The Alaska Constitution Sucks

Contributed by Wes Keller

Several times I have raised my right hand and solemnly swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Alaska, so help me God” (The public oath for service in the AK Legislature or AK Air National Guard). My appreciation for the US Constitution deepened as I served as a “cog” in the realm of governing. The original constitutional values established an ingenious human government that is the envy of the world and provides unprecedented human rights and freedom. However, as my awe and understanding for our national founding values increased, my respect for the AK Constitution decreased! I now believe some of the State’s biggest challenges are caused by variance from original US Constitutional values, even though we don’t typically think of overspending being caused by a constitutionally created imbalance of power between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. We need to make some changes!

To make needed changes, we need constitutional amendments, such as SJR 3, 4, 5, and 6, which are on point and viable. These proposed amendments may seem rather “dull” compared to the media-hyped legislation such as budget legislation containing guidelines on size of the PFD, but these amendments are the real fix! They all do something to diminish the authority of an overbearing “nanny” state government able and willing to control budgetary spending to its own preservation. It should be obvious to everyone observing the State’s willingness to spend all of the natural resource income, even the restricted Permanent Fund earnings, and the attempts to add new regressive tax revenue to sustain itself. At the very least, these amendments proposing repairs should be a priority consideration!

The fact that some of our prominent judges and attorneys boast Alaska provides justice without politics illustrates the problem, ( It is sadly ironic that Alaskans don’t seem to react too defensively, even though Section 2 of the Constitution of the State of Alaska clearly states, “All political power is inherent in the people…” The seeming arrogance in some of the judicial branch is understandable when you consider our cultural bias that “politics” is somehow bad. We are acclimated to living under a constitutional system requiring all government attorneys to be of one nominally apolitical Bar Association. The Alaska Bar Association is also given almost complete control of selection and oversight of judges. Even our appointed Attorney General is virtually insulated from political pressure from mere Alaska peons. The false presumption is the ability for anyone that matters in the judicial branch to be above any need for checks.

Consider the fact the collaboration between the judicial and administrative branch; thus, the excess governing authority of our judicial branch is from collaboration with the administration. Which is a governing authority not available to the legislature, which is the branch theoretically most accessible to the people! The Alaska Constitution provides:

1. Administrative Branch enforces the law (State employees & elected Governor).

2. Judicial Branch provides justice for the law (the Courts & Government Attorneys).

3. Legislative Branch writes the laws (elected Legislators).

Because of man’s nature, there will always be those in government seeking to personally profit from public service and those who will abuse their authority – all three branches provide occasion for both. A proper constitutional balance forces scrutiny of governing actions. Open debate and challenges may be “political”, but they are proven, key elements of good government.

Swearing (affirming) to support of the Alaska Constitution can be an honorable thing to do for many reasons, including:

- Its provision for a clear process to be amended as needed, just as the US Constitution. This is evidence of the authors and ratifiers conceding their work may not be perfect, or the last word.
- Based on the US Constitution, it endorses many other fundamental premises and values worth dying for (like the Bill of Rights)!

When making a public oath, keep in mind the Alaskan oath can legitimately be a vow with a contingency. Affirmation to support with the words “so help me God” places the promise under the ultimate authority of the “Supreme Judge” referenced in the Declaration of Independence. With this phrase, Divine Providence overrides the abilities of any given public servant to keep his or her promise. With these words, the oath becomes an appeal (prayer) as much as it is a promise. Nothing in statute prohibits this addition.

Wes Keller |