Elise Patkotak: Legislature worries about 'outlaw' feds while ignoring state needs

Elise Patkotak

Our legislators clearly feel that the Civil War really didn't solve the issue of federal versus state law. So they've made the bold, albeit somewhat insane, move toward passing a bill that would allow state law enforcement officers to arrest federal law enforcement officers if they attempt to enforce a law that they think is illegal under the Alaska Constitution. When they took that oath of office to uphold the federal constitution -- well, they had their fingers crossed so it didn't count. Because, as all real Alaskans know, we don't care how they do it in the Lower 48. This is Alaska. We'll do it our way.

Here's one thing that really has me wondering, though. According to the Alaska Supreme Court, the Alaska Constitution's privacy guarantees are so strong that they protect individuals possessing two ounces or less of marijuana. Yet the feds can still prosecute Alaskans for that possession. So I'm wondering when the Legislature will be introducing a bill that allows Alaska law officers to arrest any federal agents who attempt to bust an Alaskan for pot possession?

It looks to me as though our Legislature is again picking and choosing which of our constitutionally protected rights they will stand up for and which they will simply turn their faces from as the feds run roughshod over us.

Given the recent trial and conviction of Schaeffer Cox and his militia cronies for attempting to extract retribution against judges and law enforcement based on their perception of the wrongs being done to them, and their right to respond to those wrongs with violence, you'd think our legislators might have hesitated a moment before all but declaring war on federal enforcement officials. After all, if the Legislature can thumb its nose at the feds, doesn't that give individuals ample cover to do the same?

I am very confused about how our Legislature has time to pass bills they admit are probably illegal and unenforceable but don't have time to really do something about the all too real problems facing Alaska. Maybe I missed it, but where is the urgency of the debate over how to keep the heat on for people in this state as Southcentral runs out of gas and the Interior and Bush villages pay more monthly for heating fuel than most people pay for their mortgage? Where are the debates over how to really deal with the problems caused by alcohol abuse and domestic violence? I know the governor claims he's made violence against women his priority. But precious little leadership seems to be coming out of Juneau to deal with the problem. And quite honestly, if people don't feel safe in their own homes, nothing else tends to matter very much. When you are getting beaten up on a regular basis, whether your house is toasty warm, cold or too hot is not a priority.

I understand that gun rights advocates are feeling threatened, are feeling that the government is trying to abridge what they consider a right that cannot in any way at all be limited or controlled. They accept that free speech can be limited so that crying "Fire!" in a full theater that is not actually on fire is against the law. They accept that a woman and her doctor have no privacy rights when it comes to her reproductive health. They accept that separation of church and state shouldn't really matter when it comes to providing funds for religious schools. But suggest background checks for all gun purchases and watch their panties twist into a big wad.

It's interesting to watch how some people can view certain parts of the U.S. Constitution as sacred and other parts as merely strong suggestions. It's not unlike the way we follow the Ten Commandments. Thou shalt not kill becomes merely a suggestion that can be tabled with a stand your ground law.

So while we face some daunting problems out here in the real world, our legislators pass bills that do nothing and mean nothing except for giving them an empty gesture to bring back to their constituents. And maybe give some extremists the final reason needed to take violent action against law enforcement officers.

Once again we have proof positive that you can't underestimate the intelligence of the people we elect to serve us.

Elise Patkotak is an Alaska writer and author of "Parallel Logic," a memoir of her 28 years in Barrow. Web site, www.elisepatkotak.com.

Elise Patkotak