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My turn: Changes in Ballot Proposition 2 makes it unsupportable

Posted: August 18, 2012 - 11:00pm

The Coastal Zone Planning Initiative that will appear on this August’s Primary Ballot as Proposition 2 is very different from the Bill that passed the House 40-0 in the 2011 session of the Legislature.

As proof - only 7 out of 60 Alaska Legislators supported Proposition 2 when it was proposed as legislation in the 2012 session of the Legislature. Remember ­—

• There had been debate on Coastal Zone for two years, so Legislators were fully aware of the impact of the differing proposals;

• The vote in the 2011 session showed that all 40 House members and many from industry were willing to support reasonable coastal zone legislation;

• Yet, only 7 Legislators supported what will be Proposition 2 in the form of legislation - 6 Democrats and 1 Republican from Homer.

If 53 Republicans and Democrats can agree on something we should all take a step back and really consider what the Initiative will and won’t do.

When I came into office in December 2002, I pledged to streamline the Alaska Coastal Management Program because the current system was not working effectively. Some cases had resulted in unnecessary and needless delays. (Example Keith Koontz trapping Cabin Construction Permit, which took 7½ years just to get a consistence determination for a trapping cabin.)

The specific reforms we made in 2003 were:

• to consolidate permitting in DNR for all State permits. Along with the changes we made to the Coastal Zone Program we passed legislation in 2003 that made DNR the large project coordinating agency. DNR already had the most permitting authority under Title 38 and had the in-house expertise to represent the State’s best interest;

• Because we moved all permitting coordination to DNR, the Division of Governmental Coordination (DGC) was no longer necessary so we dissolved it. Because all permit coordination was within DNR we moved the Habitat Division to DNR. This was done to coordinate habitat issues with the other resource issues that DNR was attempting to balance;

• We required that enforceable policies meet a uniform set of State standards as determined by DNR, for the specific purpose of achieving uniformity of the Coastal Zone rules throughout the State;

• Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) permits approved by the State were deemed approved under the Alaska Coastal Management Plan. In other words, if DEC approved a permit, an applicant would not have to take the time to go through the process to obtain the same permit, with potentially more restrictions, from the coastal districts; and

• No third party appeals were allowed.

The Initiative that will be on the Ballot as Proposition 2 repeals these 2003 reforms. This means that DEC permits must be obtained twice - once at the State level and then again at the coastal district level, with possibly more restrictions.

The changes initiated by the Legislature in 2003 did not take away the voice of local districts as seen in the regulations promulgated in 2005 after the 2003 reforms. Those regulations deferred to the expertise of the local coastal districts and required DNR to achieve a consensus among the applicants, the permitting agencies and the coastal district.

Because it does not allow for amendments and corrections as legislation does, the Initiative process and is not the right vehicle for passing complex legislation such as the 15-page Proposition 2. As the AG pointed out at page 12 of his November 29, 2011 letter to Lieutenant governor Treadwell:

We note the initiative bill is long and complex. In places the [initiative] bill is not clearly drafted and contains a number of typographical errors,inconsistencies, and ambiguities. Also, some provisions raise specific constitutional issues or give rise to constitutional concerns.

The complexities, inconsistencies, and ambiguities will cause litigation and litigation will cause significant delays in obtaining consistency determinations.

Support for the initiative comes mostly from people involved in local government entities who want to have more control over state and federal decisions. This demand for more government stands in stark contrast to Alaskans who are saying we already have too much government in our lives.

I urge the defeat of the Ballot Proposition 2.

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