Sponsor of Judicial Council amendment set on getting floor debate

Sen. Pete Kelly addresses the Alaska Senate on April 7, 2014. (Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

Sen. Pete Kelly addresses the Alaska Senate on April 7, 2014. (Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

The sponsor of a constitutional amendment to reconfigure the Judicial Council says he wants a vote on the bill, even if the outcome is not guaranteed to be favorable.

Sen. Pete Kelly, a Fairbanks Republican, has been trying to shore up support for Senate Joint Resolution 21 since Monday, when the measure was initially scheduled to appear on the Senate floor. A vote on a the amendment has since been delayed three times, because Kelly is shy the two-thirds approval needed for passage.

“If the rules are you can’t debate if you don’t have the 14, then not only is the issue struck down by one person, but the discussion about it,” says Kelly.

SJR 21 would make two major changes to the commission tasked with vetting and nominating judges. It would increase the number of political appointees on the Council, so that they would outnumber the attorney members two-to-one. It would also require the attorney members to be subject to confirmation by the Legislature. Kelly believes this will lead to more public oversight of the judiciary, while critics say it would politicize it.

It is extremely rare for the Legislature’s political leaders to let a measure come to a vote without knowing that its passage is guaranteed. Earlier this session, a constitutional amendment to allow the use of public funds at private schools was scheduled for a vote, but then pulled from consideration because of insufficient support.

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