Session-move initiative petition approved

Posted: Wednesday, June 13, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- Backers of a proposed ballot measure to move the Legislature to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough can start gathering signatures. Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer has approved the initiative application.

She also certified two other initiative applications last week: One would allow same-day voter registration and another would allow municipalities to limit property taxes.

Proponents of the measures must collect 28,783 signatures by Jan. 14 to get the questions on the 2002 general election ballot.

Uwe Kalenka, a spokesman for the group proposing to move legislative sessions, said it should be easy to put the question on the ballot.

''The reception we've had so far has been overwhelming,'' said Kalenka of Alaskans for Efficient Government. ''It's high time the Legislature will be made accessible to the vast majority of the people.''

Juneau's Alaska Committee is laying out a strategy to defeat the measure. The anti-move group, which has fought similar efforts, has discussed mailing a brochure to voters touting its efforts to make sessions more accessible to Alaskans, said Chairman Win Gruening.

The committee last May helped put live video of the Legislature on the Internet, and hopes by next session to offer live audio recordings of all committee hearings on the Web.

The committee also wants to inform voters of the cost of moving not only the Legislature, but the capital.

''We should be looking at the cost of moving the entire capital because I don't see how the Legislature can continue to meet in a place different than the capital,'' Gruening said.

Current law requires the state to get voter approval before it spends money to move the capital or Legislature. However, the initiative would delete the reference to the Legislature, meaning the state could fund a session move without voter approval.

Kalenka defended that provision, saying opponents would inflate the cost.

''We are not interested in those scare tactics,'' Kalenka said, suggesting a legislative move would cost nothing.

Initiative sponsor Mark Chryson has said lawmakers probably could meet in a vacant Wal-Mart in Wasilla or use space at a mall there.

Under the measure, sessions would move to Anchorage if the Mat-Su did not have a suitable facility. Although Anchorage also does not have a legislative hall, Kalenka said lawmakers could rent quarters, perhaps a hotel or the Egan Center, until the Mat-Su comes up with space.

Kalenka is also the sponsor of a proposed initiative that would let local governments limit property assessments and taxes. Unlike a tax cap measure Kalenka sponsored that was defeated by voters last November, the new measure wouldn't mandate tax limits.

Another initiative petition application approved Friday would let residents register to vote on the same day of an election. Current law says voters must register 30 days before an election.

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