- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Here is a sampling of editorial opinions from Alaska newspapers:


Jan. 10, 2015

Ketchikan Daily News: Stay put

Ketchikan and Southeast like the state legislative session right where it is - in Juneau.

It’s the most cost-effective place to hold it in a time when Alaska has financial concerns for the Legislature to address

A move would be economically harmful to Juneau and Southeast, and, of course, the state.

Clearly, that’s not the direction the Legislature should proceed - hurting communities or particular regions when finances are already difficult. Or further spending money the state doesn’t have, either.

Instead, the Legislature needs to work with Gov. Bill Walker regarding finances. If that isn’t enough of a schedule, then lawmakers might consider cleaning up the law books.

Alaska’s capital is in Juneau. It is traditional that the Legislature meets in the capital city. But it’s being proposed that the Legislature move to Anchorage, where a new legislative building is located.

The argument for the move is that Anchorage is more accessible and the center of the state’s population, making it easier for the majority of Alaskans to visit the legislative building.

But those reasons can be turned to the advantage of the opponents, too. In Juneau, which is more isolated than Anchorage, legislators have fewer distractions from the legislative job. Living in Juneau for part of the year also gives them a glimpse of what it is like for most of Alaska all of the time; most of Alaska is made of communities separated far from one another.

Additionally, the center of government doesn’t need to be in the most highly populated part of the state - or the nation. (An argument might be made that Congress would better accomplish in Wyoming than the District of Columbia). With the technical capabilities, just about any Alaskan can view and participate in legislative business via the Internet. Internet service providers will see to it that all of Alaska has that capability, and it won’t cost the state new dollars.

But the key argument against such a move is that it would be harmful to the state’s and Juneau’s economy. The legislative session might be equated to the summer tourist season in the sense that businesses in Anchorage look forward to the former for economic reasons. (So do other communities, including Juneau). Anchorage wouldn’t want to lose that season on which a part of its economy depends any more than Juneau would the legislative session.

Moving the Legislature is also one step toward moving the whole capitol. First the Legislature, and then the executive branch. Then, then, and then.

That would result in lowering the population of Southeast even further, and shifting more of the political power to the Anchorage area. The number of legislators representing Southeast would drop as it rose in Anchorage. Even more political power in Anchorage would be foolhardy and unlikely to serve all Alaskans as well as the current arrangement.

The Legislature should stay put.


Jan. 13, 2015

Juneau Empire: Trash the capitol move idea

Last week, Sen.-elect Bill Stoltze, a Republican from Chugiak, went public with his plans to file legislation that would move the Alaska Legislature from Anchorage to Juneau. The capital would still be in Juneau, but the capitol would depart.

We have nothing against Sen. Stoltze; he’s no doubt a smart man. Unfortunately for him, he’s bringing forward a dumb idea. As the state stares at a multibillion-dollar fiscal gap and cancels projects to make ends meet, the last thing the state needs is to spend time and money examining a capitol move - let alone the cost of the move itself.

Should the Legislature decide it has ample time to discuss a move of the capitol, there are other pressing items it should probably take up:

. Moving Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to Southeast Alaska;

. Naming an official state color;

. Another joint resolution asking for Mount McKinley to be officially renamed Denali;

. and proclaiming an official state chewing gum.

Stoltze’s bill will go nowhere - Gov. Bill Walker has said he does not favor moving the capitol, and Stoltze’s proposal will be opposed from every Juneau legislator and (we suspect) many others tired of Anchorage being the tail that wags Alaska’s dog.

Bills like Stoltze’s have come and gone with past legislatures. In January 1999, Rep. Vic Kohring of Wasilla prefiled a bill similar to Stoltze’s plan. “I just thought I’d file the bill and see if we can get some dialogue going,” he said at the time. “Whether we get it through is, like in the past, somewhat questionable.”

Kim Elton, who would become a senator from Juneau at the start of that Legislative session, said bills like Kohring’s take so much effort to fight that they divert attention from worthy efforts. “The frustrating thing about these is you spend an awful lot of time and energy on something like this,” Elton said at the time.

What was true then is still true.

Capital, and capitol, move bills are wasteful. They divert attention from worthy legislation and gum up the Legislature’s workings simply so Anchorage-area legislators like Stoltze can preen before their constituents.

There is too much to be done this session. The Legislature must examine marijuana regulations. It must examine schools and public safety. It must manage the state budget.

Starting on the third Tuesday of the month, it will have 90 days to do all of this. It has no time to waste.


Jan. 10, 2015

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Legislature should stay in Juneau

Here we go again with the latest installment of Capitol Creep.

Sen.-elect. Bill Stoltze, who represented Chugiak for many years in the state House, has proposed moving the annual session of the Alaska Legislature to Anchorage.

When will this nonsense end?

Gov. Bill Walker has tried to end it quickly by taking the smart step of sending word, not long after Mr. Stoltze said this week he intends to introduce a bill to move the Legislature, that he supports keeping things as they are - in Juneau.

“While I typically do not commit on how I would deal with any particular legislation before it is on my desk, I do not favor moving the capital from Juneau,” the governor said in an email to the Juneau Empire.

Discussion about moving the capital - the only state capital accessible solely by air or ferry - has pockmarked Alaska’s history. Numerous proposals have been put forward. Of those that have been put to a public vote, all have failed. The most recent effort came in 2002 and failed by a 2-to-1 ratio statewide, with Juneau spending more than $2 million to defeat the measure.

One of the arguments put forward by proponents of moving the entire capital or even just the Legislature is doing so would increase access for Alaskans. If this is such a concern, however, why have lawmakers been so content with the shorter, 90-day legislative session rather than the 120-day session allowed by the Constitution and which was the norm before passage of a voter initiative in 2006?

So much for wanting more access for The People.

Today’s technology does provide for citizen access to our distant Legislature, even though the number of days they work is fewer. And the state’s system of Legislative Information Offices helps connect Alaskans with their lawmakers.

Proponents of moving the Legislature probably will argue they have no larger goal of moving the capital. Perhaps that is so.

But what about those who will come to power after them? Once this first step of Capital Creep is taken, others will someday push anew for that next step - moving the entire capital to Southcentral, where much of the state’s power already resides.

Moving the capital would ravage the economy of Juneau, where state government is the largest employer.

When will the covetous leaders from Southcentral Alaska cease this effort? Probably never.

Alaska has larger issues to concern itself with now than this.

Discussion about moving the Legislature or the capital might not seem to be something of concern to residents of Interior Alaska, but Fairbanks can ill afford a further consolidation of state power in Anchorage. Juneau always will need all the friends it can get on this issue, and it should be able to count on Fairbanks for support.

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