Committee looks at ballot initiative bill

Measure would take chore of writing initiative summaries away from Lt. Gov. Leman's office

Posted: Wednesday, February 23, 2005

A bill to put some distance between lieutenant governors and ballot initiative summaries was criticized by Republican members of the Senate State Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

Under the proposal, introduced by Democratic Sen. Kim Elton of Juneau, a ballot proposition committee would write drafts of the 100-word summaries that appear on ballots. The lieutenant governor would approve or reject the language.

Elton said the measure would depoliticize the process of writing the initiative summaries. The lieutenant governor, an elected official, writes the summaries as head of the state's Division of Elections.

The committee would be made up of two proponents of an initiative, two opponents and a fifth person to be appointed by Alaska's chief justice.

"I see that as a nightmare administratively," said Sen. Charlie Huggins, R-Eagle River. If there were five initiatives to go on the ballot that could mean appointing five separate committees, he said.

Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai, pointed out a section of the bill that said the lieutenant governor could just ignore the recommendations of the committee.

"The next-to-last paragraph says it all," he said.

Last election, Lt. Gov. Loren Leman, a Republican, had twice ordered off the ballot the measure to abolish the governor's power to make temporary appointments in U.S. Senate vacancies.

The Supreme Court ordered it back on the ballot. Before the election, initiative sponsors said the initiative summary, approved by Leman, was biased and misleading. Anchorage Judge Morgan Christen agreed, ordering all of the state's general election ballots reprinted.

The language of the initiative was rewritten and Alaska voters passed the measure.

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