Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer at the legal advice of Attorney General Treg Taylor this week rejected a proposed initiative to enact a 50-50 PFD, which had apparently been filed in August under the moniker: “An Act to Restore the Hammond 50-50 Plan with Historical Traditional Resident Payments Based on ‘35 Years of Precedent Payments.’”
While a measure like this would have always been destined for rejection for a reason that I’ll explain below, it was rejected primarily because it was written like this:
If you see what an actual initiative looks like at this stage, here’s Ballot Measure 2’s language (hint, it looks a lot like laws, which look boring and typically don’t include yes or no questions).
In his memo, Taylor explains that’s not now initiatives are supposed to be written. They’re supposed to be written like, well, laws and this doesn’t even include the required clause: “Be it enacted by the People of the State of Alaska.”
“The proposed bill is not in the usual format for proposed legislation, and it does not indicate which statutes it would amend or create,” Taylor explained. “Indeed, it is difficult to discern which parts of the provided language are the proposed bill and which parts attempt to explain or interpret the proposed bill. Accordingly, it is unclear how this bill would be enacted into law.”
The measure, which you can find here, is sponsored by Michael Sheldon, Stephen Wright and Randy Skeen. They have the option to appeal the rejection to the courts (which had to happen with Ballot Measure 2) or file a new version.
The memo notes there’s some drafting changes they’d need to make: “They should be aware that proposed bills must also be confined to one subject, include a title that expresses the subject, and include no prohibited subjects.”
Of course, drafting errors aside the proposed legislation has the significant problem of the Alaska Constitution’s rules for what can be included in an initiative. Specifically, voter initiatives are explicitly banned from dedicating revenue and from making appropriations. That power is supposed to solely rest with the Legislature (a point that Dunleavy has quibbled over, but that’s for another time). Per the constitution:
The initiative shall not be used to dedicate revenues, make or repeal appropriations, create courts, define the jurisdiction of courts or prescribe their rules, or enact local or special legislation. The referendum shall not be applied to dedications of revenue, to appropriations, to local or special legislation, or to laws necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety.Alaska Constitution, Article XI, § 7. Restrictions
Though Taylor’s memo could have stopped at the proposed initiative’s formatting, it goes onto opine on this issue: “A proposed bill concerning the PFD would include prohibited subjects and fail to satisfy constitutional and statutory requirements if it dedicated revenue or made or repealed appropriations.”
So perhaps there’s another way to do a PFD initiative as long as it doesn’t dedicate revenues, make or repeal appropriations… That’s not something Taylor gets into. (And, of course, there’s always the option to change the constitution (as some hardcore PFDers are pushing), but that’s for another time).
But, hey, at least they get credit for filling out the rest of the paperwork. The memo notes that several previous attempts had been rejected because the group gathered its required 100 signatures with various, differing versions of the proposed initiative.
“The (initiative) application is in the proper form,” says the memo in closing, “even though the bill proposed by (the initiative) is not.”