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Group forms opposing constitutional convention

Rep. Bryce Edgmon.
Rep. Bryce Edgmon.(KTUU)
Published: Dec. 12, 2021 at 3:23 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A group of former and current lawmakers has formed to oppose a potential constitutional convention, which will appear on the November 2022 ballot before Alaskan voters.

In a press release issued Dec. 12, seven people including current and former lawmakers among others, signed on as co-chairs for a group named “Defend Our Constitution.” The issue of a constitutional convention is placed on the ballot before Alaskans every 10 years, and the issue has always failed since the dawn of statehood.

The co-chairs include former Sens. John Coghill and Cathy Giessel, as well as former Fairbanks North Star Borough mayor Luke Hopkins. The group said that they have filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission and released a joint statement as well as individual statements from each co-chair in the press release.

“Alaska’s Constitution provides the foundation needed for economic and social stability,” Giessel said. “This is not the time to emotionally shred our guiding document. A Constitutional Convention would risk special interests and big money lobbyists rewriting it to suit their goals, not to the benefit of Alaskans. Alaska’s Constitution is not broken - don’t mess with it.”

Also signing on as a co-chair was former Speaker of the House Rep. Bryce Edgmon, as well as former Juneau mayor and Alaska Attorney General Bruce Bothelo. President and CEO of the Bering Straits Native Corporation Gail Schubert, former Commissioner of the Department of Revenue Bill Corbus and and AFL-CIO President Joelle Hall also signed on as co-chairs.

“Alaska’s Constitution is a model of simplicity, brevity and clarity in allocating the powers of government and protecting the rights of citizens,” Bothelo said. “When circumstances have dictated the need for change, this has been readily accomplished through a rigorous amendment process that requires a 2/3 vote of each house and an affirmative vote of the people. A constitutional convention has the power to start from scratch, with all the trade-offs and license to abandon the very institutions that have served the people of Alaska well since statehood.”

Well ahead of the 2022 election, Wasilla Sen. Mike Shower wrote in a Facebook post that he feels that a constitutional convention would be a method to permanently protect the Permanent Fund Dividend.

Those who signed as co-chairs in the group opposing a constitutional convention argue that it is not necessary, and that holding a convention would open the Permanent Fund up to discussion.

“I oppose holding a Constitutional Convention because the Alaska Permanent Fund and its original intended use will be adversely changed,” Corbus wrote. “I believe that the annual payout will be increased to unsustainable levels, to the detriment of future generations. Furthermore, the dividend will be anchored and set at so high a payout rate that insufficient monies will be available to help fund the cost of state government.”

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