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Politics

A Run Down of the 2014 Election Ballot Measures

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DILLINGHAM-- Tuesday is Election Day and there are three measures on this year’s ballot.  

Ballot proposal two is probably the most contentious measure statewide this year.  It would tax and regulate the production, sale and use of marijuana in Alaska.  Prop two would make the use of marijuana legal for anyone 21 or older as well as allow a person to possess, use, show, buy or grow set amounts.

Proponents of prop two, like spokesperson for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Taylor Bickford, say regulating marijuana would simply regulate an industry that is already in the state and bring money to Alaska.  He spoke to APRN’s Steve Heimel on Talk of Alaska last month.

“I think there are people on the other side of this issue that honestly believe this will air drop marijuana into the state for the first time. The fact is this is an issue that employers are currently dealing with and you heard the same kind of scare tactics on the campaign trail in Colorado. They said the economy is going to go into the gutter, we are going to have all of these impacts on the economy—Colorado’s economy is booming.”

However, opponents aren’t convinced.  Executive director of the Alaska Association of Chiefs of Police Kalie Claysmat was also on that Talk of Alaska panel.  She says Alaska wouldn’t actually save that much money in law enforcement if prop two passed.

“The numbers of people that are imprisoned and so forth now that are convicted of marijuana, the numbers are very, very small. The majority of them have a lot of other charges as well. So it’s not like the doors are going to open and people are going to go free. I mean, we have a lot of simultaneous or concurrent convictions for anything from sexual assault to misconduct involving weapons, it’s going to be a problem.”

Next there’s ballot measure three which seems to be the least talked about initiative this year.  It would raise the minimum wage in Alaska from its current $7.75 to $8.75 in 2015 and raise it again to $9.75 in 2016. 

Ed Flanagan is a sponsor of the bill.  He calls this bill a “modest proposal.”

“So who’s effected? The actual number of minimum wage workers, and it’s really an indication of how out of whack our minimum wage is, it’s only about three thousand as the Department of Labor has estimated. But you always got to look at the people who are going to benefit who are making less than what you propose to raise it to. And those directly impacted workers in Alaska, those making less than $9.75 on January first 2016 as measured by the Department of Labor, 28,000 workers. Now you take a modest one dollar higher than what you’re taking it to, pretty standard calculation of folks that are probably also going to get a raise, the so called indirectly effected, that’s 20,000 more folks.”

However, opponents like the National Federation of Independent Business Leadership Council member Kevin Turkington says more than 50 percent of the minimum wage workers in Alaska are under the age of 24.  He says raising the minimum wage would hurt these young people as they attempt to enter the work force.

“After the last federal increase in the minimum wage, 1.5 million teenage jobs disappeared in the following six months and that was in a period of economic recovery when more jobs should have been available.”

Finally, ballot measure four is a big deal, particularly in Dillingham.  Prop four, or Bristol Bay Forever, would prohibit mining projects if harmful to wild salmon in fisheries reserve. 

Executive director of the Renewable Resources Foundation Anders Gustafson met with the citizens in Dillingham in early October on behalf of those in support of prop four. He says when the fisheries reserve was created in 1972, it was right at the beginning of the oil boom.  The reserve stated that any oil and gas leasing in the region would also be subject to an approval of the legislature.

“Before an oil and gas lease is allowed to develop in Bristol Bay it needs to prove that it has to meet a higher standard. That higher standard is it won’t put the fishery at risk. It’s unacceptable for us, with a fishery and an economic resource like we have to put that fishery at risk. And this is something that I’ve talked about for years to the public about the issue around Pebble Mine, risk reward.”

Gustafson made it clear that prop four would only effect large mining projects, it will not affect what he called “mom and pop” mines.

Executive director of the Alaska Miners Association Deantha Crockett also phoned into the meeting.  She says she believes prop four puts politics in the middle of the mining permitting process.

“We really do have a lot of confidence in our sound permitting process and think that’s there’s really no room for politics to be in the middle of such a really important decision like a resource development program in Bristol Bay. I think with ballot initiatives there are too many unknowns when they are written, especially in regards to resource development. I think the intent is good, and I’ve said this time and time again, I think the authors of this initiative truly do want to protect salmon but you’re all going to be forced to vote on exactly what’s on this legislation, nothing different.”

So that’s it.  All three proposal measures that will be up to the voters of Alaska to vote on.  Now all that’s left to do is wait and see what Tuesday brings.