Fritz Pettyjohn: Do we trust Alaskans to decide the dividend question?



In Alaska, lawyers decide who gets to be a judge. They control the Judicial Council and they use that control to prevent any judicial conservative from being considered for appointment by the governor. There are no dissenting voices on the Alaska Supreme Court. The lawyers won’t allow it.

There’s a simple fix: Repeal the clause of the Constitution which gives the Alaska Bar Association the right to name three members of the Judicial Council. This would give the governor the right to name all six public members of the Council, subject to legislative confirmation.

Such a constitutional amendment will never be proposed by the Alaska Legislature, since it requires a two-thirds vote. The lawyers have enough allies in the legislature to prevent that from ever happening. But delegates to a constitutional convention can propose an amendment by majority vote, and would likely do so if voters give them a chance.

In Alaska, parents don’t control the education of their children. The teacher’s union and the education establishment have a monopoly on public funding. Private and religious schools can’t receive any state support, because the Alaska Constitution forbids it. The Legislature won’t propose an amendment to remove this prohibition. Delegates to a convention could do it, with a simple majority vote.

The United States Supreme Court is about to overturn Roe v. Wade and allow state legislatures to write laws on abortion. But it won’t affect Alaska. In Alaska, the Alaska Supreme Court has taken complete control over the issue of abortion, and the people have no say.

A simple amendment to our Constitution could change that, but there are enough pro-choice state legislators to prevent that from happening. It would take a two-thirds majority, and the votes aren’t there. At a convention a majority could prevail, and give the voters a chance to decide the issue.

If the people call for a constitutional convention this November, it will probably be because they want to protect and perpetuate the Permanent Fund Dividend. Opponents of the Convention will use scare tactics, saying the delegates, and the people, can’t be trusted. Millions of dollars will be spent trying to convince Alaskans that they can’t be trusted. 

Who can be trusted?

Should we trust the lawyers to pick our judges? Should we trust the teacher’s union to control the education of our children? Should we trust the Alaska Supreme Court to decide abortion policy? Should we trust the Legislature with the Permanent Fund dividend?

Or should we, instead, trust ourselves? 

Fritz Pettyjohn served in the Alaska legislature in the 1980’s, and has practiced law in Alaska since 1974.


  1. We want Alaska lawyers to decide who can be nominated. Just like we want doctors to decide medical practices and reside on medical boards. We don’t want guys like Dunleavy to decide, because look at his lousy track record. He can’t win a case to save his life. His AG Clarkson was an absolute embarrassment to Alaska. He runs his Department of Law like a cult club, where he ignores the law and Alaska constitution, and pushes for anything that will boost his political authority, regardless of the law. We want legal experts, not activists, sitting on the bench. And while the victim complex whiners want to pretend any case they lose is because of leftists, really, it’s because their case was weak. Let’s be honest. Trump lost the election. Lawyers come in red and blue flavors. And the system isn’t rigged, it’s just that Republicans in Alaska would rather attack the system then try to work within it. This is no different.

    • Alaskans shouldn’t control their own lives because leftists know better and should make all decisions. Nicely summarized for you.

      • Yeah, and based upon the rampant, ideological biases prevalent today, having a place where cooler, wiser, knowledgeable heads prevail is a bad thing?
        The last thing this state needs to do is to politicize the judiciary. Giving selection of judges to the guys who win the elections is not only foolish, it is the third step to autocratic control of all our lives. We’ve already given up on the administration, are currently trying to give up on the legislature, so the only thing from completing the trifecta is to take over the judiciary.
        Watch the SCOTUS to see how this will play out. You might get the country you want and deserve, but it won’t be free.

        • “The last thing this state needs to do is to politicize the judiciary”.
          Oh my God, that is RICH, considering that that is EXACTLY the situation we have today! Requiring judicial nominees to be approved by the hard leftist Alaska Judicial Council is blatantly politicizing! But since it works to the favor of YOUR political side, you will defend it to the last, no matter how dishonestly or deceitfully.

        • Too late. The judiciary is already Politicized and unable to serve the citizens of Alaska. Unbalanced, left- leaning, whatever term you want to use. Super legislators is a good one,; getting to decide what the legislature meant instead of applying the laws they passed.

        • The justices of the Alaska Supreme Court are not cooler, wiser and more knowledgeable. They are judicial activists, who promote their own political agenda. It is also the political agenda of the Alaska Bar Association, and they use their power on the Judicial Council to maintain the ideological purity of the Alaska Court System.
          If you don’t trust the people to select delegates to a Convention, you don’t believe in democracy. You believe in rule by elites, or oligarchy. We fought a revolution to free ourselves from the rule of people like you.

          • All this push back is completely of a political nature. Nothing here indicates that those who are chosen by the Judicial Council are anything other than qualified. Isn’t that what we want on our supreme court, justices who know and apply the appropriate laws to make appropriate decisions, not political hacks hoping to satisfy ideologues who don’t have law degrees?

    • Thanks for speaking out John…your hard left position has hardened my resolve to vote for and urge others to vote for a convention this fall…I have never thought it was a good idea over the years but now think we have no choice but to have one and hopefully bring the changes we need to take back control and put it back into the hands of the citizens….

    • “…….Lawyers come in red and blue flavors……..”
      Let’s eat a few hundred of them to taste test your claim. Frankly, I think Dick the Butcher and Wild Bill Nelson had a better grasp of lawyers than you do.

    • My long-time observation of the Dept. of Law is that it employs liberal lawyers, almost right out of law school. Those lawyers then hide during Republican administrations; keep their heads down, etc. So of course when an unknowing fellow is elected Governor he’s going to be duped, blindsided, and rolled. Yes, Dunleavy’s first two picks for AG were terrible. And neither Dunleavy nor his multiple Chiefs of Staff (a similar Dunleavy problem) were experienced, cogent and observant enough to see it until too late. That’s how it goes.

    • I don’t think what you are saying is true about Gov. Dunleavy. I believe most law schools go light on the US Constitution or teach regional interpretations. The US Constitution is the law in clear understandable English with definitions from Bouviers Dictionery. I think getting accurate Constitutional legal advice in Alaska is harder than pulling teeth. It no longer exists for anyone.

    • I don’t want doctors deciding my medical practices or want there to be a board at all. Don’t speak for others.

      This century of governance by “experts” needs to come to an end. The tyranny of Roosevelt just never ends in America today.

      No more experts. No more half-assed elites.

  2. “Or should we, instead, trust ourselves?”
    Yes, I trust myself and a few other people. I trust also that humans are subject to many fallible traits, including greed, covetousness, avarice, self-entitlement, and self-aggrandizement. It is all on display these past 40 years of the Dividend.
    So if the question is “Should we give you a bigger Dividend or a smaller Dividend?”, then no I don’t trust The People.
    The temptation to act selfishly and irresponsibly is too great and is easy fodder for the pandering politicians and propagandists.
    I am not suggesting that the money should instead be used to grow government. We have actually been borrowing money (from the Budget Reserve) to overspend on the Dividend for 6 years now.
    As bad as the Legislature has become, I fear worse is yet to come due to the rebounding price of oil and the solid performance of the Permanent Fund. We should actually enjoy a surplus of income this year. But I am fearful that every last surplus cent will be spent on the Dividend instead of paying our debt to the Budget Reserve Fund (among other debts).

      • Thanks. But I do appreciate that Suzanne enables us all to speak our mind on MRAK. There are many good conservatives that read, and occasionally post, here too.

    • If you live in Texas, Louisiana or South Dakota and you happen to buy property sitting on oil…you likely become wealthy. In Alaska, no individual property owner has subsurface rights. Every Alaskan gets a dividend or portion of that wealth as they are each “owners” of the land. Big or little dividend, rich or poor Alaskan, bad or good legislature are all irrelevant to the PFD. It was created to ensure that Govt doesn’t spend it all. Walker changed it into a political football. Putting the original formula and process into our Constitution keeps it as it was intended to be. Free from political meddling. If you feel like you don’t deserve your “socialist” PFD, give it to charity.

      • I’m surprised you are a believer in the common false narratives:
        1. If subsurface rights were granted to individuals, a few would get rich and most Alaskans would get nothing. As far as land goes, there is no individual right to the owner state lands – only a collective right (unless transferred from the state as in the land disposal program.
        2. A ” Dividend” is a distribution of “profit” from our owner state. There has been no profit these past 6 years and the State actually borrows money from the Budget Reserve (which must be repaid) to pay excessive “Dividends”.
        3. Blaming Walker is a ridiculous canard since the Legislature cut the statutory Dividend these past 5 years too.
        4. I hate socialism, as you would no if you read my other comments and columns. The Dividend is absolutely Socialism of the worst kind: it perverts our economy and our politics as exemplified by misguided people like you.
        5. I will cash my Dividend as I have done for all 40 years. The “give yours away” is a juvenile argument for misguided people.

    • Yep, Chris you really think either party will allow such unfettered access to control and decision making? Not likely sir, not likely.

  3. In answer to your question, YES, we should “trust (average, everyday) Alaskans to decide the dividend question”.

    • Should we trust them with questions about medical care? Legal advice? Car repair?
      Inquiring minds want to know.

      • Yes, absolutely.

        Let the market create incentive structures that highlight who is trustworthy or not.

        Centralization of “authority” in any category leads to tyranny. Medical boards, BARs, licensing, you name it

  4. Here we go again with another Fritz schlepping for a contitutional convention piece. Since the PFD is a constitutional amendment, I am less likely to want the legislature involved, they already owe each Alaskan, what is it up to now, 10k? Teachers Union has zero to do with deciding diddly about the future of the PFD. They might want to worry about property tax payers revolting over the costs associated with the schools and their lack of performance teaching kids reading, writing and arithmetic. Lawyers??? Not a chance in hades. Their only interest is in who is the highest paying, for their efforts. It all comes back around full circle. The people who should have the final say on the PFD, are the citizens of Alaska. Please stop with the constitutional convention non sense, I for one am not willing to let anyone who maybe a delegate endanger my rights as they exist, nor should anyone else.

    • How is the legislature involved in the Constitutional Convention other than determining the districts or total number of delegates? After the people hopefully vote in November for the Convention, each community or district will vote on who their delegate is, the delegates will vote on the amendments and then the people will vote again on those amendments. The legislature is out of the loop on this for the most part other than logistical aspects at least as far as I see it.

  5. Fritz the answer is yes!
    We voted in 1999, with 83%, that is overwhelming on a single issue.
    The fear of another vote by some today is unwarranted.
    Could it be even a higher % I think so, only because our elected officials have had there way with stealing it for long enough!
    If a question to pay up all that wasn’t payed & the amount shown it would be a slam dunk!
    Thanks, to those that work hard to get that vote by petition like my dad , Ed Martin Sr, back then . Where are the kind of Alaskan today, they sure as hell aren’t trying hard enough. . If your going to” talk the talk then walk the walk “! as my dad used to say.

  6. It is time for We the People to take our state and country back. We need to do what it takes legally to place issues like this back in the people’s hands with a Constitutional Convention so that we are not controlled by any special interest groups.

  7. Hah. Don’t kid yourself regarding a Constitutional Convention. Using a similar analogy that the chief idiot in charge said recently… “it’s not who gets to vote, it’s who gets to count the vote”. Now apply that obvious criminal intent to a Convention. “It’s not what is proposed during the Convention – but who gets to decide what is proposed”.
    And then of course the outcome of that decision is decided by… you guessed it… “who gets to count the vote”. You can bet your bottom dollar that evil forces are already addressing these issues in dark back-rooms preparing to take control of both sides of this issue just in case there is a Convention. Any takers?

      • The statutory standard is that the legislature decides the amount of the PFD. There is no constitutional right, and a statutory right would be superseded by the constitutional right if there were one.
        I think a lot of the confusion arises from the several statutory standards that have been passed over the years, with the current one at the time, whatever it may be, determining the amount.

  8. Who do we have to contact to get rid of the guest commentator “Fritz” because we’re just about done with his hogwash idea of a constitutional convention. It’s like the deep state agents playbook- get a convention going, elect delegates who can be bought or blackmailed, strip away rights that were guaranteed under the old constitution, government become authoritarian and puts the beat-down on the serfs.

    I can hear the denial and “that’s not true” already being typed out to counter what would be the truth.
    Anybody remember the state law insurance scam? Alaska did not have a requirement to have auto insurance. People like “fritz” here lobbied and whined and cried that if there was a law that ALL Alaskans were required auto insurance, our rates would drop. Right. They passed the law and what happened? Auto insurance rates sky rocketed.

    So.. Whatever “fritz” says, do the opposite because he can’t be trusted.

  9. How many times have you heard or read some moron proposing that the entire Permanent Fund corpus should be divided equally amongst all Alaskans in a one time, giant payout? They’re out there. So no, I don’t trust them to do the right thing with the dividend or anything else under the sun. The very reason we need a government is because of these people.

  10. Why not get rid of the Judicial Council altogether, or at least emasculate it to the point where it only advises the Governor on potential nominees?

  11. Like voting can be trusted now. You people think voting works in a banana republic.
    Alaska is run by an organized criminal mob. Many Republicans are in office for self gain. Democrats are the most evil

  12. Wonderfully written Fritz. Independents, nonpartisans and the unaffiliated, who make up the majority of the Alaska electorate, should have serious cause for concern that the latest AK Democrat Party platform opposes a Constitutional Convention for those very reasons you articulate.

    They want to continue their political influence on the Judiciary that they now own. They want to continue indoctrinating our kids in government run schools. And they want to have the last say on which unborn Alaskans are allowed to take their first breath.

    The time has come to vote YES for a Constitutional Convention

    • NO. You see all peaches and cream. I see the unleashing of a hellish political nightmare. Alaska has bigger problems to tackle right now.
      If this whole effort is really about putting the Dividend in the Alaska Constitution then you are falling prey to the Seven Deadly Sins as first enumerated by Pope Gregory I in the sixth century A.D.

    • And you, sir, want to wrest the ability of the people to have some modicum of control over these things so you and your cult can rule and decide who gets to do what to whom and how and when.
      An Inquisition would be the next step. “Tell me sir, are you worthy?”

  13. Article 13, Section 4 of the Alaska Constitution that says “Constitutional conventions shall have plenary power to amend or revise the constitution, subject only to ratification by the people. No call for a constitutional convention shall limit these powers of the convention.” To those who don’t know, plenary means unlimited. I’m not saying we should or shouldn’t have a convention, I am still undecided. The fact that pro convention side continues to acknowledge this is really beginning to make my decision easy.
    There is almost every reason to think that after a convention there could be no dividend and there very well could be no Permanent Fund. There are people of all political persuasions who would be more than happy to take all the money in the fund and use it how they best see fit.

  14. That sounds like a great wish list. I could get on board with any of your bulleted issues. The problem is, the socialists and communists will have their wish lists as well, and they have different priorities as outlined by our friendly, neighborhood trolls right here on MRAK.
    The trouble is with the legislature you say? Well, my fellow Alaskans voted THEM into office, along with that clown-show assembly down in Anchortown didn’t they?This of course assumes that the elections have been free, fair, and legal, which evidence indicates at the VERY least is in doubt.
    Unfortunately, our Constitution is being legislated, ordered, translated, ordinanced, statuted, and adjudicated away. No, I can trust neither enough of my “fellow” Alaskans nor the current system to assure that our founding document is not conventioned away completely. I vote NAY.

  15. The governor should get all six and they should be approved by the senate. This maintains the checks and balances of the other two branches, and still allows for the public to have input, on both the selection and approval process. Allowing a single trade guild to control, not just who controls their profession but the legal decisions of all Alaskans, is beyond corrupt, even by Alaska’s standards.

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