Legislative move backers lose court fight

Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- A group seeking to move the Legislature to Southcentral Alaska lost a minor court battle this week.

Anchorage Superior Judge Morgan Christen denied a request by Alaskans for Efficient Government to force the governor to begin studying the cost of such a move.

The group, led by Uwe Kalenka, had sought to have the estimated cost of the move by the time voters acted on a ballot initiative in the Nov. 5 general election.

It sued the Knowles administration in an attempt to force the governor to appoint a nine-member commission to begin tallying the cost.

Christen's ruling is hardly a setback for the group since its initiative would also repeal current state law that requires such a commission to ascertain the cost.

But the group had sought to spark action by the so-called FRANK Commission out of fear that voters may reject their initiative because the cost is unknown, said attorney Ken Jacobus.

''It doesn't change what is going to happen in the election,'' Jacobus said. ''If the people vote to move the Legislature there will be no need for the commission anyway.''

The initiative would move the Legislature to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. If no suitable facilities exist there, the Legislature would temporarily meet in Anchorage.

Initiative supporters also want to repeal the FRANK initiative, enacted in 1994 to require voter approval to spend money to relocate the capital or Legislature.

Under the FRANK initiative, which stands for Frustrated Alaskans Needing Knowledge, a nine-member commission of Alaskans from around the state would determine the cost of the move.

Because of the initiative, attempts to move state government would require at least two separate votes by the public. If the FRANK initiative is repealed, the Legislature would be left to approve funds for such a move.

Alaskans have voted to move the state capital from Juneau in the past, but have balked at approving the cost of such a move.

Jacobus said as his group wages a campaign to support a legislative move it will be able to argue that it has not attempted to hide the cost of the move.

Opposition groups have alleged such a strategy in radio spots aired in Juneau and elsewhere.

''They've accused us of trying to hide the cost of the move. It's not our fault it wasn't known,'' Jacobus said.

Knowles spokesman Bob King lauded the court ruling and criticized the group for attempting to repeal the FRANK initiative. He said the court case should offer little political cover in debate over the cost of moving the Legislature from Juneau.

''Personally, I think it's a pretty small fig leaf to hide behind when you are actively trying to repeal the FRANK initiative,'' Knowles said. ''Alaskans need to know the cost of these proposals.''

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