A petition to put Senate Bill 21 on the 2014 primary ballot has received enough signatures, according to the Division of Elections.
Volunteer petitioners gathered more than 51,000 signatures. Of those, 31,673 signatures have been counted as qualified; 30,169 signatures were needed. Those signatures had to come from at least 7 percent of voters in 30 of Alaska’s House districts; so far, 34 of 40 districts exceeded that requirement.
SB 21 — which passed the House and Senate during the last session — would give tax breaks to oil and gas producers. Supporters of the bill, including Gov. Sean Parnell, say it would spur economic growth by encouraging gas and oil production. Opponents say it’s a giveaway of the state’s natural resources.
Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said elections workers will finish counting the remaining signatures before the final numbers are sent to Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell for certification. The certification process is governed by state statute; Treadwell would have to determine that the petition was improperly filed to not certify it. Once certified, state statute allows opponents 30 days to challenge the petitions in Superior Court.
“I’ve had a lot of experience in oil and gas law, I’ve done a lot of negotiation with oil companies and I’m very familiar with this bill and we gave up way too much to those companies without any promises in return. It was just a bill that had so much in it that didn’t make sense for Alaska and I’m very relieved to see that it looks like it will be on the ballot.”
– Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau
“It was a big effort and there was a time before the 4th of July when the numbers weren’t clear and we thought we might not make it. This is very gratifying and it’s a big relief. Clearly, everybody has some trepidations about the campaign. It’s going to be tough and there’s going to be a lot of money put into it; there are billions of dollars at stake so we can only imagine what we’re in for. I think that people will understand that this a David and Goliath sort of thing. I’m confident that we’re going win.”
– Gordon Harrison, Juneau SB 21 petition organizer