I have a couple of observations about Paul Jenkins' June 3 screed against the "Alaskans for Integrity" ballot initiative. He claims the initiative would "gut any notion of Alaska's citizen Legislature." I think his real fear is that legislators employed by the oil industry might not be allowed to vote on legislation that cuts taxes on their employers. Remember, the recent action that cut oil taxes and short-funds our government, passed the Senate by a vote of 11 to 9, with an affirmative vote cast by two senators who work for ConocoPhillips, Sen. Kevin Meyer and Sen. Peter Micciche.
I think most Alaskans agree that it's unethical for oil company executives to vote on taxes for their industry. Sarah Palin made her name and was elected governor because she stood up to oil company corruption — it was her oil tax legislation that was replaced.
Mr. Jenkins' other complaint seems to be with the initiative process itself. He quotes David Broder, "the initiative process represents an assault on the Constitution." Initiatives enable citizens to address issues that our elected leaders refuse to consider — issues such as legalizing marijuana, raising the minimum wage, protecting Bristol Bay and campaign finance reform. Can we expect sitting legislators to change election rules of a game they know how to win?
Initiatives must be certified before the Legislature convenes in an election year. The Legislature then has an entire legislative session to pass a similar bill or the initiative goes on the ballot. This is what happened with the "Alaska Governmental Accountability Act," passed this year. Does anybody really believe the Legislature would have passed this law without the pressure of a pending initiative?
Initiatives are an important tool for voters to force legislators to act or to circumvent them when they refuse to do their job. I also believe Mr. Jenkins' opinion is situational, in that his opposition to the initiative process would disappear if an initiative he supported was on the ballot.
— John A. Farleigh