  for  a  specific  purpose;  and  the  work  was                                                               
completed in seven to ten days.   He mentioned that last summer's                                                               
special session had a limited number  of items on the agenda.  He                                                               
asserted  that  since  the  constitution   allows  120  days  for                                                               
session,  "everything is  still  on the  table"  past the  90-day                                                               
point; therefore, legislators may continue  to pretend that it is                                                               
"business as  usual" for the  next 30 days.   He stated  that the                                                               
proposed joint resolution addresses  the extension of the regular                                                               
session  beyond  90  days.    He  offered  that  he  is  open  to                                                               
consideration of  the question of  calling special  sessions, but                                                               
he said  he does  not believe the  two issues to  be linked.   He                                                               
asserted  that the  governor's authority  in the  constitution to                                                               
call special  sessions is  separate from the  section that  HJR 3                                                               
proposes to amend.                                                                                                              
4:58:50 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE WOOL stated that  when the legislative session was                                                               
unlimited  [in length],  legislators had  no staff;  a legislator                                                               
did all  his/her own  work.   He mentioned that  in films  of old                                                               
floor sessions, there  was one person next to the  Speaker of the                                                               
House; now  there is a "small  army up there."   He attested that                                                               
some legislators have  as many as seven staffers.   He maintained                                                               
that rather  than legislators not  getting their work  done, they                                                               
are taking  on much  more work; because  they are  introducing so                                                               
many  bills,  they  run  out  of  time.    He  asserted  that  in                                                               
conjunction with  the 90-day  limit, there should  be a  limit on                                                               
the  number of  bills  that  are introduced  and  processed.   He                                                               
maintained that the work of the  legislature is not a 90-day job.                                                               
He  said that  even if  the  legislative session  ended after  90                                                               
days, it  has "such  machinery in place  that ...  promulgates so                                                               
much more work than can be started and stopped in 90 days."                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  WOOL maintained  that he  is not  against a  very                                                               
part-time legislature that meets for  90 days, but he stated that                                                               
he believes that  the legislature would need to  "take apart some                                                               
of the machinery"  that is in place for  inherently creating more                                                               
work than  can be  done in  90 days.   He  said that  he applauds                                                               
Representative Claman's  effort; he  does not  feel 120,  150, or                                                               
180 days  should be the norm;  but the legislature needs  to take                                                               
on less work.   He conceded that currently there  is a great deal                                                               
going on  in the state regarding  the budget and revenue  that is                                                               
unprecedented.   He  asked if  Representative  Claman foresees  a                                                               
time when  the legislature has a  smaller mountain of work  to do                                                               
and can do it in 90 days, and  there are not hundreds of bills to                                                               
be processed.                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  CLAMAN  answered  that  if the  public  knew  the                                                               
details of  all the  bills that  individual legislators  chose to                                                               
introduce, it would  be disappointed.  He  maintained that Alaska                                                               
has  functioned  "pretty  well"  over  the last  58  years.    He                                                               
asserted that there  are still problems to be fixed,  but many of                                                               
the  bills that  are introduced  have no  chance of  passing both                                                               
bodies  of the  legislature.   It  is  generally recognized  that                                                               
those bills  are "not going  to go anywhere."   He said  that the                                                               
question is:   "Why are people continuing to  bring forward bills                                                               
that  they don't  see any  chance of  them going  anywhere?"   He                                                               
maintained  that the  public is  asking  that question;  it is  a                                                               
question regarding  legislators exercising proper restraint.   He                                                               
relayed  that in  other states  - many  with shorter  legislative                                                               
sessions than Alaska - one of  the appeals of the shorter session                                                               
is that it is harder to file more  bills.  He asserted that he is                                                               
100   percent   certain,   for   the   reasons   articulated   by                                                               
Representative  Wool, if  the legislature  reverted to  a 120-day                                                               
session, there would  not be a reduction in the  bills filed, but                                                               
an  increase,  and  the  legislature would  be  in  session  even                                                               
[HJR 3 was held over.]                                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB158 Fiscal Note ADM 4.2.17.pdf HSTA 4/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 158
HB158 Sponsor Statement 3.20.17.pdf HSTA 4/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 158
HB158 Supporting Document-Support Letters 3.20.17.pdf HSTA 4/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 158
HB0158.PDF HSTA 4/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 158
CSHB 190 Explanation of Changes.pdf HSTA 4/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 190
HB 190 Supporting docs.PDF HSTA 4/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 190
CS HB 190 Version J.pdf HSTA 4/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 190
HB163 Draft Proposed CS ver D 3.31.17.pdf HSTA 4/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 163
HB 165 Sponsor Statement 3.27.2017.pdf HSTA 4/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 165
HB 165 Fiscal Note DOA-DOP 3.27.2017.pdf HSTA 4/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 165
HB 165 ver A 3.27.2017.pdf HSTA 4/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 165
HB 165 Additional Document - Legislative Research Report 3.27.2017.pdf HSTA 4/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 165
HB 165 Additional Document - NCSL Chart_Veteran Preference in State Hiring 3.27.2017.pdf HSTA 4/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 165
HJR03 Supporting Document - DOE Ballot Initiatives 02.02.17.pdf HSTA 4/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HJR03 Supporting Document - Alaska State Constitution Language 02.02.17.pdf HSTA 4/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HJR03 Sponsor Statement 02.02.17.pdf HSTA 4/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HJR 3 Fiscal Note Gov 4.2.17.pdf HSTA 4/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HJR03 ver A 02.02.17.PDF HSTA 4/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HJR03 Supporting Document - NCSL Length of Sessions by State 02.02.17.pdf HSTA 4/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HJR03 Supporting Document - Leg Research Report 90 Day Limit 02.02.17.pdf HSTA 4/4/2017 3:00:00 PM