Legislature(1999 - 2000)
03/17/1999 01:45 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR announced SB 99 would be the next order of business. SB 99-REDISTRICTING BOARD/CENSUS FIGURES MR. TOM MOFFATT, staff to Senator Tim Kelly, presented SB 99. MR. MOFFATT stated SB 99 will mandate the use of "actual count" census figures for reapportionment rather than numbers derived from statistical models in an effort to stop discrimination against members of the military. MR. MOFFATT testified that prior reapportionment boards have either assigned a percentage figure to military members or ignored them completely. SB 99 will abolish this type of "occupational discrimination" and establish a statutory bar that will assure members of the service are "no longer treated as second-class citizens." MR. MOFFATT explained SB 99 will clarify that only numbers derived from an actual headcount will be used for redistricting. Figures resulting from sampling or estimates will be prohibited by statute. This will facilitate the work of the Reapportionment Board and avoid litigation, according to MR. MOFFATT. MR. MOFFATT informed the committee the sponsor had received a "rather amusing" fiscal note from the Department of Law. He said, "The fiscal note should be, we would hope would be, disregarded." Number 463 SENATOR ELLIS said he appreciated MR. MOFFATT clarifying his remark "to make it clear that Al Vezey and Tuckerman Babcock didn't really undercount the military folks in the State of Alaska - some people got the impression they counted them several times." SENATOR ELLIS asked if the issue isn't residency, rather than job class. MR. MOFFATT replied, "We would contend that every human being in Alaska, whether this is a homeless person on 4th Ave . . . whatever their race or color, whatever their status, they deserve equal representation; they deserve to be actually counted; . . . not to be counted twice or thrice, not to be discounted, but if they are counted, they should be counted as a human being regardless of their status and represented equally with every other person." MR. MOFFATT insisted that the traditional U.S. census has counted all people including the homeless and transients. SENATOR ELLIS asked if MR. MOFFATT sees a state interest in knowing who is an actual resident of Alaska. MR. MOFFATT said once you start down that "slippery slope" it is difficult to stop. He prefers to treat all people equally, especially for the purposes of representation. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR noted the bill's sponsor, Senator Tim Kelly, had arrived and asked if he cared to make any comments on the bill. SENATOR KELLY remarked, "I have no trust in Bill Clinton or his administration and I don't want to be counting any Clinton ghosts . . ." Number 505 MR. JIM BALDWIN, representing the Attorney General's Office, raised two issues in regard to SB 99. First, MR. BALDWIN proposed that "unless we get another million and a half people here", Alaska has no stake in the apportionment of the U.S. Congress. In 2000, the census bureau may come out with two numbers: one based on enumeration and another based on statistical sampling. Statistical sampling numbers are intended to remedy an undercount, such as the huge undercount of the "worst census ever in the history of this country" in 1990. MR. BALDWIN suggested children, renters and the homeless are undercounted due to the enumeration technique. MR. BALDWIN concluded that the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court on this question is still unclear and the issue may be decided on a national level before the 2000 census. MR. BALDWIN explained the fiscal note is due to a survey the Department of Law will have to conduct if they wish this bill to receive pre-clearance from the U.S. Justice Department, under the Voting Rights Act. The survey will serve to show the Justice Department that the legislation does not discriminate against minority voters. MR. BALDWIN said the only other option is to seek pre-clearance from a three-judge panel in the District of Colombia. MR. BALDWIN said military reductions have changed Alaska since 1990, and it is likely retrogression has occurred. Under the Voting Rights Act, the State has to justify that no discriminatory effect was the cause of this retrogression. MR. BALDWIN stated, "These kinds of bills just don't come cheaply . . . when you change these kind of laws that affect voting . . . we need to have the financing and the tools to be able to deal with that." MR. BALDWIN said the fiscal note reflects the cost of the legislation, not any desire to obstruct the legislation. Number 580 CHAIRMAN TAYLOR asked if some cases brought under the Voting Rights Act had been removed by judicial decision. MR. BALDWIN said there have been cases in which the Justice Department has been criticized, but, he said the Justice Department appears to be uncowed. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR asked if the 2000 census will still be required to consider cohesive tribal and linguistic groupings to be sure they have an advantage over other people in the same district. MR. BALDWIN said he might phrase it differently, but the interests of minority voters would have to be considered in the reapportionment plan. TAPE 99-19, Side B Number 593 SENATOR KELLY commented SB 99 mandates the enumeration count be used for apportionment, it does not mandate its use for other purposes. Number 586 SENATOR TORGERSON moved SB 99 from committee with individual recommendations. SENATOR ELLIS objected. Roll was called: voting yea were SENATOR DONLEY, SENATOR TORGERSON and CHAIRMAN TAYLOR. SENATOR ELLIS voted nay. So SB 99 moved from committee with individual recommendations.