Voters should reject initiative change

Alaska editorial

Posted: Tuesday, May 18, 2004

This editorial appeared in Wednesday's Anchorage Daily News:

It's a good thing the Alaska Legislature can't amend the state constitution without the consent of Alaska voters. Just before lawmakers ended their 121-day session, they approved an amendment that would make it much harder for citizens to pass or repeal laws by voter initiative. Alaskans can block this legislative power grab by resoundingly rejecting it when it appears on the statewide ballot in November.

It's not as if Alaskans are running amok with their power to pass or repeal laws. This isn't California, where deep-pocketed special interests routinely get self-serving legislation onto the ballot by spending huge sums to get the necessary signatures.

The hurdle for getting an initiative on the ballot in Alaska is already fairly high and appropriately so. The number of signatures required is 10 percent of the turnout in the last general election. (This year, that's about 24,000.) Only registered voters count, and signatures must come from two-thirds of the state's election districts.

Legislators think that's too easy. The constitutional amendment would require signatures totaling at least 7 percent of the most recent voter turnout in 30 of the state's 40 election districts. Few petition drives will clear such a substantial obstacle - and that's just the way the powers-that-be in Juneau would like it.

Only 15 legislators refused to undercut Alaskans' power to keep the Legislature in line. Anchorage Democrats led the opposition. Voting no were Reps. Ethan Berkowitz, Sharon Cissna, Harry Crawford, Eric Croft, Les Gara and Max Gruenberg, along with Sens. Bettye Davis, Johnny Ellis and Hollis French. They were joined by Democratic Reps. Beth Kerttula (Juneau) and David Guttenberg (Fairbanks). Three Republicans opposed the measure: Anchorage Reps. Bob Lynn and Bill Stoltze and Mat-Su Rep. Bev Masek.

If your senator or representative is not on the list, you might want to ask them why politicians in Juneau should have even more freedom to do whatever they want - while making an already-high threshold even higher for citizens.

And be sure to vote "no" on this power grab in November.

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