Article 2 of Alaska’s Constitution states: “All political power is inherent in the people. All government originates with the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the people as a whole.”
We have new legislators who will take office this coming January. As part of the Legislature, they and those who were re-elected to office have a number of important issues to deal with, aside from money. One of those is the recognition that our constitutional rights are not optional in an emergency. Another is the overreaching by local jurisdictions that go beyond the governor’s mandates. Another is the challenge to the Legislature’s authority by the governor and the courts.
Alaska Statute 26.23.025(c) states that the Legislature may terminate an emergency declaration at any time by law. The current pandemic emergency is not based upon “... specific information...” as required under AS 26.23.900(2, E). This emergency was based upon conjecture: could be, might be, maybe, possibly, may, might, could. Conjecture. Not specific information. It was conjecture that shut this country and state down and is still destroying businesses and lives.
The new Legislature must deal with two direct challenges to its authority. The first is Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s renewal of his pandemic emergency declaration that was due to expire on Nov. 15.
When a governor makes an emergency declaration under AS 26.23.020 and AS 26.20.040, said declaration cannot last more than 30 days without the Legislature giving the governor the authority to continue the emergency beyond the initial 30-day period. In the current emergency, the Legislature has allowed the governor’s declaration to continue without any oversight, as is required under AS 26.23.020(c), AS 26.20.040(b).
In the case of the ongoing, seemingly never-ending pandemic emergency declaration, the Legislature not only granted the governor plenipotentiary powers, but also abrogated its responsibilities to the people. In doing so, the governor has seemingly unlimited powers to suspend Article 4 of the U.S. Constitution, and the first, fourth and ninth Amendments, as well as Articles 1 and 2 of the Alaska Constitution.
This overreaching must be constrained by recognition of our constitutional rights. The Supreme Court of the United States made this very clear in its recent decision regarding church services in New York in the face of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s orders to the contrary.
There is a reason we have a 30-day limitation on emergency declarations: to prevent tyranny.
We have a somewhat soft tyranny from the governor, but Anchorage and other local jurisdictions are going well beyond the governor’s mandates to run roughshod over local businesses and individuals. Violation of the governor’s mandates do carry criminal jeopardy.
What is ongoing in Anchorage by an appointed mayor borders on tyranny. Since when does government determine who remains in business? Exactly what is the constitutional authority for the draconian fines and threatened use of force against those who do not need a mask, and the forced shut down of businesses trying to survive? Where is it in the Constitution, state or federal, that a governor, mayor or village council can deny entry or travel to and from a village or town in Alaska?
It is sad that it is now necessary to seek language that must require the governor and mayors to recognize our rights in any declaration under AS 26.23.020 and AS 26.20.040 and AS 26.23.140.
While a local jurisdiction may declare an emergency, it appears that declaration still falls under the jurisdiction of the state under AS 26.23.060(a). One would think that the Municipality of Anchorage and other jurisdictions would be deferring to the state regarding any emergency mandates, given that the expertise for justification, management and impact of such mandates exist at the state level, and may not exist at the local level. It only makes sense that the mayor of Anchorage should not go beyond the scope of the state’s mandates. The Legislature must see that the state exercises oversight of a local emergency declaration, that there is accountability to the people and that our constitutional rights are not trampled upon.
The other challenge is the determination of the Alaska Supreme Court regarding mail-in ballots during a national election year. Under Article II, Sec. 1 of the U.S. Constitution, only the Legislature can change state election law affecting a presidential election. Given the election controversies regarding Outside voting misconduct, the Legislature needs to call for and require a thorough audit of Alaska’s Nov. 3 election, because of the reliance upon mail-in balloting and Dominion voting machines and software.
We cannot have three branches of government that disrespect each other’s authority. Nor can we afford to have a Legislature that ignores its responsibility.
Larry Wood is a 64-year Alaskan living on Lazy Mountain outside of Palmer.
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