In an attempt to stop Juneau's efforts to anchor the Alaska capital, two state legislators have proposed a bill that would require a statewide election to approve the costs of building a new capitol or legislative hall in Juneau.
Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, and Rep. Carl Gatto, R-Palmer, said in a written statement they won't support any plan proposed by Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho to build a new capitol.
"There are much higher funding priorities than building a new legislative hall in Juneau. And I certainly do not support any plan proposed by the mayor of Juneau that seeks to subvert the will of the people," said Gatto, who is seeking re-election.
For the past nine months, a commission headed by Botelho has discussed how to build a new capitol. Botelho urged Gatto and Stoltze to approach the issue with an open mind.
"We intend to be open in terms of the cost of the project and the plan of the project," Botelho said.
The mayor said a design competition, scheduled to kick off in November, is intended to stir discussions of what a capitol should be like.
Stoltze said there have been considerable "behind-the-scenes" discussions about constructing a multi-million-dollar capitol in Juneau.
Botelho said he found the statement disingenuous.
"We never tried to have a secret meeting," he said. "This is not something we want to hide from the public."
Both legislators said the bill will broaden and strengthen laws under the FRANK initiative. That initiative, enacted in 1994, requires that voters know and approve the costs of moving the capital or Legislature. FRANK stands for Fiscally Responsible Alaskans Needing Knowledge. The requirements are used to prevent efforts to move the capital out of Juneau.
Currently the law requires voter approval for costs associated with moving the capital and does not mention costs for constructing a new capitol in Juneau.
The legislation will be submitted in the upcoming 2005 legislative session.
I-Chun Che can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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