Make no mistake, the Coastal Zone Planning initiative that will appear on this August's Primary Ballot as Proposition 2 is very different from the bill that passed the House 40-0 in the 2011 session of the Legislature. Proposition 2 will do nothing more than add more government and another permitting layer that will delay projects and cost jobs.
As proof -- only 7 out of 60 Alaska legislators supported what will be Proposition 2 when it was proposed as legislation in the 2012 session of the Legislature. Remember --
If 53 Republicans and Democrats can agree on something, we should all take a step back and really consider what the initiative that will appear on the primary ballot will do and won't do.
When I came into office in December 2002, I pledged to streamline the Alaska Coastal Management Program because it was not working effectively. Some cases had resulted in mind-boggling delays that cost jobs. For example, it took Keith Koontz 7-1/2 years, which included a lot of litigation, just to get a consistency determination for a trapping cabin.
The specific reforms we made in 2003 were designed to speed up the consistency review process:
The initiative that will be on the primary ballot as Proposition 2 repeals the 2003 reforms. This means that DEC permits must be obtained twice -- once at the state level and then again at the coastal district level, probably with more restrictions. The initiative will move the Coastal Management Program to the Department of Commerce, so there will be no permit coordination at DNR, just the creation of another agency designed to issue another permit. Coastal District plans and enforceable policies will no longer be based upon uniform standards determined by DNR, but instead by an unelected board.
Proposition 2 provides no state standards to limit the extent of a coastal district. Thus, the coastal zone can extend as far up the drainages that flow to the coast as the district can argue -- if it can get 7 votes on the unelected, unaccountable Council.
Because an initiative may not be amended and corrected as is done with legislation, the initiative process is not the right vehicle for passing complex legislation such as the 15-page Proposition 2. As the attorney general pointed out at page 12 of his Nov. 29, 2011, letter to Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell:
We note the initiative bill is long and complex. In places the [initiative] bill is not clearly drafted and contains a number of typographical errors, inconsistencies, and ambiguities. Also, some provisions raise specific constitutional issues or give rise to constitutional concerns.
The complexities, inconsistencies, and ambiguities will cause litigation, and litigation will cause significant delays in obtaining consistency determinations and cost Alaska jobs.
The initiative is being promoted by government people who want to add more government and more conditions to projects that have been approved by state and federal agencies. More government stands in stark contrast to Alaskans who are saying we already have too much government in our lives.
For all these reasons I urge the defeat of Ballot Proposition 2.
Frank Murkowski was governor of Alaska from 2002 to 2006, its U.S. senator from 1980 to 2002 and chairman of the Senate Energy Committee from 1995 to 2001.
The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch. Alaska Dispatch welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.