Proposed changes will not improve state's Constitution

Posted: Sunday, October 29, 2000

Of the six ballot measures voters face Nov. 7, the first three are constitutional amendments.

There are many good reasons to reject Ballot Measure No. 1 which would prohibit voter initiatives about wildlife (see this column, Oct. 22). Two arguments, however, justify a "No" vote on all three measures:

1. Alaska's Constitution is considered to be a model document. There is no need to dilute it with unnecessary amendments, which these three are.

Amendments to the state and federal constitution should be few and far between. The Constitution of the United States has been amended only 26 times since being adopted in 1787. Of those 26 amendments, the first 10 were ratified in 1791 and became known as our Bill of Rights.

2. The proposed amendments tamper with a proven system of checks and balances. All three amendments would enlarge legislative power while taking power away from others.

In Ballot Measure No. 1, power to vote on wildlife initiatives is taken from the people.

In Ballot Measure No. 2, which describes what an amendment to the state constitution is, power is taken away from the courts to decide when a constitutional change is an amendment and when it is a revision and given to the Legislature. The distinction is important because revisions are done through constitutional conventions. Alaskans get to vote on whether to hold a constitutional convention every 10 years. The next vote on the issue will be 2002.

The measure also would take away the power of a court to change the language of a constitutional amendment or revision.

It's understandable that the Legislature does not like all judicial decisions; nevertheless, the power of the court is part of our system of checks and balances.

In Ballot Measure No. 3, power is taken from the governor and given to the Legislature. Currently the governor appoints people to boards of public corporations established by law; the Legislature cannot confirm or reject them. Under this amendment, that would change and the Legislature could confirm or reject appointees to boards of public corporations that manage "significant state assets." The exception would be the permanent fund corporation board.

It does not make sense that Alaskans would alter the Constitution to let the Legislature confirm or reject appointments to some public corporations that manage significant state assets, without also allowing legislative approval to the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. board -- which manages $30 billion in public funds.

More than that, however, Alaskans should consider whether they want to lessen the authority of the executive branch of government while enlarging the power of the legislative branch.

The three proposed amendments tamper with the defined powers of the three branches of government -- the executive, legislative and judiciary. Each branch has its functions and responsibilities.

As former state Sen. Vic Fischer, a member of the Alaska Constitutional Convention, wrote in a statement opposing all three ballot measures: "The legislative super-majority is playing loose with Alaska's Constitution. The three proposed constitutional amendments are a conscious power grab by the Legislature -- from the people, from the judiciary and from the executive. That's wrong and they need to be stopped."

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