Jim Crawford: Case for a constitutional convention

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By JIM CRAWFORD

Last Saturday I spent in Wasilla talking to forty or so pretty die-hard seniors about the  the next Alaska constitutional convention. Many were not convinced that the convention would actually happen.  I was a speaker along with Sen. Mike Shower, likely the most conservative member of the Alaska Senate. 

Combined, our purpose was to educate folks as to why a constitution convention was necessary.

The Legislature when it addresses constitutional matters must have a two-thirds super majority to pass a bill to add or delete provisions of the Constitution. If I were among those who think the Constitution is perfect, I would oppose the passage by voting no on the November ballot on Proposition #1. I did so for the last four decades. But this year I’m going to advocate and vote yes.

In preparation for the talk, I reread the Alaska Constitution from the first word to the last word. I noted those provisions which could require some amendment and here they are:   

Article I – Declaration of Rights

§ 22. Right of Privacy
§ 22. Right of Privacy

The right of the people to privacy is recognized and shall not be infringed. The legislature shall implement this section. [Amended 1972]

Article IV – The Judiciary

§ 8. Judicial Council

The judicial council shall consist of seven members. Three attorney members shall be appointed for six-year terms by the governing body of the organized state bar. Three non-attorney members shall be appointed for six-year terms by the governor subject to confirmation by a majority of the members of the legislature in joint session. Vacancies shall be filled for the unexpired term in like manner. Appointments shall be made with due consideration to area representation and without regard to political affiliation. The chief justice of the supreme court shall be ex-officio the seventh member and chairman of the judicial council. No member of the judicial council, except the chief justice, may hold any other office or position of profit under the United States or the State. The judicial council shall act by concurrence of four or more members and according to rules which it adopts.

Article VII – Health, Education and Welfare

§ 1. Public Education Public Education

The legislature shall by general law establish and maintain a system of public schools open to all children of the State and may provide for other public educational institutions. Schools and institutions so established shall be free from sectarian control. No money shall be paid from public funds for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.

Article VIII – Natural Resources

§ 1. Statement of Policy

It is the policy of the State to encourage the settlement of its land and the development of its resources by making them available for maximum use consistent with the public interest.


§ 2. General Authority

The legislature shall provide for the utilization, development, and conservation of all natural resources belonging to the State, including land and waters, for the maximum benefit of its people.


§ 3. Common Use

Wherever occurring in their natural state, fish, wildlife, and waters are reserved to the people for common use.

Article IX – Finance and Taxation

§ 7. Dedicated Funds

The proceeds of any state tax or license shall not be dedicated to any special purpose, except as provided in section 15 of this article or when required by the federal government for state participation in federal programs. This provision shall not prohibit the continuance of any dedication for special purposes existing upon the date of ratification of this section by the people of Alaska. [Amended 1976]

§ 13. Expenditures

No money shall be withdrawn from the treasury except in accordance with appropriations made by law. No obligation for the payment of money shall be incurred except as authorized by law. Unobligated appropriations outstanding at the end of the period of time specified by law shall be void.

§ 15. Alaska Permanent Fund

At least twenty-five per cent of all mineral lease rentals, royalties, royalty sale proceeds, federal mineral revenue sharing payments and bonuses received by the State shall be placed in a permanent fund, the principal of which shall be used only for those income-producing investments specifically designated by law as eligible for permanent fund investments. All income from the permanent fund shall be deposited in the general fund unless otherwise provided by law. [Amended 1976]

§ 16. Appropriation Limit

Except for appropriations for Alaska permanent fund dividends, appropriations of revenue bond proceeds, appropriations required to pay the principal and interest on general obligation bonds, and appropriations of money received from a non-State source in trust for a specific purpose, including revenues of a public enterprise or public corporation of the State that issues revenue bonds, appropriations from the treasury made for a fiscal year shall not exceed $2,500,000,000 by more than the cumulative change, derived from federal indices as prescribed by law, in population and inflation since July 1, 1981. Within this limit, at least one-third shall be reserved for capital projects and loan appropriations. The legislature may exceed this limit in bills for appropriations to the Alaska permanent fund and in bills for appropriations for capital projects, whether of bond proceeds or otherwise, if each bill is approved by the governor, or passed by affirmative vote of three-fourths of the membership of the legislature over a veto or item veto, or becomes law without signature, and is also approved by the voters as prescribed by law. Each bill for appropriations for capital projects in excess of the limit shall be confined to capital projects of the same type, and the voters shall, as provided by law, be informed of the cost of operations and maintenance of the capital projects. No other appropriation in excess of this limit may be made except to meet a state of disaster declared by the governor as prescribed by law. The governor shall cause any unexpended and unappropriated balance to be invested so as to yield competitive market rates to the treasury. [Amended 1982]

Rather than have a debate based upon fear of consequences of change, let’s debate and cost out each of the sections.  According to the rules we will operate under, each provisional change will require the positive vote of 50% + 1 to pass the convention delegates.  After that passage, all the voters of Alaska will then have to vote in a majority to pass the amendment.  

My list is a beginning, not an end.  Others may want other changes.  I trust Alaska voters to know the right from the wrong.  What I’ve heard from Alaska voters for decades, is that Alaskans want less government in their lives.  Here’s your chance.  When special interests replace the will of the people, the people must react and correct those errors.

The Constitutional Convention gives each of us the opportunity to bring the operations of government back to its Constitutional mandate.  As stated in Section Two of the current Constitution “Source of Government – all political power is inherent in the people.  All government originates with the people, is found upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the people as a whole.”   

If you want to understand if we need a convention, just look at one example, the Alaska Permanent Fund. Legislators made a futile quests for a solution to the dividend. Each failed. 80% of Alaskans, as owners, want the dividend protected and calculated under the existing statute: earnings averaged over five years divided by the number of Alaskans who qualify. Instead, convention opponents, led by former Sen. Cathy Giessel, Rep. Bryce Edgmon and former Gov. Bill Walker espouse the special interests mantra “whatever is left over is what the people get for their dividend.”  

The only way to beat the special interests and take back the power for the people is to pass a constitutional amendment to give Constitutional protection the people deserve.

Let’s let the great debate begin.

Jim Crawford is the former President of Permanent Fund Defenders, pfdak.com, an Alaska based educational nonprofit corporation.  Jim is a third generation, lifelong Alaskan who co-chaired the Alaskans Just Say No campaign to stop the raid on the Permanent Fund in 1999.  He also served Governor Hammond as a member of the Investment Advisory Committee which formed the investment and corporate strategy of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation in 1975.   

28 COMMENTS

  1. Operative language…….”all political power is inherent in the PEOPLE.”
    This is the most important reason for a Con-Con.
    Otherwise, do you trust the politicians? Do you trust Bill Walker? Do you trust Cathy Giessel?

  2. May I assist?

    Our system of governance is irretrievably broken. It does not represent the citizens but the corrupt political class (no party exempt).

    The Convention will allow us, the citizens of Alaska, a fighting chance to take back some control of our state.

    Otherwise, hello Portland.

  3. There are simply too many kooks out there to trust tampering with our precious state constitution. I trust nobody.
    Nobody.

  4. We certified to follow the US Constitution. I wish we had the due process review by a sheriff for constitutionality for each by law the legislating groups write. It would be nice to have due process of State of Alaska Secretary of State to answer investigatory election digressions and order immediate remedy. We should have the due process to immediately call for an investigation of usurped constitutional rights available 24 hours around the clock with authority to order immediate remedy to those who have been usurped. It should be the Secretary of State chairing the rules calling the committee into session any hour of the day or night for usurpations of rights. The US Constitution mandates this. Over fifty years of transgressions are flaunted in the last frontier in lieu of the guaranteed republic. I believe Alaska is well past a constitutional emergency with the loss of guaranteed due process. The US Constitution does not delegate these inquiries to the court. Felonies are identified in the federal criminal code which was written in approximately the same period intended to be a guarantee of rights and equal footing of the Constitution document. Where states have redefined felonies they have taken liberties they should not have. Let’s look at the I believe large ranging digressions from the foundational law of this nation if we are a part of this nation receiving federal funds.

  5. Jim is deluding himself. If we vote for a constitutional convention, we will end up with a room full of social justice warriors and activists that want to trample the current constitution as well as anyone who wants to maintain it or implement any conservative measures. We’ll end up adopting every lunatic concept while tossing out anything that resembles a normal Alaska or a normal America. Remember the “this measure will block dark money from our elections” shibboleth that we were all fed and bought for the “re-elect Lisa for life” ballot measure that got us this scam now codified as Ranked Choice Voting? Dems know how to win. They will lie, they will cheat, they will bait and switch, they will get the public to go their way. Conservatives will lose, Alaska will lose, Alaskans will lose. It’s that simple. Republicans and conservatives to not know how to win. And they won’t.

  6. I have been hearing “vote no on 1” ads on the radio. Their premise is “Don’t have the convention because it may change the State Constitution in a way that could be bad.” It is fear mongering without any real justification for their stance.
    .
    Is a convention the right thing to do? I am not sure. I cannot be sure until after I see the outcome of it.
    .
    But, fear is a bad reason to vote no. There is just as much, if not more, potential for improvement.
    .
    Of, course a lot depends on the delegates that are sent to the convention. Maybe we can get lucky and have some conservatives that will outlaw CRT, and wokeism. Or, maybe that is asking for too much…

    • “…….fear is a bad reason to vote no…….”
      Fear is an excellent motivator and reason for action or the lack thereof. It keeps many people from engaging in all kinds of incredibly risky behaviors, unless you prefer to call that “common sense”.

  7. Jim, I am already hearing the PFD stealing legislators making commercials to vote against it. I will definitely be voting yes, but too many non thinkers get to vote and will believe the lies of the left.

  8. It is just as likely that a constitutional convention would remove the line item veto, shrink the PFD, and mandate fat union contracts.

  9. Sorry, the slim chance of an upside doesn’t justify the risk of opening the entire document for revision. To use the PFD (which has become, as predicted 30+ years ago a political football) as an example; many House and/ or Senate districts express dissatisfaction with their Senator / Representative voting against a larger PFD. If a legislative seat, which is local to a district and revisited at most every 4 years, cannot be filled with someone interested in representing that district, how can there be any realistic view that a statewide convention would ultimately represent the view of the “people”? More importantly, much more importantly, how could a convention guarantee that the rights of the “few” (as currently enshrined in the Alaska Constitution) would be protected against the vociferous “woke” or other majority? A Constitutional convention is simply an unjustifiable risk in today’s environment.

  10. If the responses are accurate of the feelings of voters, two things come to mind.

    -most Alaskans seem scared to try.
    -most Alaskans want to live in Portland.

    But considering most of us live in/near Anchorage, and Anchorage is a Soviet state, it makes perfect sense.

    If the Founders had this level of courage, we’d still be British.

    • If I wanted to live in Portland (I don’t), I’d live there.
      If I wanted to live in Anchorage (I don’t), I’d live there.
      Am I “scared to ‘try'”? No.
      I’m scared of you (and everybody else) trying.
      The first thing the Founders did before taking a dozen years to craft the U.S. Constitution was send the British authorities to the afterlife or back to Britain. I suggest that before we ruin the perfectly good constitution we already have, we do likewise with the tyrants among us. They obviously have no regard for the constitution we already have. Another one isn’t going to fare any better.

    • Imagine the current legislature rewriting the constitution. That is an accurate model of what the delegates would look like.

    • One of my favorite lines in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence says “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” The founders went on and explained why their fellow Americans should right themselves and abolish of the evils of their day. If we are to have a constitutional convention in this state we need people to explain why we should.

  11. For once, Porcaro is right.
    There is nothing to fear.
    We get to sign off on it.
    And who is paying for the scare ads?

    • “……We get to sign off on it…….”
      Alaskans “signed off” on ranked voting. We still don’t know how that’s going to turn out, but it’s pretty much agreed that the minor parties are losing BIG. We just handed complete control to the Demonrat and Republican (RINO?) uniparty.
      So much for the wisdom of the electorate as an effective check against tyranny.

  12. Michael Tavoliero wrote a well thought out column a few months ago https://mustreadalaska.com/michael-tavoliero-vote-yes-on-constitutional-convention/#comments and Senator Shower gave a great interview and a very compelling argument for voting yes on the Michael Dukes radio program a month or so ago. Outside of those two there have been very few who even dare to offer anything closely resembling a rational reason to vote yes. Mr. Crawford fails to give any reason other than the PFD, simply listing sections of the constitution but giving no context doesn’t further the goal of calling for a convention.

    At least Mr. Crawford finally, albeit briefly, addresses Article XIII section 4 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.”

    Senator Shower or Michael Tavoliero need to explain to Mr. Crawford how to argue for a yes vote and why voting yes should be feared far less than voting no. I’m still not certain how I will vote, but a list of sections from the constitution that Mr. Crawford came up with isn’t a compelling reason to vote yes.

  13. I was a solid no. I may vote yes because of the entities that are pushing the no vote. I also am concerned about who and how we select delegates. The most local ilk in Anchorage that currently represent us is not a comforting thought toward a yes vote. The statewide representatives further push me to the no trust crowd. If there is a conservative slanted majority left in the state; I don’t trust them to vote. Particularly in Anchorage the opportunity to vote out left leaning representatives has come and gone numerous times.

  14. My urge to say “yes” to a Constitutional Convention largely centers around our judges and judiciary legislating from the Bench. FIRST, the Judiciary (AK Supreme Court) changed the Transfer of the PFD to the Appropriation of the PFD. This has resulted in the Legislature re-direct funding into their special interests. As you will see, there’s a lot of Legislating from the Bench continually disrupting statute at whim. The Judiciary (AK Supreme Court) allowed a 3-topic Initiative (Constitution limits to 1 issue) for Rank Choice Voting included Campaign Funding and how Primaries and Elections are run. So, change the voting, change the management, change the contribution methods. WAY MORE Than Constitutionally allowed.

    • As with the Federal Bench, the President appoints and the House/Senate anoints. Likewise, Alaskan Governors should appoint judges and the Legislature approve. Regardless of the Governor’s candidacy, the bench will flux as it does for the nation.

  15. There is MUCH more at stake than simply getting more money through PFD dividends.
    The founders of the Constitution were much more forward-thinking than those currently in power or running for election.

  16. I have to wonder why the leftists and the unions are buying adds against the Con-Con. Are they trying to outwit conservatives into thinking that they are really afraid of constructional changes to our state constitution? Leftist Democrats and unions are usually the most activist groups who do not like constitutional constraints. I am afraid that the leftist activists would be much more funded and more organized to get their people elected to be delegates to a Constitutional Convention. Look at how we got Ranked Choice voting. I se it happening again.

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