Initiative to move sessions to Valley gains enough signatures for ballot

Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2002

ANCHORAGE -- Supporters of an initiative to move legislative sessions to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough have collected more than the required signatures to get it on the November ballot, according to election officials.

State workers had verified the measure has more than the 28,783 signatures it needed to be placed on the ballot, state Division of Elections spokeswoman Virginia Breeze said Tuesday. The measure now goes to Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, who is expected to certify it, Breeze said.

The determination reignites a political fight stretching back more than two decades.

Voters have rejected several measures to move the capital. This time around, the measure seeks not to move the capital, but where the Legislature meets.

The initiative would move ''all regular and special sessions'' of the Legislature. It specifies that if a Valley location can't be found, the Legislature would meet in Anchorage until a suitable Mat-Su spot is located.

Alaskans for Efficient Government say the move will make legislators more accessible to residents.

''Do you think they would try to raid the PFD as many times as they have if we could get at them at a moment's notice?'' said co-sponsor Mark Chryson, who heads the Alaska Independence Party.

Juneau officials have argued the move would decimate Juneau's economy, which relies heavily on state government work.

In the Valley, support may be cooling off for the measure.

Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin, who signed the initiative and was an early supporter, now says she has concerns about it, mostly dealing with the cost of such a move.

Palin, who was among three Mat-Su mayors who signed the petition, said she was concerned because the measure repeals a portion of the FRANK initiative.

The FRANK initiative mandates that the state provide estimates of the cost of moving the capital or the Legislature and requires voter approval of those costs before anything can happen. The new measure would repeal the part that applies to moving the Legislature.

Sponsors of the move have filed a lawsuit against the state over proposed ballot language, which says the initiative would repeal the cost requirement.

Sen. Randy Phillips, R-Eagle River, has long supported moving the capital, and has filed his own bill which mimics the initiative. If his bill is passed, the initiative will be taken off the ballot, Breeze said.

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