Tuesday, February 02, 2010

House State Affairs Hears Constitutional Amendment

Here 's the House State Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Bob Lynn's letterhead for this week's schedule. 

The committee meets Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8am-10 am.  The Uniform Rules [note:  I couldn't open this page while I was writing the post] which regulate how the House and Senate operate, sets up ten standing committees (Rule 20) including State Affairs and the areas it covers:
State Affairs (programs and activities of the Office of the Governor and the Departments of Administration, Military and Veterans' Affairs, Corrections, and Public Safety, and programs and activities of the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities relating to public facilities)
This was the committee I was originally assigned to, so I'm going to try to attend the meetings, at least as long as there isn't something else of more interesting happening at the same time, and I can get up early enough to attend.

Here's this week's schedule.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010  8:00 – 10:00am


= Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled

Thursday, February 4, 2010  8:00 – 10:00am

= Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
+ Teleconferenced

Saturday, February 6, 2010 8:00 – 10:00am

No Meeting Scheduled

Tuesday (today) it hears a proposed Constitutional Amendment offered by Rep. Peggy Wilson (R - Petersberg.)  [Actually her district covers much more than Petersberg.)  

When a bill is discussed at a Committee meeting like this, a "packet" of relevant material is put together for the committee.  You can see these at the State Affairs link on BASIS. [I won't go into how I got to this link.  It took a while.  BASIS has lots of interesting stuff, but finding it isn't always easy.]

One of the documents is the Sponsor's Statement.  It explains in more everyday language the purpose of the bill.  Here's the Sponsor Statement for HJR 38:
Posted: January 30, 2010 : v26-LS1323\A
Status: (H) STA : 2010-01-19
Next Hearing: (H) STA 2010-02-02 8:00 am, Room 106
Contact: Rebecca Rooney, 465-3824, Committee Aide

''... Each house district shall be formed of contiguous and compact territory containing as nearly as practicable a relatively integrated socio-economic area ...'' Alaska Constitution Article VI, Section 6, titled Legislative Apportionment.

HJR 38 will put a constitutional amendment before the voters in the 2010 general election that would increase the size of the legislature to 48 representatives and 24 senators. Upon voter approval, the measure would apply to the 2012 determination of new boundary's for the election district.

In the first 50 years of statehood, Alaska has not changed the 20 senator, 40 representative size of its legislative body, the smallest bicameral legislature in the nation. In this time span, the population of the state has more than tripled. Most significantly, the population increase is disproportionate, strongly favoring large urban areas over rural and small community areas. The task then of applying the proscriptions of Article VI, above, has correspondingly become more difficult and contentious. Except for the 1960 reapportionment, all subsequent reapportionments have faced successful legal challenges, requiring boundary adjustments and on several occasions, a court constructed plan.

Federal protections of the U.S. Voter Rights Act of 1965 for large minority concentrations further complicate Alaska's reapportionment process. Indeed, they can act to counter the Section 6 requirements. Rural election district distortions are evident in the current plan. There is a probability that the new population distribution of the 2010 census cannot reconcile Section 6 and the Voter Rights Act without increasing the size of the legislature.

Between 1960 and 2006, twenty nine states have changed the size of their legislative body. For the nine states with small populations similar to Alaska (509,000 to 1,429,000), the average size of their legislative bodies is 134 members.

Another measure of the effect of the state's growth and complexity on the work of the legislature is its budget responsibilities. Legislative expenditures for government programs and projects has risen from a figure of $104 million in FY 61 to somewhere in the neighborhood of $7 billion currently. This is an increase from $2700 per capita in 1961 nominal dollars to $10,000 per capita today.

For these reasons, putting a proposal to increase the size of the legislature before the voters is timely and merited.
By the way, HJR stands for House Joint Resolution.  Resolutions are used for Constitutional Amendments (and other things) while HB (House Bill) is just for legislation as I understand this.

And here's the actual resolution as it gets heard for the first time in the State Affairs Committee. This resolution, as it moves through the committees, will accumulate changes, but ultimately it will be in this sort of language and format.  [On my computer, the resolution is cut off on the right.  You can get it in full here.]

HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 38                                                                     
01 Proposing amendments to the Constitution of the State of Alaska relating to and                                         
02 increasing the number of members of the house of representatives to forty-eight and the                                 
03 number of members of the senate to twenty-four.                                                                         
04 BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF ALASKA:                                                               
05    * Section 1. Article II, sec. 1, Constitution of the State of Alaska, is amended to read:                          
06            Section 1. Legislative Power; Membership. The legislative power of the                                     
07       State is vested in a legislature consisting of a senate with a membership of twenty-                          
08       four [TWENTY] and a house of representatives with a membership of forty-eight                             
09       [FORTY].                                                                                                          
10    * Sec. 2. Article VI, sec. 4, Constitution of the State of Alaska, is amended to read:                             
11            Section 4. Method of Redistricting. The Redistricting Board shall establish                                
12       forty-eight [FORTY] house districts, with each house district to elect one member of                          
13       the house of representatives. The board shall establish twenty-four [TWENTY] senate                           
14       districts, each composed of two house districts, with each senate district to elect one                           
15       senator.                                                                                                          
01    * Sec. 3. Article VI, sec. 6, Constitution of the State of Alaska, is amended to read:                             
02            Section 6. District Boundaries. The Redistricting Board shall establish the                                
03       size and area of house districts, subject to the limitations of this article. Each house                          
04       district shall be formed of contiguous and compact territory containing as nearly as                              
05       practicable a relatively integrated socio-economic area. Each shall contain a                                     
06       population as near as practicable to the quotient obtained by dividing the population of                          
07       the state by forty-eight [FORTY]. Each senate district shall be composed as near as                           
08       practicable of two contiguous house districts. Consideration may be given to local                                
09       government boundaries. Drainage and other geographic features shall be used in                                    
10       describing boundaries wherever possible.                                                                          
11    * Sec. 4. Article XV, Constitution of the State of Alaska, is amended by adding a new                              
12 section to read:                                                                                                        
13            Section 30. Applicability of the 2010 Amendments Increasing the Number                                     
14       of Members in the Legislature. The 2010 amendments increasing the number of                                     
15       members in the legislature (art. II, sec. 1, and art. VI, secs. 4 and 6) apply only to plans                      
16       for redistricting and proclamations of redistricting adopted on or after January 1, 2011,                         
17       and to the membership of legislatures subject to those redistricting plans and                                    
18       proclamations.                                                                                                    
19    * Sec. 5. The amendments proposed by this resolution shall be placed before the voters of                          
20 the state at the next general election in conformity with art. XIII, sec. 1, Constitution of the                        
21 State of Alaska, and the election laws of the state.
So this is for Tuesday.  It's already Tuesday as I write 
and since it begins at 8am I need to bring this to a close. 
But note that in the schedule there is a + on this committee 
meaning it will be televised online.  I think this is the link 
to see it. Maybe I'll see you at the meeting.  Or you'll see me. 
Actually, I'm not sure how much of the audience
you'll be able to see.  I'll hide in back anyway.                                                                 

1 comment:

  1. A few of our Senate districts are so large that they conflict with the constitutional mandate of cohesion. It isn't the size that matters, it is the differences of needs within these large districts.

    Legislators and those they assign to do the 10-year redistricting violate that mandate fairly regularly, though, in spite of the constitutional directions.


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