- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Here is a sampling of Alaska editorials:

March 24, 2018

Ketchikan Daily News: Read the thing

The Grand Old Party pulled a Nancy Pelosi.

President Trump signed a $1.3 trillion spending bill Friday. Alaska’s Sen. Dan Sullivan voted against it for the very good reason that existed in 2010 when former House Speaker Pelosi told colleagues who had a spending bill before them: “. We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it .”

They did then, and former President Obama signed it.

This time around the Republican-controlled Senate was given about 15 hours to read and understand the implications of the 2,000-plus-page bill. The House also had less than 24 hours to review it before its vote. Chamber leaders left no time for colleagues to do due diligence.

The Senate, along with the House, is following the migratory habit of some lemmings, which might lead to their political suicide.

Sullivan exercised his individual thinking, which is what Alaskans would expect; he wasn’t elected to vote blindly.

President Trump signed the bill reluctantly. Privy to classified information regarding national security, he says he believed he had to increase military spending and prioritized that over other objectionable items in the bill.

The experience has prompted him to ask Congress for line-item veto authority. Not surprising, but unlikely, if even constitutional.

National security is paramount. Without it, there’s no United States of America.

But Trump recognizes the legislation is a “spending” bill, and his supporters more often than not favored a reduction in spending. However, sometimes it takes money to make money, and that seems to be the view the president has taken.

Both Democrats and Republicans are being criticized for the bill, and not simply because they had no reasonable amount of time to review it.

Mainly, the bill doesn’t address immigration. During the last spending bill showdown with Trump, Democrats sought a solution to the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) problem. It was expected that they, the GOP, along with Trump, would devise a solution this month. It would go hand-in-hand with an effort to prevent illegal immigration and generally fix the immigration system that obviously isn’t operating as it should, but Democrats really made no heartfelt effort toward that end.

While Trump received funds for border reinforcement, those are limited and not sufficient for what he desired in terms of a wall on the border with Mexico.

The immigration issue, which topped many Trump supporters’ priority lists on Election Day, remains unresolved.

Whether a supporter or an opponent of the wall, leaving the Dreamers in limbo is unacceptable. Their parents entered this place illegally, bringing them along. Their parents raised them here, and it’s all they know as home. Their lack of citizenship needs to be addressed, as does the prevention of an increase in the number of Dreamers and other immigration issues.

Of course the bill is chocked full of funds for all of the states. Alaska will benefit like the others, and the state won’t give any of it back even if the majority of conservatives, and some liberals, here agree with reducing the federal deficit. Undoubtedly, it will be spent on some worthy causes and projects.

In days to come, the bill will be reviewed in the detail it should have been before the votes and the specific funding will be identified and discussed.

But, the fact remains, congressional members all should have been given ample opportunity to read and understand it before they had to vote on it. If it couldn’t withstand the scrutiny, then it shouldn’t have become law. The process lacked transparency.


March 23, 2018

Peninsula Clarion:

Out of the frying pan, and into the fire

No sooner had we recovered from our swoon over the announcement that the Board of Fisheries would meet on the central Kenai Peninsula for the first time in two decades for its 2020 Upper Cook Inlet meeting, than we jumped right in to the next fish board controversy - Gov. Bill Walker’s appointment of Duncan Fields to the board.

First, we’re thrilled to see the fish board meeting on the Kenai Peninsula - something for which we’ve been arguing for years.

The last time the board held its triennial Upper Cook Inlet meeting in the area was 1999. Since then, the meeting, at which the vast majority of proposals deal with Kenai Peninsula fisheries, has been held in Anchorage. While many peninsula residents are able to attend parts of the meeting, very few can stay for the entire two weeks, meaning that the board makes decisions with limited input from those most affected.

We expect that the 2020 meeting will be both productive and well attended, and that board members will get a better appreciation for the wide range of user groups and stakeholders on the Kenai Peninsula.

But like sands through the hourglass, so are appointments to the board. Fields, from Kodiak is one of Gov. Walker’s two nominees to the board - the other is Orville Huntington, who is up for reappointment to the board. Huntington, from Huslia, has a subsistence use background and has drawn little attention from interest groups.

Fields, on the other hand, has a background in commercial fishing and is a former member of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. His appointment, according to some stakeholders, has broken an unwritten rule of fish board politics as the seat to which Fields has been appointed is perceived to be a sport fishing seat. A coalition of sport fishing interest groups, including the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, have voiced objections to Fields’ appointment.

Of course, the rule about balancing sport and commercial interests on the fish board is unwritten for a reason: if those who drafted the legislation felt it was good idea to assign seats based on special interests (or for that matter, any Legislature since), they would’ve put it in writing. Instead, the statute governing selections to the Board of Fisheries and Board of Game call for the governor to make appointments “on the basis of interest in public affairs, good judgment, knowledge, and ability in the field of action of the board, and with a view to providing diversity of interest and points of view in the membership. The appointed members shall be residents of the state and shall be appointed without regard to political affiliation or geographical location of residence.”

The governor’s appointments are subject to confirmation by the Legislature, which means fishery management philosophy will be shaped by lawmakers. To ensure good fisheries management, lawmakers will need to do their own homework on the nominees, and not rely on the talking points from special interests. They will also need to do their own homework on the statute governing fish board appointments - and in recent years, when we’ve heard lawmakers parrot arguments made by interest groups that run counter to the statute, we can tell not all of them have studied up.

In his confirmation statement, Fields noted that fish board members are bound to consider all fishermen when making allocation decisions, and to consider conservation first. He wrote that “a commitment to preservation of the resource and equity for all users: subsistence, recreational, commercial and guided sport fisheries stakeholders . has been my practice in my thirty years of service in fisheries policy making.”

We encourage lawmakers to look closely at those 30 years of policy and base their decision whether they feel Fields’ record - and that of Huntington, too - will be a benefit to Alaska’s fisheries as a whole, and not to one user group or another.


March 25, 2018

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Enshrining PFD in constitution is unwise

The Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend is not an entitlement. Nor should it become one.

Yet that is what several unwise but populist proposals in the Alaska Legislature seek to make it by asking voters to add the dividend program to the Alaska Constitution.

A few such proposals exist in each chamber of the current Legislature, but only one has made any progress. Senate Joint Resolution 1, introduced in January 2017 by Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, cleared one committee last year but, fortunately, was blocked by the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 7.

And there it should be allowed to die. Alaska would be well served if such a fate could befall all such efforts to guarantee the annual dividend.


Because guaranteeing the dividend program may at some point actually harm the state.

There’s an argument to be made that distributing a dividend in dire financial times when the state has more-pressing needs would run afoul of the spirit - if not legally so - of the constitution’s requirement that the state’s natural resources, from where dividend dollars are derived, be used for the greatest benefit possible of Alaska and Alaskans.

The Alaska Constitution, in Article VIII, Sections 2, states the following:

“The Legislature shall provide for the utilization, development and conservation of all natural resources belonging to the state, including land and waters, for the maximum benefit of its people.”

The dollars that go into the dividend program come indirectly from the development of those natural resources. Revenue from resource development goes into the Alaska Permanent Fund principal, which is invested in various ways.

The earnings from those investments are allocated each year by a statutory formula and are intended for the dividend program, though the Legislature has the authority to spend the money in any manner it wishes. It could cancel the dividend program entirely, without a vote of the people, if it wanted to.

Senate Joint Resolution 1 would put into the Constitution a formula guaranteeing an annual dividend; it would not guarantee a dollar amount. It would also allow some of the earnings to be available for other government functions.

The annual dividend, regardless of its amount, is surely seen by each individual recipient as being the best use - the “maximum benefit,” in the constitution’s own words - of the permanent fund’s investment earnings. And businesses may see it that way also, because dividends are used to pay bills and to buy goods and services. Businesses often have special deals to encourage those dividend dollars to be put toward the purchase of big-ticket items such as snowmachines or ATVs.

But look at it another way, especially through the final seven words of Article VIII, Section 2. It reads, “… for the maximum benefit of its people.”

That could very well mean Alaska’s people as a whole.

It may someday be more important for the maximum benefit of the people as a whole to have earnings from the permanent fund spent almost entirely or in full on something other than a dividend. Maybe on schools. Maybe on the state’s transportation system. Money has been in increasingly short supply in recent years, as Alaskans should well know by now.

That means that the Legislature should retain authority over the issuance - and, potentially, nonissuance - of the dividend.

There’s another argument against putting the dividend in the Constitution.

Making the dividend a guaranteed annual affair further isolates Alaskans from the operations of government. Alaskans pay no sales or income tax and get paid, through the dividend, for simply being here. As enviable as that situation might be, it also means Alaskans might not be as invested in, and as interested in, their state government as they should be.

Alaskans should be left to continue thinking the dividend isn’t a sure thing. They’ll pay closer attention to their government and their elected officials as a result.

Enshrining the dividend program in the constitution surely seems an attractive, vote-getting idea for many people, but it is an unwise action when Alaska faces an uncertain fiscal future.

Discussion about putting the dividend in the Alaska Constitution does, however, provide an opportunity to remind Alaskans that it was the Legislature that created the dividend program. It was not, as some think, created when voters established the permanent fund itself through a constitutional amendment in 1976. The Legislature established the present dividend program - an earlier one was ruled unconstitutional - in statute in 1982.

The Legislature is the branch of government with the greatest control of revenue and expenses, and it should retain such control when it comes to the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend rather than succumb to the clearly populist idea of asking voters to make it a part of the Alaska Constitution.

Putting the dividend in the constitution would erode the Legislature’s necessary flexibility as it works with the governor, whoever that may be in the years ahead, to put Alaska back on a stable financial footing.

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