Pro-move group calls for new election

Posted: Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Legislative-move advocates are contesting the results of a failed ballot initiative to move the Legislature from Juneau to Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and are calling for a new election in 2004.

Ballot Measure 3 failed by a 2-1 margin statewide in November, but initiative sponsor Alaskans for Efficient Government says the public was not fully informed of the costs of the move.

The group soon will argue before the state Supreme Court that because the public was not informed adequately of those costs, the initiative deserves a second shot at the polls without undergoing the petition process.

Alaskans for Efficient Government attorney Ken Jacobus said Gov. Tony Knowles' failure to appoint a commission to study the cost of the move prior to the election is grounds for a new election in 2004. Jacobus said he will argue that a new election should be based on signatures already collected.

"We want the FRANK Commission to be appointed and then we want a new election," Jacobus said. "So far everybody has to guess what the costs are going to be ... this time (voters) will have honest information."

The FRANK Initiative, a ballot measure backed by the Fairbanks-based group Fiscally Responsible Alaskans Needing Knowledge, passed in 1994 and called for a vote on the cost of moving the Legislature or capital. The measure called for a commission to be appointed to determine the costs of such a move.

The FRANK Committee, Knowles and the Juneau-based Alaska Committee argued such a commission would be appointed only if a move initiative passed. But Jacobus said the commission should have determined the costs before November's election.

Alaskans for Efficient Government argued its case last summer in Anchorage Superior Court. But in July, Judge George Christen ruled in favor of the state.

Christen noted that creating a commission to prepare such a report would "require significant expenditures of time and funds."

"Thus, the reality of the length of time involved in completing an analysis ... supports the conclusion that the sponsors of the 1994 initiative intended that the commission would be appointed only after the voters approved a move initiative," Christen stated.

Alaskans for Efficient Government appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court and filed a separate lawsuit in Anchorage Superior Court contesting the election results.

Neither case has had a hearing, but Jacobus said he expects the Supreme Court appeal to be argued in May.

Sarah Felix, an assistant attorney general for the state, said Jacobus has asked the court for four extensions in filing opening briefs in the case. The Supreme Court has granted the extensions but said there will be no more. Opening briefs in the case are due Feb. 21.

"The issues are the same as in the Superior Court case," Felix said. "Our position has been and is that a pending initiative does not require the study."

Felix acknowledged that there have been cases in which courts called for a new election after it was determined that ballot language was false or misleading but added it is unlikely the court will order a new election in this case.

The state has spent $15,000 arguing the case, said Kathryn Daughhetee, director of the Administrative Services Division for the Department of Law.

Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at timothyi@juneauempire.com.



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