Lawmakers need to quit fiddling around

Posted: Sunday, March 27, 2011

A state law banning the use of foreign law in state courts? Seriously? Alaska needs this?

This bill working its way through committees now is just one of the needless time sucks that legislators in Juneau have wasted time on during their preciously short 90-day session (minus that week-long Energy Council junket).

According to last week's news reports, Rep. Carl Gatto says his bill would stop courts from recognizing Sharia, the Islamic law code incorporated into the legal systems of some Muslim countries. A few states in the Lower 48 have toyed with this one.

Apparently, Rep. Gatto doesn't believe our current U.S. Constitution nor our state constitution are already strong enough to repel any aggressor foreign laws from insidiously sneaking into jury boxes and judges' instructions across the Last Frontier.

To say that the proposal is a waste of time is already spending too much time in its consideration. But there's more.

Rep. Bob Lynn introduced a bill this session that ties a foreign national's state-issued drivers' license to the length of their visa. We suppose that would protect Alaska interests in case a foreign national returns home and causes a traffic accident. We're not sure.

And then there's Wes Keller's bill mandating Alaska students read the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Bill of Rights, among other founding documents. Yet another idea being bandied about down south. The Wasilla representative says reading the documents will teach students the country's founding principles. Mr. Keller is supposed to have an Alaska secondary teaching certificate. Does he not realize high school government teachers already teach this material?

How about this one: an official state firearm. Arizona brought up this proposal shortly after the Jan. 8 shooting at a Tucson supermarket that killed six and injured 13 others, including Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Sen. Charlie Huggins thinks we need one -- specifically the pre-1964 Winchester Model 70 .30-06 rifle. He says the piece played a key role in settling the territory, and it carries enough "stopping power" to be useful in a crisis. We wholeheartedly agree that the Model 70's a cool gun. We don't think the state needs a weapon alongside the willow ptarmigan and alpine Forget-me-not.

And as if we haven't followed the Lower 48 lead with enough dubious new laws, Rep. Gatto also thinks we should jump on the Wisconsin bandwagon and restrict collective bargaining rights. As he told The Associated Press last week, it would be just like when the Legislature changed state workers' pension program to a 401(K)-type system. "To get ahead of things is my goal," he said.

Well, some of us have been around the state long enough to remember when the phrase "We don't give a damn how they do it Outside" described an Alaskan independence and ability to think on our own.

Every one of these bills wastes time. None are necessary for Alaska. They don't create jobs. They don't enhance the state's coffers. They are petty transplants from Outside, and worse, some of them border on xenophobia.

Our lawmakers should be spending every precious moment of the 90-day session deciding whether we build a gas pipeline, or change our oil tax structure; spend state dollars on tourism promotion or expand children's health insurance; or deciding how big our operating and capital budgets should be.

In short: Lawmakers, stop fiddling around with the nonsense. Work on issues that really concern Alaska.

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