Tougher rules for initiatives fail to pass

Proposed constitutional amendment would have required petitioners to travel more

Posted: Thursday, February 05, 2004

Legislation that could make it more difficult for voter initiatives to get on the ballot failed Wednesday in the House, but could come up for another vote.

The proposed constitutional amendment, which failed by a vote of 26-14, would require petitioners to travel to more House districts and gather more signatures while they are there in order to get their measure on the ballot.

The proposed change is sponsored by Rep. Bill Williams, a Saxman Republican, who says too many initiatives are finding their way onto the ballot without substantial support from the far reaches of the state.

He had broad support, including from some rural Democrats, but because the measure is a constitutional amendment it requires a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate. If fell one vote short of the 27 needed to pass.

Rep. Mary Kapsner, a Bethel Democrat, supported the proposed change.

"I think this is a good way to ensure that more Alaskans participate in the debates that affect all Alaskans," Kapsner said.

She said many urban Alaskans do not understand rural Alaskans' traditions of relying on fish and game for sustenance, and it's hard for rural Alaskans to get their voices heard when initiatives affecting fish and game go before voters.

Rep. Harry Crawford, an Anchorage Democrat, argued against the measure, saying it would make it too difficult for people to exercise their right to make laws if the Legislature is not responding to their wishes.

"Make no mistake about it, this amendment makes an initiative not impossible, but darn close to it."

Under House Joint Resolution 5, petitioners would have to gather enough signatures to equal at least 7 percent of the voter turnout in 30 House districts from the last election.

Under current law, petitioners need to gather signatures equal to 10 percent of the voter turnout in the last election. But they only need to get at least one signature from a registered voter in each of the 27 House districts.

Rep. Norm Rokeberg, an Anchorage Republican, asked that the vote be reconsidered, so it could come up for another vote Thursday.

If the constitutional amendment passes the House and Senate, it would also have to be approved by voters in the general election this fall.

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