Petitions filed on accountability initiative in Alaska

Capitol Building in Juneau, Alaska

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - A nonpartisan effort by two legislators and an Anchorage political activist to encourage the Alaska Legislature to move faster on the budget got a boost Friday, when the initiative organization, Alaskans for Integrity, filed petitions for a ballot measure.

The petitions contained some 45,000 signatures, significantly more than the minimum to make the ballot, said Rep. Jason Grenn, an independent from Anchorage and one of the three primary sponsors of the petition.

Grenn refused his pay, after last year’s session dragged on and on. If the initiative becomes law, all 60 legislators would have to forego their daily pay – nearly $300 – if they procrastinate and fail to pass a budget by Day 121, which is the end of the session under the Alaska Constitution.

Under an earlier citizen initiative, the session is supposed to end at 90 days. But another sponsor of ballot effort, Republican Bonnie Jack, said the 90-day law can be changed too easily, while the Constitution is harder to amend.

The third joint primary sponsor of the initiative, Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tompkins (D-Sitka), was unavailable for comment.

The initiative would curtail other behavior by legislators, including barring them from accepting expensive food and drink from lobbyists. It would expand the rules for legislators to declare a conflict of interest before a vote, and restrict reimbursement for foreign travel. Foreign-owned companies would be barred from contributing to Alaska elections.

Grenn was at the Alaska Division of Elections with his wife and two young children, when the petitions were turned in.

"Today was a real exciting day," Grenn said.

He said legislators have no excuse for procrastinating on the budget.

"When you head down to Juneau, you know what the deadline is – you know you have 120 days."

Grenn added that the initiative appears to enjoy widespread support among Alaskans.

"We collected 45,000 signatures from every House district across Alaska," Grenn said. "About 6 percent of the entire population of Alaska signed onto this petition, which I think is a testament to how popular the points of the initiative are and how Alaskans are really looking forward to voting 'Yes' on this proposition."

State election officials will now have to review the signatures to ensure they are valid, before the initiative can appear on a statewide ballot.

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