Friday, March 22, 2013

The Alaska Senate Stabs Alaskans in the Back - Time For Ray Metcalfe's Revenge? YES!

Ray Metcalfe at Occupy Anchorage, September 2011
I.  Wednesday's Alaska Senate vote may have been a direct violation of the most important provision of the Alaska Statutes, Title 24, § 24.60.030, Conflicts of Interest:
(3)(g) Unless required by the Uniform Rules of the Alaska State Legislature, a legislator may not vote on a question if the legislator has an equity or ownership interest in a business, investment, real property, lease, or other enterprise if the interest is substantial and the effect on that interest of the action to be voted on is greater than the effect on a substantial class of persons to which the legislator belongs as a member of a profession, occupation, industry, or region.
Senators Kevin Meyer and Peter Micciche work for ConocoPhillips.  Micciche owns stock in ConocoPhillips. The governor who proposed and ardently pushed this bill is a recent employee of ConocoPhillips. Senators Meyer and Micciche should have recused themselves from the vote, if not the earlier proceedings as well.

Though probably not a criminal violation by the two GOP senators, yesterday's session on this vote was the sleaziest display of Alaskan political corruption on the legislative floor since Ethan Berkowitz got up to protest Bill Allen's blatantly unashamed exhibition of vote manipulation, during a special session of the legislature, back in 2006.

Wednesday's vote was 2013's version of The Corrupt Bastard's Club.

Because of the obvious violation of a state statute in the bill's passage (the vote would have been 9 to 9 with the recusals, resulting in its defeat), I suspect this will be litigated before it can become law.  Perhaps for years.

The law may be thrown out, wasting millions in state resources spent defending dubious legislation achieved in an underhanded way.

II.  Meanwhile, Alaska's greatest muckraker, a background figure in the destruction of the 2006 Corrupt Bastards Club, Ray Metcalfe, needs our help.  He wants to put the issue of oil development taxation law up to our voters (emphases added):
Political activist Ray Metcalfe says he is preparing an initiative for the 2014 ballot that would restore a modified version of the state's current oil-tax regime should the Legislature adopt Gov. Sean Parnell's oil-tax cuts. 
"The objective here is to have petitions in hand so that if Parnell gets his way and passes something onerous, when the dust settles you've got people ready to put something on the ballot," Metcalfe said Tuesday. "I think (the cuts) would be reversed if it were placed on the ballot." 
Metcalfe, a former Republican legislator in the 1980s who created the Republican Moderate Party as a protest to the Republican drift to the right and then joined the Democratic Party, said his initiative was mainly copied from Senate Bill 50, the Democratic response to Parnell. Neither Senate Bill 50 nor its House counterpart, House Bill 111, have had any hearings in the overwhelmingly Republican Legislature, though the bills were introduced more than a month ago. 
Malcolm Roberts, a long-term aide to the late Gov. Wally Hickel and a founder of the oil-industry watchdog group Backbone, said Metcalfe's efforts could be "round two" in the fight against Parnell's tax cuts contained in Senate Bill 21 and House Bill 72. 
"There's still a battle that may be winnable to get enough votes to stop Senate Bill 21," Roberts said. He and other Backbone members were in Juneau earlier this week trying to convince senators to vote against the bill. 
"Let's not give in to this bill till we've actually lost it, and then we'll go from there," Roberts said. 
Sen. Bill Wielechowski, a lead author of the Democratic tax measure, said he'd back Metcalfe, depending on what eventually emerges from the Legislature. 
"I think he's going to find widespread support -- I don't think the people of Alaska support what's happening in the Legislature," said Wielechowski, from East Anchorage. "If it takes a popular citizens movement, an uprising from the people of this state to show that we're sick and tired of a Legislature that's not going to listen to us, I'm going be behind it 100 percent." 
Metcalfe said he has two versions of the initiative that he could spring after the Legislature finally votes, assuming it passes Parnell's tax cuts relatively intact. 
One of the initiatives would actually raise oil taxes, he said. The other would reduce the current progressive rate of tax increase as oil prices rise -- but it wouldn't cut taxes even as much as the Democratic SB 50 would, he said. Unlike supporters of Parnell's tax cuts, he says that Alaska's tax rates are competitive in the world, and more favorable to industry than in some fields in Mexico and Iraq. 
He has the initial round of 140 sponsor signatures for each measure, 40 more than required, he said, but hasn't decided which one he will finally offer. Metcalfe said he's also looking for two prime sponsors in addition to himself to make up the initiative committee.
Former representative Metcalfe wrote an op-ed back in February, detailing years and years of oil company manipulation of our legislative processes.  The Frontiersman and Juneau Empire carried it.  The Anchorage Daily News refused.  At least they carried Richard Mauer's story on Ray's initiative.

I'll be writing more on this important piece of democracy.  Let's hope others do that as well.

We need to get the petition for the initiative distributed, signed and filed in a visible, citizen-friendly way - ASAP!

Disclaimer:  I serve as Secretary on the board of Citizen's for Ethical Government, which Ray Metcalfe founded.


HarpboyAK said...

Just a tip to you and Ray: the best thing IMHO would be a referendum on the Legislature's action. The process is the same as an initiative, but a referendum prevents the legislative action from taking effect once it is filed. It must be filed within 90 days of adjournment of the legislative session. See AS 15.45.250 et seq.

Philip Munger said...


Stay tuned. You are right.

Bill said...

I am not a lawyer but the referendum as outlined in AS 15.45.250 gives me hope that we can overturn SB21. My household has 4 voters that will sign it when circulated and I have $100 for the deposit required.