ANCHORAGE - A citizens ballot initiative that would impose new taxes and environmental rules on giant foreign-flagged cruise ships is expected to be decided soon in Anchorage Superior Court.
State and cruise ship industry attorneys grappled over whether petition organizers collected enough valid signatures of registered voters. The state says they did, while the cruise industry disagrees.
Judge William Morse is expected to issue a decision soon. Both sides expect the ruling to be appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the cruise industry and its allies are gearing up a public relations effort to defeat the ballot measure, which is scheduled to go before voters next August.
At the Alaska Travel Industry Association's annual conference in Girdwood last week, the cruise ship association placed note cards above all the delegates' lunch plates asking them to volunteer to help kill the ballot initiative.
The industry has been calling attention to the nearly 20 separate provisions the initiative would enact, ranging from a $50 per passenger head tax to corporate income taxes, gambling taxes and placing independent monitors on board to gauge environmental performance.
John Shively, Holland America's top executive in Alaska, said it's the most overreaching measure he has seen in the state.
Organizers of the petition say the cruise industry should paid taxes like other businesses operating in Alaska.