Voters rejecting limits on judicial intervention in amendments

Posted: Wednesday, November 08, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Alaska voters Tuesday night were rejecting an attempt to limit the power of state courts to alter proposed constitutional amendments.

With about three-fourths of the state's precincts reporting, voters were saying no to Ballot Measure 2, which would have barred judges or justices from changing the language on amendments proposed by legislators.

The measure also would have continued to limit amendments to one subject. However, it would have specified that amendments could have affected more than one part of the constitution.

Former state Sen. Vic Fischer, a member of the Constitution Convention, said voters correctly rejected the measure.

''It's an irresponsible attack on the judicial system and a violation of the American system of separation of powers and checks and balances,'' Fischer said.

State Sen. Dave Donley, R-Anchorage, said he was looking for clarity in the process of amending the constitution when he pushed for passage of measure.

Ballot Measure 2 sprung out of Alaska Supreme Court decisions in 1998. The court ruled that Donley's proposed amendment limiting the rights of prison inmates was a revision of the constitution, not an amendment, because it affected more than one section of the document.

Revisions are sweeping changes that can only be made at a constitutional convention. Donley's measure was tossed off the ballot.

Justices also reworded an amendment aimed at banning gay marriage

Donley said he pushed the measure as a way to bring a clear, understandable test of what an amendment is.

But Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, D-Anchorage, said the unanimous Supreme Court decision was clear: ''Big changes are going to be viewed differently than little changes,'' Berkowitz said.

The Alaska Constitution has been amended 25 times since statehood. At least two of those amendments, establishing Alaskans right to privacy and establishing the limited entry system for salmon fishermen, would have qualified as revisions under the ruling in 1998, according to Donley.

He said the ruling was an invasion by the Supreme Court into the Legislature's power to propose amendments. He said the ruling sets up a vague and subjective test for distinguishing amendments from revisions and that justices will be able to reject amendments at will.

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