Measure requires voter approval of Capitol move costs

Posted: Monday, January 10, 2005

Alaskans would have to approve the costs of moving the Capitol even just a few blocks away from its present location, under a bill in the Legislature.

The bill is one of 21 new proposals filed Friday before the start of the 24th Legislature, which begins today.

The Capitol Cost Disclosure Act would put the question on the ballot after a nine-member commission appointed by the governor determines the relocation costs.

The measure is sponsored by Matanuska-Susitna Borough Reps. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, and Carl Gatto, R-Palmer. There have been multiple attempts stretching back to before statehood to move the Capitol to Anchorage or the Mat-Su area north of Anchorage.

Stoltze said House Bill 48 adjusts the FRANK initiative, which passed in 1978 and 1994 and required voters to approve the costs of moving the Capitol to another city. FRANK stands for Fiscally Responsible Alaskans Needing Knowledge.

Other bills filed on Friday

• Land purchases: House Bill 57 by Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch, R-Juneau, allows the director of the Division of Mining, Land and Water to buy land on behalf of the state for sale by the federal government.

• Nurse housing loans: Senate Bill 34 by Sen. Gary Wilken, R-Fairbanks, would provide home loans for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses.

• First aid class: Senate Bill 35 by Sen. Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage, requires high school students to complete a course in first aid before graduating.

• Absentee ballots: Senate Bill 36 by Sen. Gene Therriault, R-North Pole, prevents political parties from submitting paperwork for individuals to vote by absentee ballot.

The bill also tasks the FRANK Commission with determining the cost of keeping the Capitol in Juneau.

Stoltze said the issue had been dormant in his district since the failed move attempt in 2002. He said Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho's creation of the Capitol Planning Committee in 2003 to study building a new legislative hall in Juneau brought the issue back up.

"He's the one who's ignited the passion in my district," Stoltze said.

Juneau Rep. Kim Elton filed three bills on Friday. One requires the lieutenant governor to appoint a five-member committee to prepare ballot titles and proposition language for citizen initiatives. The lieutenant governor can rewrite the ballot language after the committee submits its recommended language, but he has to explain the changes, Elton said.

The committee would be made up of two opponents, two supporters and one of three names submitted by the chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court.

Elton said the bill is not directly in response to a lawsuit in September 2004 charging Lt. Gov. Loren Leman with inserting biased language into an initiative on filling U.S. Senate vacancies.

Leman was ordered by an Anchorage Superior Court to reprint some 517,000 ballots at a cost of about $295,000 to the state. A month later an Anchorage Superior Judge ruled that a member of Leman's staff wrongly wrote an opposition statement for an initiative that would have legalized marijuana.

Elton said the events in last year's election were "a reminder" of the problem of conflicts of interest and perceived conflicts.

"This has been a point of tension for a long period of time," Elton said.

Elton also has proposed modifying the state's oil production tax structure, known as the Economic Limit Factor, or ELF. Another bill would change regulations in transporting dead bodies.

State regulations now require that bodies be embalmed if they are shipped to the Lower 48. Elton said the bill was filed on behalf of constituents who say the regulation is outdated and conflicts with Jewish precepts.

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