Alaskans will decide in the November 2022 general election if a constitutional convention will be held. This question is asked of voters every 10 years as required by the state constitution. Over recent decades, there has been little interest in holding one as Alaskans have consistently voted down the measure.
Now, some say circumstances are different. Today, as we gauge public sentiment there is reason to think the voters may vote for a constitutional convention. Many believe our state is heading in the wrong direction — falling employment and loss of high-paying jobs, dwindling state government revenues, inadequate funding for education, rising crime rates, crumbling infrastructure, etc. In short, folks are frustrated.
Keep in mind that a constitutional convention is not limited to one subject. Any subject or issue can be addressed. Some suggest am Alaska constitutional convention would provide the platform to right our ship; i.e., make changes that some believe will move Alaska forward. Here are just a few:
Education System — move the financial responsibility from the state to the local government and provide equal government financial support for private schools
Modifying our judicial system to change how state judges are selected and an elected attorney general
Voter approval of any changes in state taxes
Tinkering with hunting and fishing rights
Right-to-work changes thereby weakening the collective bargaining process
Modifying the Alaska Permanent Fund provisions to increase the payout to an unsustainable level to the detriment of future generations and devoting too large a portion of the payout for the dividend
Eliminate the Alaska Public Offices Commission
Imposing gun control measures
Addressing gay marriage issues
And on and on. Finally, let us not forget that a constitutional convention could move the capital.
In my mind, the list of issues which may be considered and acted upon are unpredictable. Changes to the state constitution may not produce the expected results and unintended consequences may ultimately prevail.
Outside interests with their inexhaustible dark money purses may play a role. They may have interests contrary to those of most Alaskans. With recent rulings on political campaign contributions, dark money could influence the election of convention delegates and with a well-funded lobbying effort could effect changes to the Constitution.
Our Alaska Constitution, when compared to most other states, is held in high esteem. In the 1955 background research leading to development of our constitution much thought was given to the short comings of the other 48 state constitutions. It is considered a model and the looked up to by other states. Some say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
So, please follow the constitutional convention issue as it works its way through the political process leading to the November 2022 election. A constitutional convention is fraught with danger for Juneau, Southeast and Alaska as a whole.
Bill Corbus, a Juneau resident, is a co-chair of Defend our Constitution and a former commissioner of revenue.