Senator proposes electing AG

Sponsor says his concern is attorney general's ability to act independently from governor

Posted: Wednesday, February 16, 2005

In the week following the resignation of Alaska Attorney General Gregg Renkes, a proposal has been introduced that would make the job an elected one rather than a position appointed by the governor.

The proposed constitutional amendment by Sen. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River, would require a two-thirds majority vote in the House and Senate and approval from a majority of Alaska voters.

Dyson said he has considered introducing the proposal for a few years but waited until Renkes resigned to avoid the appearance of partisanship.

Renkes officially stepped down from his position Friday amid allegations that he violated state ethics law in the brokering of a coal development deal with Taiwan that carried potential personal financial benefits. Renkes owned more than $100,000 in stock in KFx Inc., a Denver-based company that would have helped develop Beluga coal from Cook Inlet.

"I wanted that to get resolved first on its own merits," Dyson said.

Dyson said his concern is an attorney general's ability to act independently of a governor who has hand-picked the state's top lawyer. But, Dyson said, electing an attorney general could insert politics into the position.

"I'm not convinced it's the right thing to do," Dyson said.

He said he introduced the proposal to begin a discussion of the topic.

It is not the first time the Legislature has considered such a proposal. Senate Minority Leader Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage, said former Republican Sen. Robin Taylor tried to pass a similar proposal when Democrat Tony Knowles was governor. Ellis said he opposed it then and he opposes it now, but Senate Democrats have not taken a position.

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