Legislature(2005 - 2006)BELTZ 211

05/06/2005 03:30 PM Senate STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Continued from 05/05/05 --
Moved SCS CSHB 94(STA) Out of Committee
Moved HB 277 Out of Committee
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
              CSHB  94(FIN)am-ELECTIONS/VOTERS/POLITICAL PARTIES                                                            
CHAIR THERRIAULT announced the committee would take up HB 94. He                                                                
noted that Senator Davis had offered Amendment 1 and asked her                                                                  
for a motion.                                                                                                                   
3:03:40 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR DAVIS motioned to adopt Amendment 1 [R.1].                                                                              
                              A M E N D M E N T                                                                             
OFFERED IN THE SENATE                                              BY SENATOR DAVIS                                             
       TO:  SCS CSHB 94(STA), Draft Version "R"                                                                                 
Page 34, following line 5:                                                                                                      
       Insert a new bill section to read:                                                                                       
   "* Sec. 60.  AS 15.60.010(23) is amended to read:                                                                        
                      (23)  "political party" means an organized group                                                          
            of voters that represents a political program and that                                                          
                             (A)  [THAT] nominated a candidate for                                                              
              governor      who   received     at   least    two   [THREE]     percent    of                                
              the    total    votes     cast    for    governor      at   the   preceding                                       
              general      election      [OR    HAS    REGISTERED       VOTERS      IN   THE                                    
              STATE    EQUAL    IN  NUMBER     TO  AT  LEAST    THREE    PERCENT     OF  THE                                    
              TOTAL    VOTES    CAST   FOR   GOVERNOR     AT   THE   PRECEDING     GENERAL                                      
                             (B)  [IF THE OFFICE OF GOVERNOR WAS NOT ON                                                         
              THE    BALLOT    AT   THE   PRECEDING      GENERAL     ELECTION      BUT   THE                                    
              OFFICE     OF   UNITED     STATES     SENATOR     WAS   ON   THAT    BALLOT,                                      
              THAT]    nominated      a  candidate      for   United     States    senator                                      
              who   received     at   least    two   [THREE]    percent     of  the   total                                 
              votes    cast    for   United    States     senator     at  the   preceding                                   
              general       election      or     at    the    most     recent      general                                  
              election       at    which     a    governor      was     elected;      [THAT                                 
              GENERAL     ELECTION     OR   HAS   REGISTERED      VOTERS    IN  THE   STATE                                     
              EQUAL    IN   NUMBER    TO  AT   LEAST   THREE    PERCENT     OF  THE   TOTAL                                     
              VOTES     CAST   FOR    UNITED    STATES     SENATOR     AT   THAT   GENERAL                                      
              ELECTION; OR]                                                                                                     
                             (C)  [IF NEITHER THE OFFICE OF GOVERNOR NOR                                                        
              THE   OFFICE     OF  UNITED     STATES    SENATOR     WAS   ON   THE   BALLOT                                     
              AT   THE    PRECEDING      GENERAL     ELECTION,      THAT]    nominated      a                                   
              candidate        for      United      States       representative          who                                    
              received      at   least     two    [THREE]     percent     of    the   total                                 
              votes     cast    for    United     States     representative         at   the                                
              preceding       general      election      or    at    the    most     recent                                 
              general      election      at    which     a   governor      was    elected;                                  
              [THAT GENERAL ELECTION] or                                                                                        
                             (D)  has registered voters in the state equal in number to at least                            
              one-half  of one [THREE]   percent of the total number  of voters registered in                           
              the state in the month  that the director performs  verification of party status                              
              as  set  out  in  AS 15.60.008(c)  [VOTES     CAST    FOR   UNITED     STATES                                 
              REPRESENTATIVE AT THAT GENERAL ELECTION];"                                                                        
Renumber the following bill sections accordingly.                                                                               
CHAIR    THERRIAULT       objected.      He   asked    for    verification       that    the                                    
amendment      would    basically      reinsert      what    was   Section     57   in   the                                    
House    Version.     The   only    difference      occurs     on  page    2,   line   7  of                                    
the   amendment.       He   noted    that    the   amendment      follows     Mr.    Sykes'                                     
recommendation         for   recognizing       political       parties.      It   proposes                                      
one-half of one percent.                                                                                                        
He asked if there was further explanation.                                                                                      
SENATOR     DAVIS     replied     further     explanation       is   on    the   memo    she                                    
distributed.       She    remarked     it   seems    fair    because     it   would     take                                    
fewer votes for a political party to be recognized.                                                                             
3:05:41 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR    THERRIAULT       mentioned      that   the    current     statutory      language                                      
was   established       last   year    and   was   based    on   court    findings      that                                    
the   3%  standard     is   supportable.       He  opposed     the   amendment     because                                      
he wanted to wait to determine the impact of the 3% standard.                                                                   
SENATOR      DAVIS     asked      what    the     standard      was    before      3%    was                                    
CHAIR THERRIAULT asked Mr. Balash to come forward.                                                                              
JOE   BALASH,     Staff   to   the   Legislative      Budget    and   Audit    Committee,                                       
explained      that   the   3%   standard     was   applied     to  the   governor      race                                    
so   the    opportunity       to   qualification        for   party     status     came   up                                    
every four years instead of on an ongoing basis.                                                                                
The   action     last   year    established       the   cascading      test    of  looking                                      
at   statewide       races.     He   recalled      that    Mr.    Sykes     said    the   3%                                    
standard      was    taken     up    in   1996,     but    he    had    no    independent                                       
knowledge of that.                                                                                                              
CHAIR     THERRIAULT      explained       that    a   change     was   made    last     year                                    
because     the    3%   test    was   based     on   the    gubernatorial       election,                                       
which    occurs    only    every    four   years.     The   change    established       that                                    
if  it   was   not   a  gubernatorial       year   then   the   US   Senate    race   would                                     
be  considered      and   if   that   race   was   not   on  the   ballot    then    the   US                                   
Representative race would be considered.                                                                                        
MR. BALASH agreed.                                                                                                              
CHAIR    THERRIAULT       added    that    if   you're    attempting       to   measure     a                                   
modicum      of   support     then     you   want     to   look    at    the   race     that                                    
attracts the most voter participation.                                                                                          
SENATOR DAVIS asked if a party could qualify every year.                                                                        
CHAIR THERRIAULT replied there would be a race every two years.                                                                 
3:09:16 PM                                                                                                                    
LAURA    GLAISER,     Director      of  the   Division      of  Elections,      clarified                                       
that   there    are   always     two   options    by   which    a  party    can   maintain                                      
their    status.     The   governor     race   is   the   qualifying      race,    but   the                                    
percentage       of    voters      that     a   party     has     registered       to    its                                    
affiliation       is   an  additional       means    to  attain     or   retain    status.                                      
Both    the    House    Version     and    Version     R   sustain      that    fact,    she                                    
SENATOR     DAVIS   questioned      how   many    states    use   the   same   percentage                                       
that's in current law.                                                                                                          
MS.   GLASIER     responded      she   wasn't     sure   and    then   reiterated       that                                    
in   the    most    recent     court     decision      the   Alaska     standards       were                                    
determined      to   be   fair.    She   provided      the   additional       information                                       
that not all states offer two ways to maintain or retain status.                                                                
3:12:19 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR    THERRIAULT      found    there    was   no   further    debate     on  Amendment                                       
1. He maintained his objection and called for a roll call vote.                                                                 
Amendment      1  failed    2   to  2   with   Senators      Elton    and   Davis    voting                                     
yea and Senator Huggins and Chair Therriault voting nay.                                                                        
3:13:16 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR     THERRIAULT       asked     Ms.    Glaiser      if   the    bill     needed     any                                    
further clarification.                                                                                                          
MS.   GLAISER     responded      she   had   distributed       a   sheet    titled    "What                                     
Must   a  Party    Do   To  Nominate     Without     Petitioning?"       to  address     the                                    
question      Senator     Elton     asked    about     what    other     states     do.   In                                    
addition     he   asked    about    qualification        as   a  party    under    current                                      
law    compared      to    qualification        under     the    House     Version.      She                                    
pointed to a table with that information.                                                                                       
3:14:30 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR     ELTON   reviewed      the  table    and   remarked     that    there   appears                                      
to   be   no   difference      between     the   versions      with    regard    to   which                                     
parties would have qualified.                                                                                                   
MS.    GLASIER     responded       she    reads    the    table     differently.        More                                    
parties     qualify     under     the   House     Version.     The    difference      comes                                     
when you test in different races to get the percentage of votes.                                                                
SENATOR      ELTON     explained       how    he    was    reading      the    table     and                                    
reiterated      that    the   results     appear    to   be   the   same    under    either                                     
MS.   GLASIER      explained      what   the    table    was   meant     to   demonstrate                                       
and   said,    "If  the   only    test   in  this    state   were    the   percentage     of                                    
those    who   voted    either     in  a   race   or   who   had   registered      voters,                                      
those    would    be  the   three    parties     that    have   qualified      year   after                                     
year - the 'AIPs' the 'Ds' and the 'Rs'."                                                                                       
3:17:08 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR THERRIAULT asked Mr. Thompson to testify.                                                                                 
3:17:30 PM                                                                                                                    
MYRL     THOMPSON,      Susitna      Valley,      said     he    was    testifying       for                                    
himself.     He   observed     that    the   version     of   HB  94   that    passed    the                                    
House    was   a  very   good    bill.    However,     he   said,   big   problems      have                                    
emerged     since    Version     R   was   introduced.       Specifically,        Sections                                      
11,12,     and   the   new    paragraph      in  Section     13   present     a   problem.                                      
This    appears     to   be    a  return     to   the    1990s    when    there     was   an                                    
infusion     of   soft    money    in   Alaska    politics.      That's    going    in   the                                    
wrong direction, he emphasized.                                                                                                 
This    trend    toward    soft    money    works    against     the   majority     of   the                                    
registered       voters    in    Alaska    because      51%   of   those     voters     have                                    
elected     not   to   be  a   member    of   a  party.     Although     the   Republican                                       
Party    is  the   largest     party   in   the   state,    it  is   comprised     of   just                                    
over     25%    of    the    registered       voters.      By    no   stretch      of    the                                    
imagination       can   the    proposed      provisions      benefit     the    people    or                                    
the voters of Alaska, he emphasized.                                                                                            
"This    is   a  very   bad   addition      to  what    was   a  very    good   bill,"    he                                    
3:22:04 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR     HUGGINS     asked    him   to   expand    on   what    he  took    particular                                       
exception to in Section 11.                                                                                                     
MR.   THOMPSON     pointed     to   sub-subparagraph        (vi)    on   page   10,   lines                                     
17 through 19. It's the bolded and underlined part, he said.                                                                    
The   same   language     is   included     in  Section     12  subparagraph       (B)   and                                    
Section      13   defines      "party     building"       in    paragraph      (17).     The                                    
latter     is    problematic       since     the    majority       of   the    state     has                                    
elected     not    to   be    a  member     of    a  political       party.     All   three                                     
sections      invite     soft    money.    Although      campaign      finance     reforms                                      
are needed, this is going the wrong way.                                                                                        
3:23:07 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR     THERRIAULT       pointed      out    that     language      at    the    end    of                                    
paragraph      (17)   in  proposed     Section     13   specifically      excludes      both                                    
express      and    electioneering         communications.          This    money     could                                     
neither     be  used    for   elections     ads   nor   could    it   flow   through     the                                    
party    to   candidates       to   run   elections      ads.    With    that    in   mind,                                     
which    of    the   functions      listed     in    paragraph      (17)    do   you    find                                    
problematic, he asked.                                                                                                          
MR.    THOMPSON      acknowledged        that     he   was    generalizing        when    he                                    
included       Section      13    in    his     response      to     Senator      Huggin's                                      
CHAIR    THERRIAULT      pointed    out   that    the  money    that    is  raised    under                                     
Sections     11  and   12   are   tied   together     and   Section     13  controls     the                                    
MR.   THOMPSON     responded      he   reads    it   as  soft    money    and   he'd    like                                    
to be corrected if he's wrong.                                                                                                  
CHAIR     THERRIAULT      explained       that    soft    money     could    be   used    to                                    
register      voters,     organize      precinct      meetings,      district      picnics                                      
and    things    of   that    nature.      Soft    money    could    not    be   used    for                                    
advocacy     on   a  candidate's      behalf,     advertising      and   things    of   that                                    
MR.    THOMPSON       responded       it    would     benefit      parties,       but    the                                    
majority      of    voters     in    Alaska     who    aren't      in   a   major     party                                     
wouldn't be benefited.                                                                                                          
3:25:54 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR     ELTON    remarked      he   tended     to   agree    with    Mr.   Thompson's                                       
testimony.      Furthermore,       a  consequence      of   Section    13   is  that    hard                                    
money     would     be    freed     to    conduct      the    other     activities       Mr.                                    
Thompson is concerned about.                                                                                                    
CHAIR     THERRIAULT      asked     Mr.    Balash     to   refresh     members      on   the                                    
federal limitations that were discussed in previous testimony.                                                                  
MR.   BALASH    discussed      the  federal     law   first.    He   explained     that   as                                    
a   result     of    the   Bipartisan       Campaign      Reform      Act   (BCRA),      the                                    
activities      of   a  state    party    fall    under    the   auspices     of   the   FEC                                    
code.    That    is   because     every    election      has   at   least    one   federal                                      
race    -  for   congressman.       That    means    that   a  state    party    must    use                                    
federal     or  hard   dollars     for   any   activity     in  the   60  days    before    a                                   
primary election and in the 60 days before a general election.                                                                  
CHAIR    THERRIAULT      recapped     that    the   restrictions       in   that   120-day                                      
period    must    follow     the   federal     law,   which    prohibits      the   use   of                                    
soft money for those purposes.                                                                                                  
SENATOR ELTON asked if that is in any race.                                                                                     
MR.   BALASH    clarified      that   the   state   party    may   not   use   soft   money                                     
because     everything       it   does    benefits     the    federal     candidate.      He                                    
noted     that    because      of   BCRA,     all    the    money     that    the    Alaska                                     
Democratic        Party      received       from     the     Democratic        Senatorial                                       
Campaign      Committee     (DSCC)     in   the   2004    election      had   to   be   hard                                    
SENATOR     ELTON    questioned      whether     soft   money    couldn't     be   used   to                                    
free hard money for use in a state legislative race.                                                                            
MR.   BALASH     answered     the    hard   money    would     be  used    to   cover    all                                    
state    party    expenses     in  the   120-day     period.    The   state    law   allows                                     
the    parties      to    give     hard     dollars      to    candidates,        to    make                                    
independent       expenditures,       to   do  voter    ID   and   voter    turnout,     and                                    
to obtain temporary campaign space.                                                                                             
SENATOR     ELTON    said    the   assumption       is   that   the    more   soft    money                                     
that   is   used   for   activities      like   this,    the   more   hard   money    there                                     
will be for the activities just described.                                                                                      
MR. BALASH said that's a fair argument.                                                                                         
CHAIR    THERRIAULT       stated     that    he   didn't     have    any   problem      with                                    
using    soft   money    to   encourage      people    to  vote    and   participate      in                                    
the process.                                                                                                                    
He   noted    that    there    was   testimony      that    some    groups    bought     all                                    
the   available      airtime     during    the   campaign     last    year   and   thereby                                      
blocked     others    from    advertising.       He  asked    for   an   explanation      of                                    
how those groups got the money to do that.                                                                                      
MR.   BALASH     said    BCRA    provided     a   "carve     out"   for    IRS   code    527                                    
organizations         meaning     there      is   no    requirement        for    527s    to                                    
disclose      where    money     comes    from    or   how    it   is   spent.     The   FEC                                    
split    evenly    when   the   question     was   raised    and   the   result    is   that                                    
527s   have    no  regulation.      "Citizens      for   a  Stronger     Senate"     is  one                                    
such organization.                                                                                                              
CHAIR    THERRIAULT       asked    what    restrictions       they    have    on   raising                                      
money and whether they could register people and advocate.                                                                      
MR.    BALASH     answered       no   restrictions        and    they     can    do   those                                     
He    added     that    "Americans        Coming     Together"       operated      at    the                                    
federal     level    but   not   in  Alaska.     They    did   a  comprehensive       voter                                     
ID,    registration,         and    contact      effort     using     undisclosed        and                                    
unaccountable         money.       Several       organizations         reported       their                                     
sources publicly, but there is no requirement for that.                                                                         
3:32:35 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR     ELTON    stated     that   he   had   problems      with   Sections      11,12,                                     
and   13  in   Version    R.   Others,    including      the   director     of  APOC    have                                    
expressed similar concern. He spoke to his objection:                                                                           
       Less    than   a   decade    ago   we   kind    of  banned     soft    money;                                            
       we    did   an    appropriate       thing     under    campaign      finance                                             
       reform.      As    Joe    mentioned       yesterday,       the    Singleton                                              
       decision     said    well,    you   can't    maybe    do  it   the   way   you                                           
       want    to    do   it   and    then    the    9th    Circuit     Court     [of                                           
       Appeals] said, well you can.                                                                                             
       So   what   the   addition     of  these    sections     appears,     to   me,                                           
       to   do   is   go   back    to   the    Singleton      approach.      It's    a                                          
       rather     large   paradigm      shift    in  how   we   have   been    doing                                            
       things.     And   it's    a  shift    that   bothers     me   because    what                                            
       we're     ending    up   with    is   kind    of   at   the    last    minute                                            
       we're    making     very   substantive       changes.     Not   to   the   way                                           
       we   conduct     elections,       but   to   the   manner     in   which    we                                           
       regulate      the   flow    of   money     into   campaigns       under    the                                           
       APOC    statutes...       and    that    gives    me   a   great    deal    of                                           
3:34:56 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR     ELTON   moved    Amendment      2  to  strike    Sections     11,12,     and  13                                    
from    Version      R.   Alaskans      have     indicated      a   strong     desire     to                                    
control     soft   money    and   this    opens    the   door   to   accomplish      things                                     
Alaskans aren't prepared to accept, he said.                                                                                  
CHAIR    THERRIAULT      said,    "Your   statement      would    lead   one   to  believe                                      
that     you're     alleging      that     soft     money     can    flow     through     to                                    
campaigns,"       which   is   clearly     not   the   case.    He   didn't    understand                                       
why   APOC   might    say   that    a  new   source    of   funding    is   running     into                                    
campaigns because it's still hard dollars.                                                                                      
SENATOR     ELTON   said    he  ought    not   speak   on   behalf    of  APOC.    When   he                                    
spoke    with    APOC   they    said   they    were   not    okay   with    the   addition                                      
to    the    election      bill.     We   need     to   know     exactly      what    their                                     
problems     are   with   the   bill   rather     than   having    me  tell    you   what   I                                   
think     their    problems      might     be.   For    that    reason     he   suggested                                       
moving    ahead    with    the   bill   in   the   form   that    has   been   thoroughly                                       
vetted. He encouraged a conversation with APOC.                                                                                 
3:37:41 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR     THERRIAULT      objected      to   Amendment       2.   Finding     no   further                                      
debate he asked for a roll call vote.                                                                                           
Amendment      2  failed    2   to  3   with   Senators      Davis    and   Elton    voting                                     
yea   and    Senators      Huggins,     Wagoner     and    Chair    Therriault       voting                                     
CHAIR     THERRIAULT      noted     that    the    bill    has    at   least     one    more                                  
referral      and   said    that   he   would    contact     APOC,     but   he   couldn't                                      
see that the bill changes anything they would have to track.                                                                    
3:38:42 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR     WAGONER    motioned     to   report    SCS   CSHB   94(STA)     and   attached                                      
fiscal     notes     from    committee       with    individual       recommendations.                                          
There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                    

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