Legislature(2021 - 2022)BUTROVICH 205

02/11/2022 01:30 PM Senate JUDICIARY

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
Heard & Held
-- Invited & Public Testimony --
Heard & Held
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled:
Moved CSSB 119(JUD) Out of Committee
<Bill Hearing Postponed from Feb 9>
Moved CSSB 129(JUD) Out of Committee
                 SB 23-INITIATIVE SEVERABILITY                                                                              
1:34:16 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HOLLAND announced  the consideration of SENATE  BILL NO. 23                                                               
"An Act relating to proposing and enacting laws by initiative."                                                                 
[SB 23 was previously heard on 4/19/2021 and 2/9/2022.]                                                                         
1:34:36 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HOLLAND opened public testimony on SB 23.                                                                                 
1:35:13 PM                                                                                                                    
KATI CAPPOZI,  President; Chief  Executive Officer  (CEO), Alaska                                                               
Chamber,  Anchorage,  Alaska,  stated  that  the  Alaska  Chamber                                                               
supports  passage of  SB 23.  The Alaska  Chamber was  founded in                                                               
1953. Its  mission is to  promote a healthy  business environment                                                               
in  Alaska.  The  Alaska  Chamber   represents  700  members  and                                                               
businesses of all  sizes and sectors from across  the state. Each                                                               
year the Alaska Chamber membership  votes on its advocacy agenda.                                                               
Ballot  measure  reform  was  recently   added  as  an  issue  of                                                               
statewide importance for the business community in Alaska.                                                                      
MS.  CAPPOZI stated  that their  position of  support for  ballot                                                               
measure reform  says, in  part, that  "changes in  the initiative                                                               
process  should  produce  more  transparency  and  better  public                                                               
policy in a comprehensive and  balanced manner equally benefiting                                                               
both voters and the legislative process."                                                                                       
1:36:08 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  CAPPOZI  related that  the  Alaska  Chamber focused  on  two                                                               
points. First,  the Alaska Chamber wanted  to ensure transparency                                                               
that  will benefit  Alaskans and  ballot measure  proponents, and                                                               
second,  to uphold  the  constitutional rights  and  duty of  the                                                               
legislature. Once  Alaskans sign  their names to  specific ballot                                                               
measure language,  their support should  apply only to  the exact                                                               
wording in the ballot initiative.  If any court or courts decides                                                               
to  alter or  remove  language  for the  initiative,  no one  can                                                               
assume that  support remains for the  revised language. Likewise,                                                               
if  the court  or courts  sever language  from a  proposed ballot                                                               
measure, no  one can  assume that  the ballot  measure proponents                                                               
themselves will support the new language.                                                                                       
1:36:48 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  CAPPOZI stated  that Alaska's  current system  threatens all                                                               
ballot measure  proponents, regardless of the  cause or political                                                               
affiliation. It restricts  groups from an opportunity  to go back                                                               
to the drawing  board if a court or courts  alter the language of                                                               
the measure they submitted initially.  Second, the Alaska Chamber                                                               
wants  to  ensure  that the  constitutional  obligations  of  the                                                               
legislature are upheld. Allowing courts  to sever the language of                                                               
a proposed law and placing that  proposed law on the ballot would                                                               
grant  the judicial  branch  the  power to  write  law, which  is                                                               
expressly limited to the legislative  branch or the people by way                                                               
of the  ballot measure  process. This  strips the  legislature of                                                               
its constitutional  obligation to  review initiatives and,  if it                                                               
chooses,  to  enact  a  law   that  is  considered  substantially                                                               
similar.  The Alaska  Chamber supports  the passage  of SB  23 to                                                               
benefit the  people of  Alaska and  ballot measure  proponents by                                                               
increasing transparency and  providing for a clear  set of rules.                                                               
Further, it  provides the  express ability to  write laws  to the                                                               
legislature and Alaska's voters.                                                                                                
1:38:03 PM                                                                                                                    
REBECCA  LOGAN, Chief  Executive  Officer  (CEO), Alaska  Support                                                               
Industry Alliance, Anchorage, Alaska, spoke  in support of SB 23.                                                               
She stated  that the Alaska Support  Industry Alliance (Alliance)                                                               
is a  43-year-old trade association representing  500 members and                                                               
support  companies for  oil, gas,  and mining.  The Alliance  has                                                               
supported  this legislation  since the  late Senator  Birch first                                                               
introduced it as  Senate Bill 80. The Alliance  believes that the                                                               
provisions of an  initiative should not be  severable after being                                                               
circulated. The Alliance bases this  on the desire to protect the                                                               
integrity  of  the ballot  initiative  process  by ensuring  that                                                               
voters  know that  the language  on the  ballot is  precisely the                                                               
same  as  what   was  presented  when  they   signed  the  ballot                                                               
MS. LOGAN said  the Alliance also supports  prohibiting the court                                                               
and  unelected  judges  to  amend  initiative  language,  thereby                                                               
crafting legislation from the bench.  Finally, the Alliance would                                                               
like to ensure  that ballot initiative language  passes legal and                                                               
constitutional muster  before it's  presented to the  voters. She                                                               
urged members to support this critical legislation.                                                                             
1:39:40 PM                                                                                                                    
LAURA  BONNER, representing  self,  Anchorage,  Alaska, spoke  in                                                               
opposition  to  SB 23.  She  stated  that  she lives  in  Senator                                                               
Revak's district, the  same district that the  late Senator Birch                                                               
MS. BONNER  said that  the Alaska Constitution,  art. XI,  sec. 1                                                               
begins  with   "The  people  may   propose  and  enact   laws  by                                                               
initiative...."  She expressed  concern  that SB  23 would  usurp                                                               
people's  power  in  the initiative  process.  The  gathering  of                                                               
signatures  demands  substantial  time, effort,  and  expense  to                                                               
obtain  the  number  of  signatures  required  in  all  40  House                                                               
districts. If SB  23 passes the legislature,  the sponsors tasked                                                               
to gather  enough signatures must start  all over if one  word or                                                               
sentence is  changed, added, or  deleted after a  judicial review                                                               
or court decision.                                                                                                              
1:40:33 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. BONNER stated that she had  signed quite a few petitions over                                                               
the years. And some of those  she signed only because she thought                                                               
it  should  be  voted  on  by  the  people,  or  perhaps  by  the                                                               
legislature before the election. She  related this was allowed in                                                               
Section 4 in  the Legislative Legal letter dated  April 23, 2019,                                                               
regarding Senate Bill 80, which is identical to SB 23.                                                                          
MS. BONNER  highlighted a  paragraph at the  end of  that letter,                                                               
which  read,   "The  Court  has   also  described   the  people's                                                               
initiative power as an act  of direct democracy guaranteed by our                                                               
constitution.  However,  under  SB   80  a  person  proposing  an                                                               
initiative  would be  prohibited  from  including a  severability                                                               
provision."   Because   of   this,   it   could   be   considered                                                               
unconstitutional. She said she believes that is true.                                                                           
MS.  BONNER said  the  voters'  initiative constitutional  rights                                                               
shouldn't be  stifled, and passage of  SB 23 would do  just that.                                                               
She acknowledged  that she  is not an  attorney, but  she offered                                                               
her view  that there may  be constitutional issues  regarding the                                                               
1:42:34 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR SHOWER  welcomed her ideas on  how to amend the  bill. He                                                               
explained that  the issue SB  23 addresses is when  an initiative                                                               
is  significantly  changed  after  people  initially  signed  the                                                               
petition.  When  that  happens,  voters no  longer  vote  on  the                                                               
initiative they supported.                                                                                                      
1:43:14 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. BONNER responded  that what counts is when  voters cast their                                                               
vote once the  initiative is placed on the ballot.  She viewed it                                                               
as similar  to the legislative  process when  legislators support                                                               
or  co-sponsor a  bill  and  the bill  changes  in the  committee                                                               
process. Legislators can vote against  it on the floor. The floor                                                               
vote counts  just as a  vote cast  for a ballot  proposition that                                                               
changed during the initiative process.                                                                                          
1:44:06 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HOLLAND closed public testimony on SB 23.                                                                                 
1:44:12 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HOLLAND held SB 23 in committee.                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB 23 Letter of Support - AGC.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 23
SB 23 Letter of Support - Alaska Chamber.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 23
SB 23 Letter of Support - RDC.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 23
SB 23 Letter of Support - CAP.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 23
SB 23 Letter of Support - Alliance.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 23
RDC SB 23 Comment letter 2-11-22.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 23
SB23 - Letter of Support - APF.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 23
SB 119 SJUD Amendment G.2.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 119
SB 129 SJUD Amendment O.5.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 129
SB 129 SJUD Amendment O.6 as amended.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 129
SB 23 Public Testimony through 2.12.22.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 23
SB 118 SJUD Public Testimony.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 118