Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Eric A. Aarseth, Judge. Superior Court No. 3AN-13-06812 CI.
Michael R. Gatti and Mary B. Pinkel, Wohlforth, Brecht, Cartledge & Brooking, Anchorage, and Theresa L. Hillhouse, Assistant Municipal Attorney, and Dennis A. Wheeler, Municipal Attorney, Anchorage, for Appellant.
Susan Orlansky, Feldman Orlansky & Sanders, Anchorage, for Appellees.
Before: Winfree, Stowers, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices, and Matthews, Senior Justice.[*] [Fabe, Chief Justice, not participating.].
The Anchorage Assembly passed an ordinance modifying the labor relations chapter of the Anchorage Municipal Code. Two citizen-sponsors filed an application for a referendum that would repeal the ordinance. The Municipality rejected the application, reasoning that the proposed referendum addressed administrative matters that were not proper subjects for direct citizen legislation. The sponsors filed suit in superior court and prevailed on summary judgment. The Municipality appealed, arguing that the referendum is barred because (1) state and municipal law grants exclusive authority over labor relations to the Assembly; (2) the referendum makes an appropriation; and (3) its subject is administrative, not legislative. Following oral argument, we issued an order on January 10, 2014, affirming the superior court's grant of summary judgment to the sponsors. This opinion explains our reasoning.
II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
A. The Ordinance
On February 12, 2013, Mayor Dan Sullivan and two members of the Anchorage Assembly proposed Anchorage Ordinance No. 2013-37, " An Ordinance Amending Anchorage Municipal Code Chapter 3.70, Employee Relations, with Comprehensive Updates Securing Long Term Viability and Financial Stability of Employee and Labor Relations." The Assembly approved the final version of the ordinance six weeks later, and the ordinance took effect immediately.
The ordinance amends the Employee Relations chapter of the Anchorage Municipal Code (AMC). It first adds six new subsections to the Declaration of Policy in
AMC 3.70.020.  These subsections encourage the development and implementation of a managed competition program, cap salary and benefit increases, standardize employee benefits and holidays, limit enhanced pay programs, and require unions to reimburse the Municipality for employee time spent performing services for the union.
The ordinance also limits overtime compensation; prohibits strikes; eliminates binding arbitration for police, fire protection, and emergency medical services; bars arbitrators from relying on past practices to alter unambiguous provisions in collective bargaining agreements; allows the Municipality to implement its " last best offer" if the parties are at a bargaining impasse; and expands the definitions of " confidential" and " supervisory" employees, thereby increasing the number of employees who are barred from collective bargaining. The ordinance makes other relatively minor amendments throughout the Code for purposes of clarity and consistency.
B. Proceedings Below
Sam Andrew Holleman and Jason Alward (the sponsors) filed an application with the municipal clerk's office for a referendum that would repeal the ordinance. The Municipality rejected the application on the advice of its attorney, who concluded that the referendum sought to address administrative rather than legislative matters and therefore violated subject-matter restrictions imposed by law. The sponsors filed suit in superior court on May 2, 2013, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The Municipality, in its answer, sought a declaratory judgment in its favor.
The parties agreed that there were no material facts in dispute and filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The superior court heard oral argument on August 19, 2013, granted summary judgment to the sponsors in a written opinion, and ordered that the referendum application be accepted. The sponsors soon collected enough signatures to place the referendum on the ballot, and the ordinance was suspended pending an election.
The Municipality filed ...