Have you considered running for the Alaska State Legislature? Aspiring to be an elected leader can be honorable, but I caution you, it is likely you will over-estimate the potential returns! Don’t make the mistake of itemizing the reasons you might do this using the “Civics 101” definition of what a state legislator is!
The ugly truth is that the Alaska legislative role has been severely eroded/ diminished by a combination of the constitutional design, and, by being quarantined in Juneau. Depending on your motivation, you may actually be wasting your time to run for office! This is a bit of over-statement for emphasis; but in general, the Alaska Legislature has been carefully and intentionally stripped of much of its legislative authority!
Unelected state employees in various state agencies write far more “laws” (regulations) than the legislature. Our judiciary has declared these administrative regulations enforceable with essentially the same weight as a legislated statute. If you think regulations are subordinate to sponsoring legislation, you are technically correct but naïve. Statutes authorizing agency author- ship of regulations are very broad and may have little to do with specifics.
We have many bad regulations (laws) on the books which could never have gotten through the legislature on their own merits. The regulation-writing process avoids much of the mind- numbing, but “cleansing” debate of the legislative process. Regulations quickly become a means to protect government interests rather than the human interest of would-be legislative constituents. This squandering of legislative responsibility has happened over time and cannot be easily reversed. The legislature has had little success slowing the flow of bad regulations, not from lack of trying.
Lacking the power to properly maintain our law books, legislators tend to prioritize the liaison role of negotiating between their Alaskan constituents and an abusive government. This case-by-case approach is well motivated, but rarely does much to ensure improvement of our laws. The Alaskan Legislature has even created a Legislative Ombudsman Office, https:// ombud.alaska.gov/, (one of only four in the US) to deal with administrative abuse. It is painfully slow, over-booked, and arguably over-cautious about potential political battles or attention. It cannot afford to offend too many legislators and jeopardize funding, so it tends to prioritize harmony over strictness of good standards. A good job championing constituent rights is valuable for campaigning, but the cost (staff time in particular) is very high for what is achieved over-all.
The primary “tools” in a legislator’s liaison tool box are “begging” and “threatening”. Effective “begging” requires a submissive working relationship with state employees and contractors running the agencies, which can be counter-productive in budget negotiations. Nationwide, these state employees and contractors have recently been coined the “Deep State”, revealing Alaska is not unique in this challenge. “Threats” can be effective if tied to funding, so legislators who have seniority and access to budget-bill details have a distinct advantage in this secondary role.
The job description of an Alaskan Legislator has arguably been perverted by a combination of Constitutional “tweaks” to “Civics 101 balance of powers”, and, isolation to do business on a remote government “island”. The “tweaking” was originally justified by a perceived need for a more efficient administrative government to deal with the challenge of Alaska’s size and too few competent statesmen from a relatively tiny population. I have come to believe there is now ample evidence of resulting callousness toward citizens (administrative abuse). This should be no surprise to anyone who under- stands why checks and balances of power are needed.
While it is technically true that Alaska’s governor has more power than any other governor in America, we could only wish it stopped there! It turns out, good and bad governors, can be neutralized by the Alaska “deep state”, just as the legislature gets neutralized. The actual governing authority in Alaska is in the hands of a ruling class claiming to be bipartisan and uncontaminated by politics! Alaska’s Governor position is much like a king on a chessboard. He or she can move in any direction… but… only as allowed by the “deep state”. The strength of the “deep state” in Alaska is particularly obvious in its recent manipulation of the budget process to authorize spending from the Permanent Fund earnings with- out a vote of the people! Because our constitution retained the traditional “power of the purse” for the legislature, the task of the “deep state” becomes doing whatever is needed to control the legislative majority and governor, especially related to the budget. It is an open question whether voters will be able to elect a majority of legislators to re-gain their influence, but it should be obvious they will get no help from the judiciary, deep state, or the media.
(Check out his SJR 3). It looks like Senator Showers agrees! This bill would directly adjust the constitution to address one aspect of the imbalance.
Back to your option to run for the legislature, I warn you, if you do resolve to file the minimal paperwork to publicly declare your political intent, one of the very first things you will have to explain to everybody is, “Why?” Why are you running? This is a tougher question to answer than you may anticipate.
This was also submitted as an article to The People’s Paper.