Monday, March 26, 2007

April Advisory Vote

The Constitution of the State of Alaska clearly states that “all political power is inherent in the people.” In October of last year, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in favor of granting employee benefits to same-sex couples, in effect undermining this constitutional provision and establishing its own will as having precedent over the will of the people of Alaska.
I believe the court deliberately ignored the message sent by Alaskan voters in 1998 when citizens overwhelmingly voted to amend the Constitution to read that “a marriage may only exist between a man and a woman.” I believe the key to correcting this misdeed and reestablishing the constitutionally guaranteed series of checks-and-balances is the April 3rd advisory vote on same- sex benefits. I will vote “YES” on the April ballot in order to give legislators the extra push toward amending the constitution again.

Some objections to the vote are based on three different ideas:

1. The advisory vote is estimated to cost one million dollars; the legislature can find a better purpose for the money.

The Supreme Court has ordered Alaskans to pay for a benefit that the majority of people disagree with philosophically. Once the state requires same-sex benefits for partners of state employees, it is only a few more legal steps until private businesses are forced to provide the same benefits lest they “discriminate”. Such a broad-reaching policy decision deserves to be openly debated in a broad public venue – that debate costs money. I believe there is no better way for Alaska’s money to be spent than by furthering the will of the people.

2. Objection to same-sex benefits is a result of religious bigotry.

The issue at hand is not the morality of homosexuality, but rather the court’s deliberate misinterpretation of the will of the people of Alaska. The people voted that same sex unions are not the same as a marriage. The court set no mandates for proof of commitment other than a state employee’s designation on a form.

3. A special election will weary already skeptical voters.

Weariness is not an excuse for apathy. I am weary after every session, but the people elect me to support and defend the Constitution, and I believe fighting for this advisory vote does exactly that.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Ethics 2007

Legislative Ethics HB 109

Pictured - First ethics subcommittee meeting

The issue of ethics in government remains on the top of legislative activity this week. We are in the process of moving HB 109 out of State Affairs and into Judiciary next week. It is important that public trust in the three branches of government be restored. We are diligently working to clarify ethics laws so that there will be a ‘bright line’ for both executive and legislative branches as well as lobbyists and other governmental entities.

I believe that it is important that ethics rules are clear and understandable. I am working to ensure that the rules that result will be clear, and comprehensive, yet not so restrictive that it could result in a person being labeled as ‘unethical’ for a process problem.

To this end, my colleagues and I have embarked on a deliberative process in which we are tightening up rules and clarifying language while continually looking ahead for the possible ‘unforeseen consequences’ of the rules. I strongly support a citizen legislature, but recognize that this requires members to have careers outside of the legislative arena. The challenge is to provide transparency for the public, yet allow for us to live and work in our communities as citizens. I welcome your comments and questions as we continue to move this legislation through the house.

Pictured - State Affairs Committee reviewing HB 109