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Croft v. Parnell

Supreme Court of Alaska

July 9, 2010

Eric CROFT, a private individual, and Alaskans for Clean Elections, an initiative group, and Tim June, Steve Cleary, and Joe McKinnon, initiative sponsors, Appellants,
v.
Sean PARNELL, Lieutenant Governor of the State of Alaska, and the State of Alaska, Appellees.

Page 370

Eric Croft, Law Offices of Eric Croft, Joseph H. McKinnon, Law Offices of Joseph H. McKinnon, Anchorage, for Appellants.

Michael A. Barnhill, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Richard A. Svobodny, Acting Attorney General, Juneau, for Appellees.

Before: FABE, Chief Justice, EASTAUGH, CARPENETI, WINFREE, and CHRISTEN, Justices.

OPINION

CHRISTEN, Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

Sponsors of an initiative challenge the lieutenant governor's refusal to certify the initiative for the ballot. The lieutenant governor denied certification because he determined that the initiative violated the single-subject requirement of AS 15.45.040. The sponsors filed suit in the superior court seeking a declaration that the initiative did not violate the single-subject rule. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of the lieutenant governor and the sponsors appeal. Because the " soft dedication" of funds connecting the two aspects of the initiative is an insufficient link, and because we find no other sufficient connection between the initiative's proposed new oil production tax and the initiative's proposed new " clean elections" program, we agree that the initiative violates the single-subject rule. Accordingly, we affirm the superior court's order entering summary judgment in favor of the lieutenant governor.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

On May 29, 2007, Tim June, Steve Cleary, and Joe McKinnon submitted an application for a ballot initiative to Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell. [1] The initiative proposed a program

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to provide public campaign funding to candidates for state office on a voluntary, opt-in basis. The initiative also proposed a three-cent tax on each barrel of oil produced in Alaska and stated that " [t]he legislature may appropriate ... the proceeds" of the tax to fund the program. The proposal included a non-binding directive that the legislature transfer excess funds to the Permanent Fund Dividend.

After submitting the initiative application, the sponsors engaged in " informal communications" with the Department of Law that led the sponsors to file a second initiative application. This second initiative application proposed the public campaign funding program but not the additional tax on oil production.

Lieutenant Governor Parnell reviewed the applications as required by AS 15.45.070. This statute directs the lieutenant governor to either certify an application for placement on the ballot or explain why certification is denied. [2] Lieutenant Governor Parnell denied certification of the first initiative proposal, explaining that the initiative " violates the single-subject rule" because " the initiative addresses two subjects that have no fair relation to each other: (1) it creates a voluntary system of public campaign financing, and (2) it imposes a tax on oil production."

Lieutenant Governor Parnell approved the second version of the initiative application. It appeared on the ...


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