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By Dan Rudy 

Measuring up next week's ballot


After Nov. 4 the last of the political adverts will finally hibernate for the year, marking the end of a particularly clamorous electoral season.

But before Alaska voters cross that final hurdle and head to the polls, they should be aware of three measures awaiting them at the ballot.

Ballot Measure 2 – Allowing marijuana legalization and regulation

If enacted, this bill would tax and regulate the production, sale, and use of marijuana in Alaska, making its use legal for persons aged 21 or older, as is currently done with alcohol. A person would then be allowed to possess, use, show, buy, transport or grow set amounts of the plant, with growing subject to certain restrictions.

Public use would be banned, and the bill would not require an employer to allow its possession or use on private property.

The bill would require the Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board to implement parts of the bill but would also let the Legislature create a Marijuana Control Board to assume these duties. The bill would also require the ABC Board to adopt regulations governing marijuana-related entities, and would create procedures for registering a marijuana-related entity.

The bill would allow local governments to choose to prohibit or restrict the operation of marijuana-related entities in their locality, either by enacting an ordinance or through voter initiative. The bill would not supersede laws prohibiting driving under the influence of marijuana, nor would it prohibit schools, correctional facilities, hospitals, private persons or entities from restricting marijuana usage on their property.

The bill does not intend to limit the state’s existing medical marijuana laws.

The bill would impose an excise tax proportionate to $50 per ounce on the sale or transfer of marijuana from a cultivation facility to a retail store or marijuana product manufacturing facility. The marijuana cultivation facility would pay the tax and send monthly tax statements to the Department of Revenue. The Department of Revenue could exempt certain parts of the marijuana plant from the tax. It could also establish a lower tax rate for certain parts of the plant.

If passed, the law would make Alaska the third state in the United States to legalize and regulate the drug. Colorado and Washington voters both passed similar bills in 2012. Previous attempts to pass such a ballot measure failed twice in Alaska in 1990 and 2004.

The eight-page measure can be found online at http://goo.gl/jYVrJx.

Ballot Measure 3 – Raising the state's minimum wage

If enacted, this bill would raise Alaska’s minimum wage from $7.75 per hour to $8.75 per hour beginning at the new calendar year, and increasing to $9.75 per hour by January 1, 2016. The rate would also be adjusted annually for inflation.

Also under the bill, the state's adjusted minimum wage will be no less than one dollar over the federal minimum wage at any given time. Tips or gratuities would not count toward the minimum wage.

Supporters of the bill say it would raise the quality of life for low income workers, effect increases in the cost of living, improve the relationship of the Alaska minimum wage to the federal poverty level and the that in other states.

In 2002 a similar measure was on the ballot, but the Legislature preemptively passed a law raising the minimum wage from $5.65 to $7.15, undercutting a turnout for the measure.

Because the law was passed by the Legislature and not through initiative, lawmakers in Juneau were able to simply repeal the cost of living adjustment provision at their next session in 2003. Had they not done so, Alaska's minimum wage would currently be set at $9.53 an hour, according to calculations made at http://www.alaskaneedsaraise.org.

A similar attempt to pass a minimum wage increase in Juneau prior to the measure was narrowly passed by the Alaska House majority in April. HB 384 would raise the minimum wage to $9 and then $10 over the next two years. At the moment, it has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.

Ballot Measure 4 – Protecting fisheries from mining development in Bristol Bay

Not dissimilar from concerns Southeast Alaskans currently face with Canadian mines being developed upstream of their shared, salmon-rich rivers, the “Bristol Bay Forever” measure would require the State Legislature to approve future large-scale metallic sulfide mines in the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve (BBFR) by passing a law.

The resulting law would have to find that any proposed mine would not endanger the BBFR fishery, and approval would have to include other required permits and authorizations already in place. It would only apply to large-scale metallic sulfide mines that lack all required permits, licenses or approvals before the bill’s effective date. The bill defines “large-scale” as 640 or more acres of land.

The main project at issue is the Pebble Mine, a proposed development encompassing over 20 square miles (76,800 acres) of state land near headwaters of the Kvichak and Nushagak Rivers, which feed into Bristol Bay. As currently envisioned, Pebble would be one of the largest gold, copper and molybdenum mines in the world.

The initiative's supporters say the project's scale, geology and potential impact on Southwest Alaska's largest fishery necessitates greater public input than is currently in place. Mining groups like the Alaska Miners Association criticize the measure, saying it would politicize projects and cause unnecessary delays.

Polls are open next Tuesday at the Nolan Center from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Early voting at City Hall is also available on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


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