Ballot initiative to move Alaska Legislature’s meetings clears early hurdle

Alaska State Capitol is located on Fourth Street in downtown Juneau, pictured here on Feb. 7, 2017.

The Alaska State Capitol is located on Fourth Street in downtown Juneau, pictured here on Feb. 7, 2017. A potential 2020 ballot question would ask voters to require the Alaska Legislature to hold its meetings in Anchorage. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

A ballot initiative effort that would move the Alaska Legislature’s meetings to Anchorage cleared an early hurdle on Wednesday.

Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer certified the sponsors’ proposed bill, meaning they’ll soon be able to collect the 28,501 qualified signatures needed to put the question to voters in 2020. After they get some official documents, they’ll have one year to collect the signatures.

One of the initiative’s sponsors, Camille Carlson of Fairbanks, said the more central location will save money and lives, because fewer people will have to fly. However, various analyses of federal transportation data show that driving is much more dangerous than commercial flight.

Wayne Jensen

Wayne Jensen. (Photo courtesy Candy Behrends)

Wayne Jensen chairs the Alaska Committee, a nonprofit organization committed to keeping Juneau the capital. He isn’t alarmed by the proposal.

“And now they have a lot of work to do, in terms of getting signatures. It’s a fairly high bar,” Jensen said. “This is not the first time that this has come up. It’s come up, you know, 10, 12, 13 times before in some form.”

This initiative doesn’t call for a capital move outright, but Jensen said the effect is basically the same.

“You know, it’s disguised in some different words, but it has the same meaning,” Jensen said. “When you move the meetings of the Legislature, that’s moving the legislative session, and that’s what happens in the capital. And so, those two all go together. So you move the Legislature, you move the session, you move the capital.”

Jensen said moving the Legislature and its support is costly, and that’s what’s deterred past moves.

Full disclosure: The Alaska Committee financially supports KTOO’s Gavel Alaska television coverage of the Legislature.

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