State of Alaska settles local hire preference lawsuit, agrees to pay $50,000

Attorney General Kevin Clarkson
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Attorneys for the State of Alaska have agreed to pay $50,000 to a construction firm that had challenged the constitutionality of the state’s local hire laws.

In early-October, Kevin Clarkson, the Alaska Attorney General, released a formal opinion, calling Alaska Hire unconstitutional.

The lawsuit was brought forward by Colaska, a large construction firm that does business as SECON in Southeast Alaska.

"We took a hard look at it and there was no way for the statute to survive a constitutional challenge that was being made,” Clarkson said on Oct. 4. “So, rather than expend state resources defending a law that was going to be struck down again, we issued a decision to that effect."

The terms of the settlement see the State of Alaska pay $50,000 to Colaska but both parties do not admit to wrongdoing. Attorney’s fees are to be covered by both individual parties.

According to Cori Mills, a spokesperson for the Department of Law, the terms of the agreement had been reached “a while ago” but both parties needed to finalize the written settlement. The agreement was signed in mid-November.

Alaska laws that prioritize hiring local workers first have been consistently struck down by state and federal courts since 1960. The single remaining Alaska hire law still in place sees the entire state categorized as a “Zone of Underemployment,” allowing for Alaskans to be prioritized for some construction projects.

The attorney general’s October announcement that he believed the law was unconstitutional angered unions.

"I think the impacts could be catastrophic for Alaska. We're already in a recession, we have the highest unemployment in the country,” Joelle Hall, the director of operations at the Alaska ALF-CIO, said at the time.

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