Alaska Constitution

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Alaska Constitution
Seal of Alaska.jpg
Preamble
Articles
IIIIIIIVVVIVIIVIIIIXXXIXIIXIIIXIVXV
Ordinances
123
Amendments
The Alaska Constitution is the basic governing document of Alaska. It was ratified in 1956 and took effect with Alaska's admission as a state on January 3, 1959.[1]

Notable features

Alaska has become a case study in recent constitutional development. Along with Hawaii, Alaska was able learn from the constitutional experiences of others states, and its constitution was penned during a more progressive time of reform in state governments. These progressive reforms attempted to simplify state constitutions and to strengthen institutional powers so elected officials could govern more effectively. The Alaska Constitution reflects those reforms. One example of this is that Alaska's governor is among the most institutionally powerful in the nation and is allowed to appoint all executive officials as well as set the legislative agenda when calling special sessions.[2]

Other notable features of the Alaska Constitution include:[2]

  • Every ten years, voters must be asked on the ballot whether they wish to hold a constitutional convention.
  • An entire article is devoted to natural resources, both renewable and non-renewable.

Preamble

See also: Preambles to state constitutions

The preamble to the Alaska Constitution states:

We the people of Alaska, grateful to God and to those who founded our nation and pioneered this great land, in order to secure and transmit to succeeding generations our heritage of political, civil, and religious liberty within the Union of States, do ordain and establish this constitution for the State of Alaska.

Article I: Declaration of Rights

Article I of the Alaska Constitution has a total of 25 sections. It declares the rights of citizens, including civil rights, such as not to be discriminated based on "race, color, creed, sex, or national origin."[3] Many of its sections mirror the U.S. Constitution, including freedom of speech, religion, assembly and petition and rights of due process and trial by jury. Section 25 of Article I declares that "marriage may exist only between one man and one woman."[3]

Articles II-IV

Articles II through IV regulate the three branches of Alaskan government: the Legislature, the Executive, and the Judiciary.

Article II: The Legislature

Article II establishes a bicameral legislature, including a senate with 20 members elected for four years and a house of representatives with 40 members elected for two years.[4]

Article III: The Executive

Article III defines the power vested in the executive branch of Alaskan government, otherwise known as the Governor of Alaska. Article III also defines the qualification requirements of candidates for this position, as well as how long this position is held, responsibilities to be observed while holding this position and provisions for possible absences.[5]

Article IV: The Judiciary

Article IV defines the power vested in the judicial branch of Alaskan government, which consists of the supreme court, the superior court and the judicial council, as well as the responsibilities, length and terms of service and size of each judicial group. Article IV also defines the qualification requirements of candidates for these positions, as well as how long each position is held, with provisions for vacancy.[6]

Article V: Suffrage and Elections

Article V defines the process of voting in the state of Alaska and explains who is qualified to vote.[7]

Article VI: Legislative Apportionment

Article VI defines the apportionment of both the Alaska House of Representatives and the Alaska State Senate. The article also defines when and how the state should be redistricted and what boundaries the districts should observe. The final sections within Article VI regulate a Redistricting Board, which is responsible for overseeing any necessary reapportioning within the state of Alaska.[8]

Article VII: Health, Education and Welfare

Article VII defines the responsibilities of the Alaskan legislature to provide a suitable system of education, public health and welfare programs.[9]

Article VIII: Natural Resources

Article VIII describes the way in which natural resources can be used by the state of Alaska and its citizens. It defines the ownership of the land, resources therein and how that ownership can be sold, granted or leased.[10]

Article IX: Finance and Taxation

Article IX outlines the taxation powers of the state, including which entities are eligible for taxation, under what conditions a taxable entity becomes exempt and that taxable entities will not undergo any discrimination. Article IX goes on to state that money received from taxes will be used only for the public good and shall not be used for special projects unless specified. Article IX also states that the governor must create and submit an approved budget to the legislature and that the legislature must appoint an accountant dedicated to the overview of the budget.[11]

Article X: Local Government

Article X describes the provisions set forth for local governments. All local government power is vested in boroughs and cities.[12]

Article XI: Initiative, Referendum and Recall

Article XI outlines the initiative, referendum and recall process. The people of Alaska have the right to propose and enact laws through the initiative process and approve or reject acts of the Alaska State Legislature through the referendum process. All elected public officials, except judicial officials, are subject to recall by voters.[13]

Article XII: General Provisions

Article XII outlines the state boundaries and intergovernmental relations, as well as other provisions, such as law making power, merit systems, retirement systems, disqualifications and the interpretations of the constitution.[14]

Article XIII: Amendment and Revision

See also: List of amendments to the Alaska Constitution

Article XIII has four sections that together lay out the process for amending the constitution.[15]

Article XIV: Apportionment Schedule

This section was repealed by Alaska Ballot Measure 3 in 1998.[16]

Article XV: Schedule of Transitional Measures

Article XV was originally written to ease the transition from territory to state. It contains additional provisions, such as the regulation of laws to applicability of amendments regarding redistricting of the legislature.[17]

Ordinances

Within the Alaska Constitution there are three ordinances that follow the 15 articles. These ordinances cover official Alaskan governance from election processes to the abolition of fish traps.[18][19][20]

Amendments

As of February 2014, there have been 28 amendments to the Alaska Constitution.[21]

History

Alaskans began to advocate for statehood early in the twentieth century. James Wickersham, Alaska's non-voting delegate to the United States Congress, introduced the first Alaska statehood bill in 1916.[22]

Later, in 1955, the territorial legislature authorized a constitutional convention. Fifty-five delegates were elected from across the territory to meet at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and write a constitution for the proposed state. Alaskan voters approved the new constitution in April 1956, but it could not take effect until Congress granted statehood. In the same election at which they accepted the constitution, voters also accepted the "Alaska-Tennessee Plan," named after Tennessee because it had successfully used a similar scheme to obtain statehood. The plan called for the election of two Alaskans to serve in the United States Senate and one to serve in the United States House of Representatives. Congress refused to recognize the elected delegates, as they were unauthorized until the territory became a state, but they were able to act as effective lobbyists in Washington.[22]

In 1958, Congress approved statehood for Alaska, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Bill into law on July 7, 1958. The following month, Alaskans accepted statehood, as presented in the federal law, and elected their first state officials in November. On January 3, 1959, President Eisenhower declared Alaska the forty-ninth state of the United States.[22]

See also

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External links

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Additional reading

References

  1. Office of the Lt. Governor of Alaska, "The Constitution of the State of Alaska", accessed March 26, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 Review of 'THE ALASKA CONSTITUTION: A REFERENCE GUIDE,'" accessed May 8, 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 Office of the Lieutenant Governor, "Article I: Declaration of Rights," accessed May 8, 2014
  4. Office of the Lieutenant Governor, "Article II: The Legislature," accessed May 8, 2014
  5. Office of the Lieutenant Governor, "Article III: The Executive," accessed May 8, 2014
  6. Office of the Lieutenant Governor, "Article IV: The Judiciary," accessed May 8, 2014
  7. Office of the Lieutenant Governor, "Article V: Suffrage and Elections," accessed May 8, 2014
  8. Office of the Lieutenant Governor, "Article VI: Legislative Apportionment," accessed May 8, 2014
  9. Office of the Lieutenant Governor, "Article VII: Education, Public Health and Welfare," accessed May 8, 2014
  10. Office of the Lieutenant Governor, "Article VIII: Natural Resources," accessed May 8, 2014
  11. Office of the Lieutenant Governor, "Article IX: Finance and Taxation," accessed May 8, 2014
  12. Office of the Lieutenant Governor, "Article X: Local Government," accessed May 8, 2014
  13. Office of the Lieutenant Governor, "Article XI: Initiative, Referendum and Recall," accessed May 8, 2014
  14. Office of the Lieutenant Governor, "Article XII: General Provisions," accessed May 8, 2014
  15. Office of the Lieutenant Governor, "Article XIII: Amendment and Revision," accessed May 8, 2014
  16. Office of the Lieutenant Governor, "Article XIV: Apportionment Schedule," accessed May 8, 2014
  17. Office of the Lieutenant Governor, "Article XV: Schedule of Transitional Measures," accessed May 8, 2014
  18. Office of Lieutenant Governor, "Ordinance No. 1: Ratification of Constitution," accessed May 8, 2014
  19. Office of Lieutenant Governor, "Ordinance No. 2: Alaska-Tennessee Plan," accessed May 8, 2014
  20. Office of Lieutenant Governor, "Ordinance No. 3: Abolition of Fish Traps," accessed May 8, 2014
  21. The Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Alaska: Mead Treadwell, "Constitutional Amendment Summary: 1966-2004 Proposed Amendment Titles & Vote Counts," accessed February 19, 2014
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 The Alaska Historical Society, "When and how did Alaska become a state?," accessed February 19, 2014