Legislature(1999 - 2000)
02/16/1999 03:28 PM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE STATE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE February 16, 1999 3:28 p.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Senator Jerry Ward, Chairman Senator Lyda Green Senator Gary Wilken Senator Randy Phillips Senator Kim Elton MEMBERS ABSENT None COMMITTEE CALENDAR SENATE BILL NO. 10 "An Act relating to an optional exemption from municipal property taxes for recreational facilities." -SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD SENATE BILL NO. 42 "An Act making corrective amendments to the Alaska Statutes as recommended by the revisor of statutes; and providing for an effective date." -MOVED CSSB 42(STA) OUT OF COMMITTEE SENATE BILL NO. 69 "An Act authorizing an advisory vote by the qualified voters of the state on the question of the election of the attorney general; and providing for an effective date." -MOVED SB 69 OUT OF COMMITTEE SENATE BILL NO. 55 "An Act relating to the Joint Armed Services Committee, a permanent interim committee of the Alaska State Legislature; and providing for an effective date." -MOVED SB 55 OUT OF COMMITTEE PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION SB 42 - No previous Senate action. SB 55 - No previous Senate action. SB 69 - No previous Senate action. WITNESS REGISTER James Crawford Division of Legal Services Alaska State Legislature Juneau, AK 99801-1182 POSITION STATEMENT: Explained provisions of SB 42 Mark Hodgins Legislative Aide to Senator Ward Alaska State Capitol Juneau, AK 99801-1182 POSITION STATEMENT: Presented SB 69 for co-sponsor Senator Tim Kelly Alaska State Capitol Juneau, AK 99801-1182 POSITION STATEMENT: Presented SB 55 Chris Nelson, Staff Director Joint Committee on Military Affairs Alaska State Capitol Juneau, AK 99801-1182 POSITION STATEMENT: Answered questions related to SB 55 ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 99-3, SIDE A Number 001 CHAIRMAN WARD called the Senate State Affairs Committee to order at 3:28 p.m. Present were Senators Wilken, Green, Phillips, and Chair Ward. The first order of business to come before the committee was SB 42. SB 42-1999 REVISOR'S BILL JAMES CRAWFORD, Assistant Revisor of Statutes, Division of Legal Services, gave the following description of SB 42. Section 20 repeals certain sections of statute that add a tract of land known as "Cape Suckling" to the Yakataga State Game Refuge. The sections of statute were placed in Section 20 because, based on initial information from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), it appeared a litigation settlement agreement had made the sections obsolete. However, since SB 42 was introduced, updated information about the settlement agreement has revealed that those sections are dormant, not obsolete. The Division of Legal Services no longer recommends that those sections be repealed, but rather that Section 20 be removed from the bill. MR. CRAWFORD stated the following corrections are not substantive. Section 6 amends the definitional sections of Alaska's probate code to correct an omission. During the 1996 revision of the probate code, the Uniform Probate Code (UPC) definition of "person" was omitted from the bill because it was assumed the Alaska Title 1 definition of "person" was identical. The UPC version specifically mentions government and governmental subunits and agencies. Uniform Law Commissioner Art Peterson asked that Title 1 be updated to include that phrase. Number 080 SENATOR WARD asked Mr. Crawford if he agrees with Mr. Peterson's recommendation. MR. CRAWFORD replied he thinks the existing definition in Title 1 is broad enough to include government and governmental subunits and agencies, but he recommends the change to allow the Alaska definition to track the UPC definition. MR. CRAWFORD discussed Section 12, which amends AS 24.60.050, related to state programs and loans. The amendment will reflect the 1998 enactment of AS 24.60.105, which pertains to deadlines for filing disclosures. AS 24.60.050 relates to certain state programs and loans that a legislator or legislative employee may participate in without disclosure to the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics. Subsection (d), the section proposed for amendment, relates to disclosure deadlines for programs and loans that do not meet the standard today. Last year, when the new section, AS 24.60.105, was enacted, the bill contained a subsection (c) which is identical to the amendment suggested today. Both subsections (c) and (d) had the same date reference. The fact that subsection (d) was not amended was an oversight. Number 127 SENATOR GREEN asked if SB 42 has a Judiciary referral. CHAIRMAN WARD said it does not, but the committee can request one. MR. CRAWFORD added when the overall revisor's bill was initially presented to the Legislative Council, the Council decided to split it into two bills. The second bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee. SENATOR GREEN moved to delete Section 20 from SB 42. There being no objection, the motion carried. SENATOR PHILLIPS moved CSSB 42(STA) out of committee with individual recommendations. There being no objection, the motion carried. CHAIRMAN WARD noted CSSB 42(STA) will move from committee with an accompanying request for a Senate Judiciary Committee referral. SB 69-ADVISORY VOTE ON ELECTED AG MARK HODGINS, legislative aide to Senator Ward, co-sponsor of SB 69, gave the following presentation. SB 69 authorizes an advisory vote by the people on whether to elect the attorney general. Many states elect their attorneys general, as opposed to having that important position be determined by a political appointment. The states of Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Wyoming have attorneys general appointed by their governors; Maine has an attorney general elected by its Legislature; and the attorney general of Tennessee is appointed by the judges of its Supreme Court. Many believe an elected attorney general is likely to be more loyal to the state's residents and its Constitution. Tam Cook, Director of the Division of Legal Services, prepared a memo which lists the arguments for and against the election of the attorney general, included in committee packets. One argument for election is that if the attorney general acts as the legal advisor to the Governor and other state officials, he/she is compromised as far as working for issues for the people of the State of Alaska. SENATOR PHILLIPS questioned how the judges of the Tennessee Supreme Court are selected. MR. HODGINS did not know. SENATOR ELTON asked about the fiscal note for SB 69. MR. HODGINS replied the fiscal note was just delivered and contains a cost of $1,500 to place the question on the ballot, except that the cost will increase slightly if the ballot contains more than six questions. Number 239 JIM BALDWIN, Assistant Attorney General, Department of Law, stated he has had the pleasure of serving under governors of three parties, so his perspective is from the institution of the office of the attorney general. The function of the Alaska attorney general's office has been viewed as one of legal advisor to the governor; not as legal advisor to the people. Alaska government was constructed so that the Governor was to be the statewide officer elected by the people and served by his appointees. One of the reasons the state government was not designed to have a lot of other elected officials was to ensure accountability. If the government is not efficient, the people can hold one person responsible. If a multitude of elected officers existed, one could blame the other for the inefficiencies. During the Constitutional Convention, the common practice electing people to official positions to diffuse federal power was changed because Alaska would no longer need to shield itself from federal power. A legal issue that merits consideration is that under Article 12 of the Alaska Constitution, a constitutional amendment is meant to be a specific legislative proposal put before the people; an advisory vote asks voters to vote on a concept. Number 308 SENATOR PHILLIPS noted two advisory votes were voted on by Alaskans in the past 20 years that were never acted upon by the Legislature: the unicameral legislature and the annuity for the Longevity Bonus Program. He stated an advisory vote is merely a check on the pulse of the people at that moment in time and should not be feared. MR. BALDWIN said in his view, the best way for the peoples' voice to be heard is through the legislators they elected. He added the problem with advisory votes is that they are difficult to put into action. SENATOR PHILLIPS replied an advisory vote is another tool for legislators to use to determine how the public wants it to respond to certain issues. Number 348 SENATOR GREEN questioned what type of vote was considered in the Governor's proposal to ask voters to determine the best way to capture resources through various state accounts to cover the budget shortfall. MR. BALDWIN said that proposal called for an advisory vote, but it had a very substantive effect because the Legislature would be making appropriations that would take effect when a certain vote was certified from that election. The reason it was called an advisory vote was because of the lurking legal issue concerning delegation of legislative functions. The theory is that the Legislature is sent to Juneau to enact laws, and a legal question arises when that function is transferred to someone else, such as the people. In the Governor's bill, the people would not be determining the law, they would be determining when it would take effect. There being no further testimony on SB 69, SENATOR GREEN moved SB 69 from committee with individual recommendations. SENATOR ELTON objected and stated he believes Alaskans have been well served by the attorneys general of the past and because the same kind of information can be obtained by conducting a poll. The motion carried with Senators Green, Phillips, Wilken, and Ward voting "Yea," and Senator Elton voting "Nay." SB 55-JOINT ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE SENATOR TIM KELLY, sponsor of SB 55, explained SB 55 establishes, for the first time, a standing joint committee of the Legislature to deal with all of the issues confronting the armed forces in Alaska. This new committee is structured to include public members from outside of the Legislature and will serve as the Legislature's focal point for the coordination of all issues, discussions, and policies that impact the military in our state. It creates the opportunity to speak with a single voice on military issues and to provide a unified liaison to Alaska's congressional delegation on matters of national defense. Until now, the Legislature has had a fragmented and short range approach to military issues. In 1994 a Joint Task Force on Military Bases was formed under the Legislative Council to coordinate the state's efforts in the 1995 base realignment and closure commission cycle. The task force was disbanded at the end of that year. Last year, in anticipation of a new round of base closures beginning in 2001, the Joint Committee on Military Bases was established with a single focus on base closure issues and a two year duration. A permanent committee with a longer range vision to include missile defense and other issues is overdue. Other states are aggressively pursuing opportunities to increase military operations and military spending in their states. Alaska is well positioned now to form an organization which can successfully compete with these states. Alaska's number one line of defense of the military in Alaska is Senator Ted Stevens who will not always be chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Other states view the presence of the military in their states as an economic commodity. The military spends over $1.7 billion annually in Alaska therefore Alaskans must stop taking the military presence here for granted. CHRIS NELSON, Staff Director for the Joint Committee on Military Bases, added other states are working very aggressively to keep their military assets. The Texas Strategic Military Planning Commission developed a master plan and recommended to the Legislature that a committee be formed to deal with military issues. The Legislative Council will fund the committee formed by SB 55 in its initial year of operation. If the committee finds it needs to do further activities, an appropriation will be necessary. The five public members would incur per diem costs while attending meetings. SENATOR KELLY confirmed the committee would operate on whatever amount the Legislative Council is willing to provide. Number 455 SENATOR WILKEN commended the Rules Committee for bringing this legislation forward. SENATOR GREEN asked why it is appropriate for this legislation to be a Legislative Council proposal. SENATOR KELLY explained that is the way it was set up previously, and having Legislative Council oversight worked well in the past. He noted the existing committee was expanded to include representation by the Coast Guard contingent in Alaska. One of the public members will be recommended by the 17th Coast Guard District Auxiliary. In the event of mobilization, the Coast Guard will come under the command of the United States Navy so Coast Guard representation is important. Number 476 SENATOR ELTON appreciated the inclusion of the Coast Guard, and asked what the committee's purview will be on Coast Guard affairs, recognizing only part of its mission is defense-related. SENATOR KELLY replied the powers and duties section, on page 4, is broad enough to allow the committee to review and encourage state policies to ensure the continued well being and education of the armed forces, both active and reserve components, including the Coast Guard. SENATOR ELTON commended the sponsors of the legislation but asked that more than one member of the committee be from the Minority since this issue is bipartisan. SENATOR WILKEN moved SB 55 out of committee with individual recommendations. There being no objection, the motion carried. There being no further business to come before the committee, CHAIRMAN WARD adjourned the meeting at 4:15 p.m.