In this 2011 file photo, Alaska Department of Revenue Commissioner Bryan Butcher speaks to the House Finance Committee at the Capitol. (Michael Penn ι Juneau Empire)

In this 2011 file photo, Alaska Department of Revenue Commissioner Bryan Butcher speaks to the House Finance Committee at the Capitol. (Michael Penn ι Juneau Empire)

Initiative would move Legislature’s meetings to Anchorage

Anchorage group working toward a ballot initiative

An Anchorage group is striving to let voters decide whether the Alaska Legislature should meet in Anchorage rather than Juneau.

The Equal Access Alaska-backed voter initiative — which would require “meetings of the Alaska Legislature to be held in Anchorage” — was filed with the Alaska Division of Elections on Feb. 4. The petition application is under review, according to the division’s website.

“All regular and special meetings of the Alaska Legislature shall be held in the Municipality of Anchorage, Alaska,” the initiatives states. The initiative would repeal from statute and regulations “any and all language” that says the Legislature should be held in the capital or a location other than Anchorage.

Dave Bronson of Anchorage is chairing Equal Access Alaska. A voicemail was left with him on Friday afternoon.

According to Equal Access Alaska’s website, the group promoting this initiative, their goal is to collect signatures in 2019, and have the initiative placed on the Nov. 3, 2020 ballot.

Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai explained what it means to have a petition application pending. Right now the Department of Law has until April 8 to review the initiative to see that it meets statutory and constitutional requirements. If the Department of Law approves, petition booklets are delivered to the sponsors.

[Seward statue takes place in front of Capitol]

Typically, Equal Access Alaska would have a year to collect the required signatures. However, if the group wants this on the 2020 ballot, the signatures must be collected before the 31st Legislative Session reconvenes on Jan. 15, 2020.

“We want the legacy of back door deals and corruption to stop tainting our state’s reputation,” the Equal Access Alaska, website says. “The legislature belongs to the people, and the people must have reasonable and affordable access to their legislators while in session.”

Alaska statute guarantees, “the people their right to know and to approve in advance all costs of relocating the capital or the legislature; to insure that the people will have an opportunity to make an informed and objective decision on relocating the capital,” the initiative cites. However, this initiative states this statute would not apply because “this initiative only deals with meetings.”

“Juneau is our state capitol, and it should remain as such,” the website continues. “Moving the entire government from Juneau isn’t fiscally responsible, but putting the legislature within reasonable and affordable reach of the voters is. We want face-to-face access to our elected officials while they make important decisions affecting all Alaskans.”

How likely is it a voter initiative would work? History proves the move is difficult. Legislators have tried many times to move the capital to Anchorage, since statehood was enacted in 1959. In fact, Rep. George Rauscher, R-Sutton, recently introduced House Bill 2, which would require the Legislative Sessions to be held in the Anchorage Legislative Information Office.


• Contact reporter Kevin Baird at 523-2258 or kbaird@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @alaska_kev.


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