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Lieutenant Governor of Alaska v. Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance, Inc.

Supreme Court of Alaska

December 31, 2015

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF ALASKA, Appellant,
v.
ALASKA FISHERIES CONSERVATION ALLIANCE, INC., Appellee

Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Catherine M. Easter, Judge. Superior Court No. 3AN-14-04558 CI.

Joanne M. Grace and Elizabeth M. Bakalar, Assistant Attorneys General, Anchorage, and Craig W. Richards, Attorney General, Juneau, for Appellant.

Matthew Singer, Holland & Knight LLP, Anchorage, Susan Orlansky, Reeves Amodio LLC, Anchorage, and Jeffrey M. Feldman, Summit Law Group, Seattle, Washington for Appellee.

William D. Falsey, Sedor Wendlandt Evans & Filippi, LLC, Anchorage, for Amicus Curiae Resources for All Alaskans, Inc.

Before: Stowers, Chief Justice, Winfree, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices. [Fabe, Justice, not participating.].

OPINION

Page 106

BOLGER, Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

The Lieutenant Governor declined to certify a proposed ballot initiative that would ban commercial set net fishing in nonsubsistence areas, reasoning that the initiative was a constitutionally prohibited appropriation of public assets. But the superior court approved the initiative, concluding that set netters were not a distinct commercial user group and that the legislature and Board of Fisheries would retain discretion to allocate the salmon stock to other commercial fisheries. In this appeal, we conclude that set netters are a distinct commercial user group that deserves recognition in the context of the constitutional prohibition on appropriations. We therefore reverse the superior court's judgment because this proposed ballot initiative would completely appropriate salmon away from set netters and prohibit the legislature from allocating any salmon to that user group.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

A. Facts

The directors of Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance, Inc. (the sponsors), a nonprofit organization with the stated goal of " protect[ing] fish species that are threatened by over-fishing, bycatch[,] or other dangers," sponsored a proposed statewide ballot initiative, 13PCAF, to prohibit the use of commercial set nets in nonsubsistence areas.[1] In its statement of findings and intent, 13PCAF declares that " set net fishing is an antiquated method of harvesting fish that indiscriminately kills or injures large numbers of non-target species," making the practice " wasteful of fisheries resources." To address this stated concern, the executing portion of the proposed initiative provides:

Article 6 of AS 16.05 is amended by adding a new section ...

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