Petitioners try again to put salmon on the ballot

Oral arguments in ballot measure appeal will take place Tuesday

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott has said no, but backers of a pro-salmon ballot measure are trying to go over his head.

 

On Tuesday in Anchorage, Superior Court judge Mark Rindner will hear oral arguments in an appeal that seeks to override the rejection of the lieutenant governor and put the measure before voters next year. At issue is Mallott’s decision last month to rule the measure unconstitutional and thus invalid for the 2018 ballot.

The measure, proposed by Mike Wood of the Susitna River Coalition, Gayla Hoseth of Dillingham and Brian Kraft of Anchorage, calls for improved vetting of all projects that affect salmon streams. Also within the measure is language that declares all Alaska water bodies salmon-bearing unless proven otherwise.

Wood, Hoseth and Kraft filed the measure earlier this year, but after they were warned by the state that their initial draft would likely be found unconstitutional, they withdrew it, revised it and resubmitted it.

On the second go-around, the state rejected it. Alaska’s constitution forbids ballot initiatives that call for specific appropriations, and Mallott followed an analysis by the Alaska Department of Law that found the proposed measure did exactly that. As lieutenant governor, Mallott is in charge of elections and what appears on the ballot.

State law allows the lieutenant governor’s decisions to be appealed to the court system, and the group Stand for Salmon, which has been behind the ballot measure from the start, filed its appeal less than a week after the lieutenant governor’s decision.

Stand for Salmon — represented by the environmental law firm Trustees for Alaska — is pressing for an expedited timeline, because backers want enough time to gather signatures necessary to put the measure on next year’s ballot. Backers need more than 32,000 signatures before the start of the regular Legislative session in January in order to meet the deadline for the 2018 primary or general election.

In the last week of September, the Council of Alaska Producers filed a brief in support of the state’s rejection.

The Department of Law analysis found widespread impacts if the ballot measure were to become law, and the council has expressed its concerns about this measure, the previous version, and companion language in a bill being considered by the Alaska Legislature.

Oral arguments begin at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.


• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.


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