New ship initiative floated

Revision of cruise ship measure aims to correct legal problems

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2003

Sponsors of a wide-ranging cruise ship ballot initiative plan to submit a revised version of the proposal to the state today, just two days after the original was rejected by Lt. Gov. Loren Leman.

Based on a recommendation by state Attorney General Gregg Renkes, Leman denied certification of the initiative Tuesday because the proposal was not confined to a single general subject.

Renkes also noted that a provision of the initiative could establish a dedicated fund, which is in violation of the Alaska Constitution.

The proposed initiative imposes a corporate income tax on the industry, a $50 head tax on all cruise ship passengers and a 33 percent tax on onboard gambling. It also increases the fines for illegal dumping of waste from $500 to $5,000 and requires cruise ships to be permitted by the state and have independent marine engineers onboard to monitor wastewater treatment, pollution control equipment and heating and ventilation systems.

Taxes raised by the fund would be placed in a "Commercial Vessel Passenger Account" to be appropriated by the Legislature.

Joe Geldhof, a sponsor of the initiative and attorney for a marine engineers' union, said no substantive changes were made to the new version of the initiative, and that the rewrite was done simply to comply with concerns that the original proposal violated the "single-subject rule."

In a recommendation sent to Leman on Aug. 15, Renkes stated that three sections of the proposal strayed from the subject of cruise ships.

The language of the original proposal would have allowed taxation of gambling outside of the cruise ship industry, according to Renkes.

His review also concluded that it would have allowed taxation to extend to foreign-flagged ships and aircraft.

A third sticking point was that the initiative would have increased liability from $500 to $5,000 in civil actions for violating Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation statutes and regulations. Since this would have applied to all DEC statutes and regulations, Renkes determined that it extended beyond the scope of the single subject of cruise ships.

Renkes' recommendation also said the Commercial Vessel Passenger Account could be a dedicated fund, which is in violation of the state constitution.

"On its face, the language of the proposed initiative does not create a prohibited dedicated fund," the recommendation reads. "It states the intent that the tax proceeds, which are segregated and deposited in a special account in the general fund, will be used for purposes related to cruise ship activities ..."

The Legislature, however, would have final authority in using the proceeds of the tax.

A recommendation for certification of the original proposal took more than three months, but Geldhof acknowledged that the initiative includes complicated subject matter.

If the new version of the initiative is approved by the state, sponsors of the initiative will have to collect more than 23,000 signatures to get it on the ballot for the 2004 general election.

Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at

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