Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/08/1993 02:30 PM Senate JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATOR TAYLOR returned SJR 3 (LIMITING TERMS OF LEGISLATORS) and SJR 4 (90 DAY SESSION LIMIT) and asked the prime sponsor, SENATOR LOREN LEMAN, to begin by reviewing SJR 3. SENATOR LEMAN explained SJR 3 proposes a constitutional amendment to limit the length of legislative service to eight consecutive years, but allows a return to office after a minimum two-year break in service. He gave some historical perspective on the legislation as introduced in previous years. SENATOR LEMAN suggested reading the Sponsor Statement for his reasons in sponsoring the legislation, and he maintained the intent was supported by 75% of the public. He thought the voters should have the chance to vote on the bill, and thought this would make a better public perception of the Legislature. SENATOR LEMAN noted other versions of his legislation, but thought they were extreme in their approaches to limitations. SENATOR LEMAN also thought his bill represented a reasonable compromise among various pieces of legislation. Number 520 SENATOR TAYLOR asked what happened to the Legislator who served three terms in the House, and then is elected to a four year term in the Senate. SENATOR LEMAN reviewed previous testimony in committees that led to a revision to allow a legislator in mid-term to complete that term, and he said he wouldn't object to the reinstatement of the provision. He said the alternative would be a prohibition against running for a four year seat after 6 years, but he would support 10 years in office. SENATOR TAYLOR asked SENATOR LEMAN'S opinion on increasing the terms of representatives to 4 year terms, and SENATOR LEMAN thought it would make sense to include it in the package. He warned against making the bill a Christmas Tree for things that might bog down the legislation. SENATOR LITTLE saw the problem as a concern that incumbent legislators had a great deal of power in gaining funds for re-election, and she asked SENATOR LEMAN if he believed that some campaign finance reform would really address the problem. She thought financial reform might be preferable to limiting the term of an individual, whom the constituents deemed a terrific representative. SENATOR LEMAN agreed that people who support term limits also support their own legislators, but he thought his legislation would have a more profound effect on making legitimate changes than campaign finance reform. SENATOR DONLEY reviewed the debate from last year on the concept of term limits, and said he supported provisions that dealt with the U.S. Congress. He asked SENATOR LEMAN if he had a position on such a provision. SENATOR LEMAN said it wasn't included because he didn't want to doom his bill to a certain death and guarantee a campaign against his legislation. He thought SJR 3 had a good chance of passing without the provision, but might enhance the chance of passing a complete package. Number 577 SENATOR DONLEY shared some ideas he had on the subject of limiting congressional terms, but wouldn't be applicable retroactively, which would allow present members another 12 years. SENATOR LEMAN thought this could be achieved with an effective date ... TAPE 93-23, SIDE B Number 001 ... but he thought Alaska would be more at a disadvantage than other states - unless other states followed suit. SENATOR JACKO didn't think the legislation applied very well to Alaska and thought most of the support was from urban Alaska. He expressed his concerns about the legislation, since he though the long-term legislators from the rural areas in the 1980's helped balance the playing field, since most of the resources were in the rural areas and most of the voters were in the urban areas. He emphasized the legislation was perceived by the people in rural Alaska as an attack on them and said the legislation was a bad idea. SENATOR LEMAN didn't see SJR 3 as being a disadvantage to rural Alaska over urban, and he explained what he saw as a fair balance of legislators between urban and rural areas. SENATOR TAYLOR asked SENATOR DONLEY if he would be opposed to expanding the bill to be made applicable to all other elected and appointed bodies in the state, such as school boards and city and borough assemblies. SENATOR LEMAN said the Anchorage School Board and Assembly had limited terms of 9 years in a vote taken in the 1980's, and he thought the same principal should apply for all. SENATOR DONLEY said he supported term limits, but he said it should be done along with other limitations to balance the power between the legislative and executive branch, which he considers to be the most powerful executive branch in any state constitution. He outlined the limitations of the 180 day limit, which limits the power of the legislature without a corresponding limitation on the executive branch. SENATOR DONLEY contended the legislature kept curbing their own power without addressing the big picture to protect the relative power of the legislature - especially in the growth of the budget. He said the legislature needed to recognize the impact of reducing the effectiveness of the legislature, and there should be separate provisions brought before the voters to balance out the decrease in the legislature's power. Number 062 SENATOR JACKO concurred with the remarks from SENATOR DONLEY, and thought there should be corresponding curbs in the executive branch. SENATOR HALFORD said he would like to apply the remarks to the third branch - to the election of judges. He thought there should be more of a turn-over in judges, but the judges would probably rule it an unconstitutional amendment. SENATOR TAYLOR suggested the judicial retirement at 15 years would take care of the third branch. He thought appropriate levels of pay and retirement should be addressed in terms of the legislature. He also thought if legislators were going to continue to be full-time, they should be paid for it. SENATOR LEMAN said he concurred with many of the comments, but he said he was enough of a realist to know the chances for the resolution to pass the Senate and House in the current form would be difficult without some compromises. He thought his bill was a key element in making the rest of it happen. SENATOR TAYLOR suggested SENATOR LEMAN review the provisions in SJR 4 (90 DAY SESSION LIMIT). SENATOR LEMAN explained SJR 4 was another plank in his bid for legislative reform, and if the session is shortened, it would enhance the opportunities for more citizens rather than professional legislators to serve in government. He thought the legislators could get their work done within 90 days and return to their own jobs. He invited the committee members to read the Sponsor Statement for his bill. Number 117 SENATOR DONLEY said he never publicly supported this intent because it is such a complex issue, but he might be able to support the bill, if there was some repair work to the constitution. The first problem he observed was the inability of the legislature to address gubernatorial vetoes after the second year of a session, where there should be a system designed to balance the powers between the different branches. He described the problem and called it a pocket veto by a monarch after the second session. Anything vetoed after the legislators go home is dead, and short of a special session, he said there was no way to address the veto. In problem #2, SENATOR DONLEY linked it with the first problem by asking how the legislature could call a special session the second year, since the current provisions don't work. He said too much power resides with the presiding officers, where, if one disagrees, it won't happen. It wouldn't matter if all of the members wanted a special session, one presiding officer could prevent the special session. SENATOR DONLEY said a Judiciary bill was introduced last year on this subject that would allow for a call to be made through a certification to the clerk, where a certain number of members could ask for a special session and, it would occur. He thought this might be a way to address the loss of the veto over-ride authority through the 90 day limit. SENATOR LITTLE explained when she came to Juneau she thought in terms of limiting the session, but she could see now that so much is involved in being here, to hear the public input, public hearings, and participating in healthy debate on bills before the legislature. SENATOR JACKO concurred with the remarks on the length of the session and most of the remarks from SENATOR LITTLE on the committee process. He outlined the problems in the rural communities where communication with their legislators is difficult, and the constituents wonder why he isn't in Juneau taking care of their interests during the summer. Number 161 SENATOR HALFORD introduced another topic to compare the length of legislative sessions in all of the states, where they aren't all bound by the same terminology as Alaska, which has consecutive calendar days. This precludes being able to gather information from the constituents, and he described the slow beginning of session. SENATOR HALFORD suggested within the 90 day limit, it should begin with a 45 day session, have a 30 day break to deal with the constituents back home, and return to Juneau for another 45 days. He thought the legislators would receive a lot of intensive lobbying in their own home district by constituents after the issues were on the table. There ensued a general discussion on limiting the session, special sessions, options, weekend sessions, travel, and the lack of flexibility. SENATOR DONLEY discussed the extent to which he would support the bills and the modifications he thought were needed to balance out the impact. He suggested two modifications, the first being to change the session to more correspond to the revenue projections, and second, to introduce a mandatory special session to review the gubernatorial vetoes, or make it easier to call a special session. SENATOR TAYLOR opined there would be significant amendments to be offered by the committee members at the next hearing on the bills. He said he would hold them in committee to be heard in about 10 days - to give members time to complete their amendments.