Constitutional Am.: Increase Number Of Legislators
|Sponsored by Rep. Peggy Wilson|
Co-Sponsors: Rep. Joule, Rep. Salmon, Rep. Kerttula, Rep. Austerman, Rep. Edgmon, Rep. Herron, Rep. Thomas, Rep. Seaton, Rep. Muñoz, Rep. Johansen
“Proposing amendments to the Constitution of the State of Alaska relating to and increasing the number of members of the house of representatives to forty-four and the number of members of the senate to twenty-two.”
Posted: March 10, 2010 : v26-LS1323\R
"... 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 44 representatives and 22 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.
# # #