It is becoming increasingly clear many of our elected officials (and their bureaucrats) have other, higher priority agendas than representing Alaskans. These agendas are exemplified in recent 2004 and 2005 Fairbanks and Juneau deliberations ignoring a vote of the people on the use of the permanent fund, and in repealing past state public votes banning the aerial killing of wolves.
Moreover, the current governor and Legislature have enacted a new law making it much more difficult for voters to put a public initiative on a state ballot to obtain a vote of the people on any issue. This very stringent law requires 31,500 validated and notarized signatures from about 7 to 10 percent of those, who voted in the previous general election, and from 75 percent of Alaska’s House voting districts.
In 1996, 58.6 percent of those voting in Alaska said ban aerial killing of wolves. In 2000, the Legislature ignored that vote and re-legalized aerial wolf killing, voiding the 1996 vote of the people, and subsequently over-rode the veto of their action by then Gov. Tony Knowles.
That same year (2000), Alaska voters restored the ban on aerial wolf killing with another ballot initiative.
In 2003, our current governor and Legislature overturned that vote of the people again! What about “No” don’t these politicians understand?
To digress for a moment, in a special referendum vote in 1999, 83 percent of Alaskans voting said “don’t touch my permanent fund dividend!” Neither Gov. Frank Murkowski nor any Alaska legislator can be so obtuse as to misunderstand that vote. In fact, Murkowski campaigned for governor on the premise he would not touch the PFD without a vote of the people. However, before the dramatic recent rise in oil prices, both the governor and the Legislature were discussing and-or proposing ways to use all or part of the permanent fund for various state programs and still are.
So much for campaign promises and integrity.
These and other votes of the people should not be able to be overturned by a simple majority of the Legislature.
Using the 1996 and 2000 public votes banning the aerial killing of wolves and the 1999 public vote preserving the PFD as primary examples of the will of Alaskans, and the apparent disdain of those public votes by the current governor and the majority of current legislators, it seems the people of Alaska need new thinking on state ballot initiatives. This could be a public initiative to preclude either the governor or the Legislature to unilaterally over-ride the avowed will of their constituencies.
One way to accomplish this would be to use the more recent, stringent law on public initiatives, which requires more voter signatures in more Alaska voting districts, to serve the voting public of Alaska, as follows: Put a new public initiative on the 2008 state election ballot which, when enacted, would legally require a subsequent vote of the people on any law, created by popular vote, before it could be repealed.
This would make the governor’s campaign promise, regarding a vote of the people on the PFD, legally binding. It also would preclude any simple majority of the Legislature overturning any law, created by the people, without a subsequent vote of the people.
This initiative would apply to any law created by public vote, as opposed to other laws created by the Legislature and signed by the governor. These laws created by public vote would then exist in perpetuity unless and until they were overturned by a subsequent vote of the people.
Note: If this ballot initiative action were deemed unconstitutional in Alaska, then the 2008 public initiative should be in the form of a constitutional amendment.
It would seem such an initiative would help preserve our democratic form of government (of, by and for the people) and help protect Alaskans from the self-serving agendas of many bureaucrats and politicians. Of course, another action voters could (and should) take would be simply to vote the self-serving politicos out of office.
Richard Hahn lives in Soldotna. He is a retired engineer with a background in the sciences, mechanical and nuclear engineering and a member of the Soldotna Airport Commission, the Kenai River Special Management Area Advisory Committee and chair of the Soldotna Library Board.
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