Fairbanks senator changes vote on racism resolution

Posted: Friday, April 13, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- Sen. Gary Wilken changed his vote Thursday on a resolution condemning January paintball attacks on Alaska Natives and other incidents of racism.

Wilken, R-Fairbanks, had voted against the resolution Wednesday, saying he didn't condone racism but he didn't believe it was the Legislature's place to cast votes condemning crimes. However, he gave notice he might bring the measure up for reconsideration.

When it came up again Thursday, Wilken changed his vote to support the measure. He gave no explanation for the change, and in contrast to a tense debate when the Senate initially voted on the resolution Wednesday, there was no discussion Thursday.

The vote Thursday was 17-1, with Sen. Lyda Green, R-Matanuska Susitna Borough, continuing to vote ''no.'' Green has said she voted against the resolution because government can't change what's in people's hearts.

The resolution is in response to an incident earlier this year in which three young white men videotaped themselves shooting paintballs at Alaska Natives in downtown Anchorage. The measure condemns that act and calls for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to investigate that and similar incidents.

The Senate approved the measure Wednesday after amending it to specify it was condemning ''unlawful'' discrimination, a change that raised the ire of some senators.

Sen. Loren Leman, R-Anchorage, said the distinction was needed because some forms of discrimination, such as age requirements to drive, are legal and necessary.

Because the resolution is worded differently than when it passed the House, the House will have to vote on whether to concur with the changes. If the two sides don't agree, the measure will be referred to a conference committee.

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