Lack of transparency keeping Alaskans 'ignorant'

In regard to Matt Woolbright’s reporting on Alaskans ignorance of the changes that House Bill 77 would bring about according to a recent poll, it is not surprising that this is so. Some might argue that this conveys a sense of the public’s general sense of apathy when it comes to policy issues, but I have a tendency to believe that it has to do with the lack of transparency associated with our governing body.

Yesterday, a hearing on the newly-amended House Bill 77 was held. The draft is not yet available on the State Legislative website for public review. Nor have documents and testimony associated with the bill been added to the record since April 8, 2013. I am bringing this up because I know that during public meetings held with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources in Soldotna, Homer, Anchorage, Talkeetna, Palmer and Sitka this winter, not one person spoke out in favor of the bill during the public testimony portions of the forums. I also know that resolutions of opposition to the bill have been submitted by tribal governments, city governments, watershed councils and organizations, but have found few out of more than 40 that have been submitted to the aforementioned site.

Drawing directly from Woolbright’s piece, which published in the Juneau Empire on March 7, “When asked about the bill Thursday, Senate President Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla, said the bill would ‘be ready to be passed here in the next couple of weeks.’” It is infuriating to me that an elected official who has been chosen to lead our lawmakers in the Senate would state so surely that this bill is certain to pass despite the fact that there has been an outcry from around the state against the proposed legislation. It seems that he might as well be saying that the process is simply a set of formal motions and that the fate of the bill has been predetermined. Our lawmakers are elected to represent us, but when we tell them what we want they have proven time and again that they do not listen.

Public testimony will be heard on Wednesday, March 12 at 3:30 p.m. If you have been following this bill and are concerned about its reach and implications, please take the time to testify from your Legislative Information Office or face the committee that is hearing testimony in Juneau in the Butrovich Room at our State’s Capitol.

Melanie Brown

Juneau

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