Alaskans want the ability to roam and range freely with our watercraft, our snowmachines and other off-road vehicles. But when someone or something is intruding into our boundary lines, we want some legal protection.
In Alaska, our state constitution provides us protection of our personal liberties in many areas. But ironically, that same constitution limits our protection on the governmental encroachment upon our municipal boundaries. Our constitution establishes a local boundary commission that is charged with the responsibility for making boundaries of the local governments.
Article X, Section 12, of the constitution establishes two methods of boundary changes:
1. By direction of the Local Boundary Commission, subject to legislative disapproval (known as the legislative review process). It does not include a public vote.
2. By "local action." Local action is a process initiated locally and is subject to procedures set forth by the Local Boundary Commission that include a public vote.
In both methods, the involvement of the Local Boundary Commission is mandatory. The Legislature can request that certain procedures are applied, but it cannot dictate those procedures by legislation. That process is placed in the Alaska Constitution and can only be amended by the voters of the entire state at the ballot box.
On Feb. 22, I introduced legislation that would amend the constitution for procedure of annexation by the Local Boundary Commission. The legislation requires a vote of the affected population when the proposed annexation is greater than 10 percent in population or 10 percent in land area of the municipality proposing the annexation.
While I can understand some concerns of the municipalities about contiguous areas and certain city services, I don't believe that the current annexation process is proper or appropriate.
From the letters, e-mails, and telephone calls my office has received on this issue, it is very clear that the annexation process has touched some raw nerves. The result is a situation where friends and neighbors have taken legal action against each other.
Good public policy must carefully review the rights of all parties. In my opinion, the current annexation process of legislative review does not provide for that, and Senate Joint Resolution 16 is a step forward to a better process. It may be that the 10 percent bar is too low, and others might argue that it should be even lower. That debate will take place as the bill progresses through the Legislature.
I cannot predict the outcome of the legislation. Assuming it passes, the earliest it could be voted upon would be the general election in 2002.
Sen. John Torgerson, R-Kasilof, has served in the state Senate since 1994.
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