Shelley Hughes: David v. Goliath on state constitutional convention question on the ballot

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By SEN. SHELLEY HUGHES | SENATE MAJORITY LEADER

Alaskans, I respectfully implore you to recognize that the flood of paid advertisements you’ve been hearing about a state constitutional convention may not be telling you the whole story – and dare I say is “spinning” the story to protect the power and wealth of some who believe they would benefit more from your “no” vote.

We are at a crossroads. We all have an important decision to make, and these are the questions we need to answer. Consider each.

Are we going to realize before we vote that more than 230 state constitutional conventions have been held in our nation successfully, peacefully, without upending state government and industry, without disrupting state economies, and without constitutions being thrown out and rewritten, without extreme amendments passing voters? 

Are we going to believe that the gridlocked legislature will fix our problems? Do we really believe enough legislators will want to restrict their own power and vote to support putting fiscal plan amendments before the voters, amendments to settle the PFD and institute a reasonable spending cap, when they’ve refused to do so the past 7 legislative sessions?

Are we aware that the legislature has reached simple majority support for these fiscal plan items but has failed to reach the required 2/3 vote threshold? That delegates – who don’t have the same conflict of interest and won’t hesitate restricting the legislature’s power – only need to reach a simple majority vote to put these items on the ballot before the voters?

Do we understand how the gridlock in Juneau over the PFD has hurt us all? Have we come to grips with the fact that multiple cohorts of children in our schools lost out on the “Read by 9” policy to help them be successful because of the gridlock? That rapists have run rampant because the high rates of sexual assault weren’t a top legislative priority because of the gridlock? That bills to reduce the cost of healthcare have died in legislative committees because of gridlock?

Are we aware that every single year (for multiple decades) that our state fiscal house has not been in order that we’ve lost out on $.5+ billion in private capital investment that would have strengthened our economy and created jobs? Do we understand that putting our fiscal house in order will help all of us – even those who are now a “no” and are frightened their wealth could be jeopardized if we hold a convention? A rising tide lifts all boats.

Do we realize that the voters elect the delegates by district and therefore the delegates will reflect the values of Alaskans statewide?

Are we aware that the delegates would only propose amendments and the voters would have the final say whether to accept or reject the amendments?

Have we considered that the legislature has had the entire constitution on the table for 63 years to change and a state constitutional convention would be for a mere 75 days? 

Are we cognizant of the fact that even in polarized, emotional, divisive times, state conventions have been conducted civilly without extremist results? That 19 state conventions were held during an 18-year period (1968-1986) that cooled the political climate in those states? That this time period included Vietnam war protests, the Civil Rights movement, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the hippie free love movement, the Women’s Liberation movement, two oil crises (that involved cars lining up at gas stations due to the shortage), the Iran hostage crisis – need I go on? 

Are we aware that in the more than 230 state conventions that have been held in our nation that Pandora’s box was not opened, that not a single worm escaped a can? That only sane and reasonable amendments were adopted?

Have we considered that even a $17 million price tag for a convention is a bargain? That every time a regular legislative session is extended 30-days, or a 30-day special session is held, it is $ 1 million a pop? That the regular session has been extended in 6 of the last 7 years? And that 15 special sessions have been called in the last 7 years? Have we thought about the fact that the state spends $30 million per day, every day of the year for operations? And that $17 million for a convention for 75 days and 90-days of pre and post work is only .16% of the annual budget?

Are we going to succumb to fear mongering and dark, outside millions from ultra-liberal organizations telling us not to hold a state constitutional convention? 

Are we going to believe the ridiculous lies that we could lose our gun rights, our hunting rights, our access to public lands? 

Have we picked up on the fact that the opposition’s recent mailer included another lie – that the Alaska Independence Party (of which I am not a member) wanted to secede from the Union? Utter poppycock.

Do we really want to leave the fiscal and cultural hot button issues to the gridlocked legislature and to the courts? Or should the people weigh in and debate and decide whether or not changes are to be made?

Have we processed the fact that the yes side only has donations from regular, individual Alaskans, not the millions from outside wealthy donors attempting to protect the power of elites?  And that the no side is outspending the yes side by 100:1? That this is a David vs Goliath battle?

Alaskans, we are at a crossroads. Use logic and reason. Consider history. Recognize the safeguards. Understand that the framers put the state convention option in our constitution for a reason. The reason is now. Don’t be fear mongered. Don’t bend to outside groups. Stand for Alaska. Be “yes” for a better, stronger, more vibrant, economically-sound Alaska in the near future and for our children and grandchildren. Much is at stake. Root for David not Goliath; vote yes.

Shelley Hughes (Palmer-R), Senate Majority Leader, has served before and during the legislative gridlock: 4 years in the House and 6 years in the Senate.

19 COMMENTS

  1. For the first time in my long tenure in Alaska, I wholeheartedly agree that we need a constitutional convention. It has become abundantly clear that a large number of our politicians are very dishonest, and violate their oath of office as soon as they take it. It is time to put power back in the hands of the people.

  2. I get it NOW, thank you Suzanne, we must do this immediately like a huge red wave is chase in us to do so. Congratulations on your integrity ma’am outstanding stuff. We all want oath integrity yes???? We all best we’ll demand oath integrity so help them GOD of for & by the great people.

      • Frank, let’s not be confused as to who selects the Judiciary in this State, Four Democrats, (esteemed members of the Bar, excuse me).
        We need to change how we pick our Judiciary Frank. For that reason alone I am for a Con – Con.

        Oh and who pays for all of the ads telling us to vote NO!

  3. I am a Yes vote.
    And encourage all to also vote Yes. The current legislature is too divided to fix anything.

    Shelly you are spot on with your article and points.

  4. How appropriate to use a biblical reference for future conversion of the Alaska Constitution to an Anchorage Baptist Temple sermon.

  5. Shelley:
    “We are at a crossroads. ” – Yes we are.
    “Do we understand how the gridlock in Juneau over the PFD has hurt us all?” – Yes and you are part of the problem.
    “Are we aware that every single year (for multiple decades) that our state fiscal house has not been in order that we’ve lost out on $.5+ billion in private capital investment that would have strengthened our economy and created jobs?” – Boy howdy I am aware! You are a part the cause of this by robbing from the Permanent Fund, the Budget Reserve Fund, and a fiscally responsible budget by voting for excessive PFD’s. No wonder Wall Street downgrades our financial rating even though we are the richest State in the Union.
    Shelley until you realize that you politicians pandering to the electorate with the siren song of Socialism have alienated the true fiscal conservatives in Alaska, we will not allow you to open the Pandora’s Box of a constitutional convention. We have no faith in what you say.
    Vote NO on the Con-con!

    • Just wondering Chris, if you are one of those who are feeding at the government trough. You think each and every Alaskan’s PFD should belong to you? I do appreciate you reinforcing the author’s point that the legislature is broken, and we can only fix the problems with a constitutional convention.

      • No I am not. I believe in the free enterprise system. I was born here 66 years ago. I want to end the BS surrounding the Dividend. It has corrupted the legislature because it has corrupted the electorate by creating an entitlement mentality and a total misunderstanding of the very purpose of a limited government.

        • Chris, You got me by a couple months of Alaska residency, that said I think you missed the bit about Limited Government. The whole notion of the P-Fund was to limit Government. Taking 25% from the big spenders who make your laws and who are in bed with Pubic Employees and worse yet Engineering firms seeking the States cash is a sure fire way to limit Government.
          Like the old Joke, “how do you stop a charging elephant? take away his credit card”.

          Looking forward to your reply.

    • Excessive PFD’s? Even if this could be true we need the consitutional convention. It is how we can direct our politicians. It is not Pandora’s box as we the people will decide. Thanks Shelly Hughs for posting this.

  6. If sixteen thirty fund and NEA oppose the convention, then I am 100 percent fully unequivocally in favor of a constitutional convention. When the groups who have the most to gain by maintaining the status quo are fighting to keep it like it is then we all need to take notice and refuse to help the bureaucracy fatso’s that got us here. Yes on 1!

  7. Frank Rast, it is not GOD that you should fear, but satan. And your own delusions. Read the Book and come into the light.

  8. I’m glad to see that the tact from the pro-convention folks has changed, although it might be a little late. Telling prospective voters that they have nothing to fear, or that being scared to open a can of worms was unreasonable was never a good plan. Any reasonable person can look around the state and see that there is plenty to be concerned about by voting yes…or voting no. Representative Carpenter and Senator Hughes have done a fantastic job of making the case for a convention in these recent columns. Giving the voting public the reason(s) to vote yes is a step in the right direction. I’ve been hesitant to open the constitution to the leftists who dominate our government, but I am strongly leaning towards voting yes because as Representative Carpenter said in closing his column “If justice can’t be secured in a constitutional convention, we can’t preserve it in the Legislature.” When a sitting legislator tells us that the Legislature isn’t functional, what are we to do? Representative Carpenter finished his column by asking “Will it get any better if we don’t?” the answer is no it will not get better. Senator Hughes points out the failed talking points of those opposed to the convention. Once again, I’m glad to see sitting Representatives and Senators finally starting to talk about this extremely important issue. With voting already underway, I worry it is too little too late.

    As my favorite line 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. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” After much thought and consideration, in my estimation, it’s time to vote yes for a constitutional convention.

    • You realize your quote from the Declaration of Independence was a justification for violent revolt against the then-current government, right? It’s allusion to a string of grievances so severe as to require waging war to redress. Just so we’re on the same page, in terms of your intentions and commitment.
      I ask you to recognize that the sitting legislators that you cite as to the dysfunction of the current legislature are contributors to the dysfunction – unwilling to actively pursue beneficial action for Alaska, preferring instead to throw bombs from the back benches when their extreme positions aren’t adopted.
      I’m disinclined to offer the bomb-throwers a larger cache of explosives, in the form of a constitutional convention.
      If you’re dissatisfied with the ability of the legislature to operate smoothly, I recommend you elect less extreme representatives, ones that prioritize results over posturing and absolutism.

      • Daniel,
        I’m familiar with the Declaration of Independence and the circumstance that gave birth to the founding documents of our country, yes.

        You certainly are capable enough to see how the quote I provided might possibly pertain to the current situation we find ourselves in without the hyperbolic “violent revolt” and “waging war to redress” that you refer to, right? By calling for a constitutional convention, voted upon by the people, doesn’t that key you in to the fact that the “violent revolt” and “waging war to redress” you are so concerned about isn’t reality? A timely and orderly election and what you speak of are polar opposites.

        I understand that you think people who disagree with you are war mongers, bomb throwers, prone to violent revolt and waging war but I might suggest that it is you who prioritizes posturing and absolutism over results…I base that only upon your reply to my post here.

  9. Many Thanks Senator Hughes for this “common sense” statement. I plan to vote “yes” and I hope there are many who are not influenced by the bombardment of continual “outside” money trying to sway Alaskans. One thing about Alaskans is their ability to see thru the nonsense!

  10. Spinning? You better talk to Sarah Palin about that. And a crossroads is coming around that will bitch slap back hypocrites. Isn’t that nice.

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