Last year the Parnell administration threw a bomb that could blow up all your rights and protections under our State Constitution. The State House passed Parnell’s HB 77, “The Silencing Alaskans Act.” It sits in the State Senate now, fuse burning, ready to explode in our face with the opening of the 2014 Legislative Session.
HB 77 ignores Constitutional protections.
According to Article 1, Section 1 of the Alaska Constitution, “... all persons are equal and entitled to equal rights, opportunities, and protections under the law...” Section 2 goes on, “All political power is inherent in the people. All government originates with the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the people as a whole.” The various sections in Article 8 reserve Alaska’s natural resources for the maximum benefit of its people for our common use and require conservation measures including utilization of “replenishable” resources on a sustained yield principle (fish, wildlife, surface and subsurface waters). Article 8 also requires prior public notice and other safeguards when disposing or leasing of state resources.
So much for all that. Under HB 77 the Commissioner of Natural Resources could authorize any activity on state land by fiat (general permit). The decision would override any other state law as long as the Commissioner decides it will not result in “significant, irreparable harm to state land or resources.” Those terms are not defined, of course. At the same time, HB 77 would blindfold and gag Alaska citizens by allowing the Department of Natural Resources to bypass normal public notice and comment practices. This could even mean elimination of the present requirement for a “best interest finding” before DNR proceeds with land and resource sales or leases. HB 77 would make it very easy for outside corporations to get anything they want but very hard for an ordinary citizen to even know about it, let alone successfully challenge anything authorized by DNR.
Clearly Governor Parnell and too many of our Legislators have come to feel that Alaska’s resources are theirs to do with as they see fit, which seems to focus mostly on rewarding corporate campaign funders.
Do you value your Constitutional rights? Worried about government overreach? Why not start making some noise. Peter Micciche was one of the two Senators who stalled passage of HB 77 last session. He has arranged for hearings/stakeholder discussions at the Kenai Borough Assembly Chambers on December 9 and at Homer’s Islands and Ocean Visitor Center on December 10. Both meetings start at 4:00 p.m. It’s a chance to let Senator Micciche know you appreciate his efforts and to tell him how you feel about HB 77.