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Poll says 54 percent back legislative move

Posted: Thursday, May 30, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- A new poll shows a majority of Alaskans favor a ballot initiative to move legislative sessions to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough or to Anchorage.

But opponents of the initiative say the pollster didn't read respondents a key part of the ballot language.

The poll of 508 Alaskans was conducted in mid-May by Dittman Research Corp. of Anchorage. The question on the move initiative was one of several commissioned by the Southeast Pilots Association, a marine group.

Fifty-four percent of those polled said they would be willing to move all legislative sessions to the Mat-Su, or to Anchorage if suitable facilities in Mat-Su weren't immediately available. Thirty-four percent were opposed and 12 percent said they weren't sure.

In Juneau, those who successfully fought a 1994 capital move campaign say the numbers in favor of that move were similar at about the same point in time before the election.

Opponents also said the pollster did not read respondents ballot language that explains that the initiative would repeal a requirement that costs of the move be approved by voters.

''History has shown that people will vote for a lot of things until they know what it costs,'' said Win Gruening, chairman of the Alaska Committee, a group whose aim is to secure Juneau's status as capital city.

In 1994, voters approved the so-called FRANK initiative preventing state money from being spent to move the capital or Legislature until voters approve a measure including costs of the move.

The pending initiative would override that requirement.

Pollster Dave Dittman acknowledged he didn't include the sentence regarding cost. He said he didn't see it on a Web site he checked to get the language of the ballot question.

On May 6, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Morgan Christen ruled the sentence concerning costs of the legislative move would appear on the ballot.

Christen rejected a challenge from initiative sponsors Alaskans for Efficient Government, which objected to the drafting done by the office of Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer.

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