Legislative move group wants commission to study costs

Posted: Thursday, June 06, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- A citizens' group trying to move legislative sessions out of Juneau wants a commission to study the costs of the move now, not later.

Alaskans for Efficient Government is suing Gov. Tony Knowles for failing to appoint the so-called FRANK Commission.

A 1994 ballot initiative requires such a commission be created to study the costs of moving the Legislature or the capital. Under current law, voters would have to approve the costs separately in a second election.

The pending ballot initiative sponsored by Alaskans for Efficient Government would actually repeal the requirement that such a commission be created.

Because of that, opponents of the legislative move said the lawsuit isn't sincere, but rather is an attempt to nullify the issue of cost.

''They're suing the governor to reinstate something they're trying to repeal,'' said Win Gruening, who heads a Juneau group opposing the legislative move. ''They know it's absolutely impossible to form a commission and get a bond issue on the ballot in November.''

Ken Jacobus, a lawyer for Alaskans for Efficient Government, said there is time to do so if the governor acts promptly.

In a complaint filed in Anchorage Superior Court, the group asserts that it wants to get the costs of the move out in the open before the election, rather than after.

''The appointment of a neutral commission to determine costs as required by law is particularly important because, from past experience over the years, it has been established that opponents of any effort to move the capital out of Juneau will inflate the estimated costs in a manner totally divorced from reality,'' Jacobus wrote in the complaint.

Jacobus said the FRANK Commission -- an acronym for Fiscally Responsible Alaskans Needing Knowledge -- should have been appointed by Knowles as soon as the ballot initiative was certified in February.

The lawsuit seeks to compel Knowles to name nine members to the commission and suggests the Legislature could confirm those appointments at a special session scheduled for June 24.

Sarah Felix, an attorney for the state, said the lawsuit is ''ridiculous'' because it suggests the state should set up a commission, spend money and issue a report for a ballot initiative that could fail in the election, she said.

''That legislative move initiative isn't the law,'' Felix said. ''It's like a bill pending in the Legislature that hasn't been enacted.''

Also, she said the FRANK commission specifically calls for a two-stage process, with one vote on whether to move sessions or the capital, and another on paying for a move, if the first measure passes.

''That's what they say now,'' Jacobus responded. ''I don't see anything in the written material back at the time that there was supposed to be two votes.''

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