Legislature(1999 - 2000)
03/22/1999 10:34 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE BILL NO. 99 "An Act to clarify the meaning of 'decennial census of the United States' in Article VI, Constitution of the State of Alaska, and to prevent discrimination in the redistricting of the house of representatives and the senate." SENATOR TIM KELLY, sponsor of the bill testified before the committee. He said that the bill simply sought to avoid any partisan tampering with the Year 2000 census figures by retaining two principles used in the 1990 Legislative Reapportionment. First, an actual headcount as conducted by the United States Census Bureau of each Alaskan would be used. Second, the military would continue to be counted as full Alaskans. He reminded the committee that these two principles along with forty House districts and twenty Senate districts, had already passed the United States Justice Department approval as required by the Voting Rights Act. This bill was simply status quo. Senator Al Adams argued that this bill as it related to the count of military personnel went beyond the current provisions by allowing the count of nonresident personnel. This would affect rural representation. Senator Tim Kelly cited a report done by the 1990 Reapportionment Board that indicated only about 1.1 percent of the state's population could be considered nonresident military Alaskans. The Board felt it would be insignificant to try to statistically determine that. He also reminded the committee that this bill was broader than just military representation. It would prohibit discrimination by occupation, which included fish processing, timber camps, mining camps, oil workers and others. It simply said that the census would not discriminate based on occupation. The US Census Bureau would count people who are present in Alaska during the census and that would be the figure used. He speculated there would be several figures circulating. This was a big issue on the national level he stressed. The US Supreme Court already ruled that Congress would be reapportioned according to the actual head count in the year 2000. The census borough wanted to do a statistical analysis sampling and indicated to states that they could use this type of guesswork for reapportionment of state legislatures. So while Congress would be required to use the actual head count, the US Census Bureau planned to use a less precise or traditional method, in Senator Tim Kelly's judgement, to apply to state districting. He felt this was less accurate. Senator Al Adams looked at the bill title and wondered about the addition of lines 4 and 5 ".and to prohibit expenditures of public funds for population surveys or sampling for certain purposes relating to legislative redistricting without an appropriation." He asked why it should be put into the constitution. Senator Tim Kelly responded that Assistant Attorney General who would be acting as the lead legal council for the census group in Alaska indicated that the group wanted to spend $100,000 for some type of statistical sampling of the military. Senator Tim Kelly said he had heard through an organizational meeting of the census group that they planned to "handle the military in a special effort." He worried about government agencies making "special efforts." The point was that it was not necessary to use statistical samples, and a head count should be used instead, according to the sponsor. He wished to avoid potential partisan tinkering. Senator Al Adams asked if the nonresident military would be counted in two places, in Alaska and again in their hometown. TIM MOFFETT, staff to Senator Tim Kelly, responded that would not happen and, under this legislation, there would be no chance of that. The Census Bureau would send out a mailing to every postal address and attempt to contact each address where no response was received. This bill would try to prevent discrimination based on race, color, creed, national origin or occupation. That included the military. There would also be no discrimination against the homeless. Senator Tim Kelly added that the census borough went to great effort to accurately count those in rural Alaska. He noted that most of the sampling mistakes made were at the expense of rural areas. Senator Al Adams commented that the Legislature must be ready for a constitutional amendment relating to subsistence since it was working on this constitutional amendment. Senator Tim Kelly responded that this bill just affected statute. Co-Chair John Torgerson announced that the Senate Floor Session had been delayed until 11:30 to allow the committee to finish its business. Senator Randy Phillips moved for adoption of CS SB 99 Version "K". Senator Al Adams asked if the only change was to the title and the population. Co-Chair John Torgerson affirmed the title change and the change to page 3 lines 10-13. Senator Tim Kelly added that the new reapportionment board would not be appointed until January of the next year and if any changes needed to be made regarding statistical sampling, the Legislature could address the matter next session. JIM BALDWIN, Assistant Attorney General, Department of Law, testified. He assumed that the new CS was in response to issues raised at the bill's last committee of referral regarding the fiscal notes. He speculated that this bill addressed what may be a non- problem in Alaska. The litigation on the national level was directed toward using actual enumeration techniques for deciding the apportionment of Congress. Because of the size of the population in Alaska, the state would not be affected. The population of the state was still too small to qualify for another congressional district. However, some had argued that under the US Supreme Court decision, there was a possibility that there would by an ability to use these numbers for state redistricting purposes. He believed that what was more likely to happen further litigation on the national level by Congress or private groups was more likely to happen. Therefore, he felt this legislation was premature. The problems would be cleared up through litigation over the next year. He also stressed that not everyone understood what the sampling meant. He explained that it was similar to statistical analysis done to determine the opinions of constituents, but much more scientific and complicated. The idea was to remedy an undercount. It had been noted that there were consistently undercounts of certain groups of people. It was uncertain how that would affect the count in Alaska. He thought that was another reason this legislation was premature. He advised the approach should be cautious as it could be used for the state's benefit. The other issue was whether or not a military survey could be done when it came time to do redistricting in the state. He thought the issue would have been resolved with the adoption and voter ratification of HJR 44. However, the current bill was evidence of some uncertainty about how to interpret the constitutional amendment. He looked at the legislative hearings held on HJR 44 and found it was difficult to ascertain the sponsor's intent on that point. Perhaps this bill was an attempt to clear that up. He explained what the military survey was all about. It was an attempt to adjust out of the numbers, non-voting, non-resident military personnel from the totals used to establish ideal district size. The reason the Department of Law submitted the fiscal note was due to concern that when the redistricting plan was submitted to the US Justice Department, there would be a need to prove the affect of not the military survey. It would need to be shown that there was no discriminatory affect of not doing the survey. Therefore, the department's fiscal note requested adequate resources to build a case concerning the exclusion of the military survey. He anticipated that the US Justice Department would require a military survey to prove that there was no discrimination in the way the districts were drawn. Demographics would make the next plan difficult for the rural areas of the state because of the possibility of "retrogression" in minority representation. It was possible there would be fewer majority/minority districts in Alaska because of the population shifts. The reason no military survey was done in 1990 was because there was a balancing- out between rural and urban districts regarding military personnel. There was a net zero and no benefit or detriment to doing a military survey. However, time had changed with base downsizing and closures and that balance may have shifted to the extent that urban districts could be over- weighted with non-voting military personnel. The state may have to prove to the US Justice Department that did not occur. Therefore, the department was requesting funds to argue the military survey exclusion. There was another issue of timing, according to Jim Baldwin. If a military survey was done, in order for it to have validity, it needed to be done before next January and the beginning of the actual census count. He noted that the state might not even be able to do a military survey if the military commanders did not allow access to the base. Senator Al Adams' main concern was the effect on rural representation. He asked if this was the normal procedure other states used to deal with census counting. Jim Baldwin replied that most other states did not adjust for military population. Hawaii and a couple other states did. However, for most other states it was not a major factor since the military population did not make up a significant percentage of the overall population. Co-Chair John Torgerson offered Senator Tim Kelly an opportunity to rebut. Senator Tim Kelly countered that with the exception of Hawaii, all other states did count military personnel. He addressed the issue of minority counts and knew of no group more cognitive of minority rights than the military. He supposed one particular minority might be able to make a case, but the argument would be weaker when applied to all minorities. He was not concerned how the numbers came out, noting that none would be particularly accurate. Therefore to attempt to avoid litigation, he just wanted the census for the State Of Alaska to be done by head count. Without objection, CS SB 99 Version "K" was adopted. Co-Chair John Torgerson asked if there was objection to adopting a Senate Finance Committee zero fiscal note. He explained that this would be applicable since the CS eliminated the ability to spend money on the surveys. Senator Al Adams objected asking how would the state perform the survey as needed to make the legislation work. Who would perform that function? Co-Chair John Torgerson said that the expenditure of public funds for the population surveys was prohibited in the bill without a separate appropriation from the Legislature. Senator Sean Parnell said the numbers would be obtained from the US Census Bureau. Senator Al Adams removed his objection. Without objection the zero fiscal note was adopted. Senator Sean Parnell offered a motion for CS SB 99 (FIN) to move from committee with the zero fiscal note. There was no objection and it was so ordered.