Tell your Senator to Support Judicial Reform
SJR 21 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would bring more public accountability to the Alaska Judicial Council, the powerful and secretive group that largely controls who gets to serve in the judicial branch of state government.
CONTACT YOUR SENATOR NOW: SJR 21 has been approved by two Senate committees (Judiciary and Finance) and the full Senate can bring the issue up for a vote at any time. Click here to contact your Senator and ask them to vote YES on SJR 21.
Remember, SJR 21 is a proposed constitutional amendment – so the Legislature does NOT have the final say. This measure would appear on an election ballot for ALL Alaska voters to approve or reject. When you contact your Senators, remind them that the Constitution belongs to the people (Article I, Section 2). Be polite but firm: tell them you want the chance to vote on reforming the way we select judges.
What would SJR 21 do?
As originally introduced, SJR 21 would add three more public members to the Alaska Judicial Council. This might seem like a rather mundane change – yet it would fundamentally transform the Council from a panel dominated by legal elites into a panel dominated by non-attorney citizens.
Recently one of the current public members of the Judicial Council, Dave Parker, wrote an editorial along with former Lieutenant Governor Loren Leman, explaining how SJR 21 would benefit Alaska and the process by which we select judges. Click here to read their editorial, published in the Anchorage Daily News.
On Monday of this week, the Senate Finance Committee passed a revised version of SJR 21 – making it even better. The new version still adds three new public members to the Council. But in addition, it also requires the three attorney members of the Council – chosen by the Alaska Bar Association – to stand for Legislative confirmation, where their appointment can either be ratified or rejected. In other words, the lawyers who control one of our three branches of government will actually have to be confirmed by the people’s elected representatives. What a novel concept!
Senator Pete Kelly, the sponsor of SJR 21, pointed out in committee that Legislative confirmation is required for dozens of boards and commissions in state government – from the Board of Barbers and Hairdressers, to the Real Estate Commission. Yet incredibly, under the current system, the attorney members of the panel that controls the entire judicial branch of government are not accountable to any elected official. They aren’t appointed by the Governor, and they aren’t confirmed by the Legislature. This creates a dangerous disconnect from the very citizens that the court system is supposed to be serving, and to whom they are supposed to be accountable.
Remember that a proposed constitutional amendment must be approved by a two-thirds supermajority in each house of the Legislature, before it can be placed before the voters for their consideration. In the Senate, that means 14 out of 20 members must approve SJR 21. The vote will likely be very close – so it’s especially urgent that members of the Senate hear from their constituents now. Please contact your Senator today. CLICK HERE, type in your address and the yellow button link will show you who your Alaska State Senator is.
As always, your voice matter and makes a big difference.
As a supporter of Alaska Family Action/Council, you're tuned in to many of the challenges facing Christians when it comes to the values upon which are nation was founded. Religious liberty. Freedom to live in a manner that is consistent with your deeply held convictions. In recent times, these foundations have come under increasing assault. It is more important than ever that we are equipped to understand the latest challenges, threats and rights we have as Christians in an increasingly hostile legal environment.
It is my privilege to invite you, as a regular or monthly donor to this ministry, to a Family Champions Breakfast on Monday, April 14th from 7:30am to 9:30am at the Petroleum Club in Anchorage. Our special guest will be David Gibbs III, President and Chief Counsel of the National Center for Life and Liberty and Host of the nationally syndicated Law Talk Live. Gibbs is the son of Dr. David Gibbs, Jr., founder of the Christian Law Association and the Legal Alert national radio program.
We would be honored for you to invite a family member, friend or couple or an associate from work who might be interested in learning more about Alaska Family Action and be blessed by David Gibbs presentation. This is not a fundraiser but an opportunity to be educated and inspired. Also, I will be providing a quick update of the challenges and accomplishments we experienced down in Juneau during the latest legislative session.
Please RSVP today to this free event as seats are limited and we do expect a full house. Send a note with how many will be attending to [email protected] or by calling 907-317-7268.
It’s time to reform the way we select judges
Urge your senator to support SJR 21
One of the best government reform proposals we’ve seen in years is currently being debated in Juneau. Senate Joint Resolution 21 would make a simple but profound change to the Alaska Judicial Council: it would add three new public members to this panel that nominates judges to serve in our court system.
SJR 21 would transform the Alaska Judicial Council into a citizen-controlled panel, instead of a panel dominated by elite attorneys who are completely unaccountable to any democratically elected official in the state.
TAKE ACTION NOW: Click here to contact your Senator. Urge them to support SJR 21. If your senator is already a SJR 21 cosponsor, please thank them. The senators we need to thank are: Pete Kelly (prime sponsor), Cathy Giessel, Mike Dunleavy, and Lesil McGuire. If your senator is not on this list, please ask them to sign on as a cosponsor of SJR 21.
Why is SJR 21 so important?
The Alaska Judicial Council (AJC) is like the proverbial “800 lb. gorilla” in our state’s government – and yet many Alaskans are only dimly aware of the enormous power that is wielded by this 7-member panel.
When a vacancy occurs on a court, those who wish to serve on the bench must first apply to the AJC. Only those applicants who win the “yes” vote of a majority of Council members can be nominated for a court position. Those names – the nominees – are then submitted to the Governor. The Governor makes the final decision – but he or she can pick only from the list that the Council submits. The list is typically short, often just two names.
The AJC’s process of selecting nominees for court positions is shielded from the public, as the discussions always occur in secret, behind closed doors. No other entity of state government operates with this level of secrecy. The public usually has no clue why certain applicants are ruled in, or ruled out. The process by which we pick judges in Alaska is the least democratic, least transparent, and least accountable of any process that we use to select public officials in any part of state government.
So who are the members of the Judicial Council?
The AJC is made up of three attorney members, appointed by the Alaska Bar Association (ABA), and three non-attorneys (“public members”) who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Legislature. The Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court serves as the 7th member – but votes only when it changes the outcome, such as to break a 3 to 3 tie among the other 6 members of the Council.
The Council is dominated by the “insider politics” of the Alaska Bar Association – because they get to pick three of the Council members, and the Chief Justice (a lawyer, of course) is also a dues-paying member of the Bar. So, four out of the seven members are part of the ABA.
Not a single one of the attorney members of the Council is chosen by the people. Not a single one is appointed by the Governor. Not a single one is voted on by the Legislature. In other words, they are completely unaccountable to anyone in the state who actually won an election.
How does SJR 21 improve the current system?
SJR 21 takes a small but important first step toward making our court system more accountable to the people. Senator Pete Kelly’s resolution proposes to double the number of public members on the AJC – from three to six. This requires an amendment to the constitution. So if SJR 21 wins legislative approval, it would appear on the ballot for Alaska voters to have the final say.
This would fundamentally transform the Council from a panel dominated by legal elites into a panel dominated by members of the public. Unlike the Bar members, the public members have to be appointed by the Governor and confirmed by a majority of the Legislature. In other words, “we the people” – through our elected representatives – will have a much greater voice in helping determine the composition of the panel that largely controls the third branch of government.
Adding more public members will also address a serious problem with “bloc voting” by the attorney members of the Council. There have been five occasions in just the last two years where all three public members voted YES to nominate highly qualified applicants for several different judicial vacancies – but all the participating attorney members voted NO. In each case, the Chief Justice sided with the attorneys and voted NO – thus ensuring that the Governor would have fewer options for filling seats on the court.
Incredibly, of the five cases mentioned above, three of them happened with nominations to the Alaska Supreme Court – the highest and most powerful judicial panel in the state. When the Chief Justice votes in these situations it presents an obvious conflict of interest. By ensuring that certain applicants can never be appointed by the Governor, the Chief Justice is directly helping pick her future colleagues on the Supreme Court – and influencing the judicial philosophy of the entire court system, since lower courts are bound by rulings of the Supreme Court!
The Chief Justice can assert this power only when there is a tie vote – and Senator Kelly’s SJR 21 makes tie votes much less likely. By increasing the number of regular voting members from six (an even number) to nine (an odd number), the statistical odds of a tie vote occurring are slimmer. Further, doubling the number of public members will make it impossible for the attorney members to “force” a tie vote by bloc voting.
SJR 21 has been unfairly criticized by liberal activists as just an attempt to “pack” the court with a bunch of conservative judges. But this is nonsense: all three current public members of the Council are appointees of Republican governors (one by Governor Palin, two by Governor Parnell). And yet a review of their votes shows that they routinely vote to nominate qualified judicial applicants – including both liberals and conservatives. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to work?
It’s the Governor’s job – not the Judicial Council’s – to weigh judicial philosophy and political views in making judicial appointments. We’ve had Republican governors and Democratic governors in our recent history. Do they make very different appointment decisions? Sure they do. That’s called democracy. In a democracy, we get the government we deserve – for better or for worse. We can live with that. But we should not tolerate a system where we actually get a worse government than what we deserve – and that is exactly what is happening in Alaska right now with our unaccountable and arrogant court system.
Senator Pete Kelly, the author of SJR 21, summed up what this resolution intends when he addressed the Senate Finance Committee:
“What we wanted to do is make sure that, if we’re going to have a system where essentially members of a guild are given such power to choose a branch of government, and they are not required to go through confirmation hearings like everyone else is – I mean, the Board of Hairdressers has to go through confirmation hearings, but they don’t! – and the people that they nominate, their selections don’t go through a confirmation hearing, that somewhere in there we better make sure the constitution tethers this organization to the people in some way. And that we prevent, if we can, this tie-vote scenario from happening where public members are overridden by people who never stand before the public, not for a single minute, for their confirmation.”
Once again, please take time now to contact your Senator and urge their support for SJR 21. Because this is a constitutional amendment, it requires a two-thirds supermajority to pass, which means 14 YES votes in the 20-member Senate. The members of the Senate need to hear from voters who care about this issue, make sure your voice is heard today!
ALASKA FAMILY ACTION ENDORSES TROMBLEY & EVANS
Next Tuesday's Anchorage Municipal Election has a sub-plot that many citizens might not have pondered.
If the Anchorage Assembly changes a few key seats turning control over to the more liberal members, there is little doubt that one of the first items on their agenda will be to re-introduce an ordinance that would add sexual-orientation and transgender identity to Anchorage's list of protected legal classes.
You might remember that Alaska Family Action led the effort back in April of 2012 to oppose Proposition 5. The debate stirred up national attention and caused a record turnout to the polls.
Ultimately, common sense and truth prevailed and voters rejected the Proposition by a 58% to 42% margin. Although we were significantly outspent, we achieved victory by appealing to residents who knew that our community was already tolerant and that the measure posed significant risks to the religious liberties of individuals, businesses and faith-based organizations. Click here for the article in the Catholic Anchor that laid out the Archdiocese opposition.
Transgender people teaching your child's first-grade class. Christian wedding photographers forced to take pictures at homosexual "commitment" ceremonies. Bakers forced to make cakes for homosexual weddings. A church camp sued for not making facilities available for homosexual wedding. Businesses forced to make the ladies restroom open to men who are claiming to be "women." The list goes on and on if another Prop 5 type ordinance is introduced and passes. Real threats to rights of conscience are unfolding in community after community as these laws are passed.
Candidates Bill Evans and Adam Trombley support the will of Anchorage voters, by opposing extremist legislation like Proposition 5 that would take away the freedom of citizens to run their businesses, schools, and churches in a manner consistent with their values and their conscience.
Alaska Family Action urges your support of Adam Trombley and Bill Evans for Anchorage Assembly who've assured our organization that they would vote no should another Prop 5 like ordinance come before them.
ADAM TROMBLEY - District 5 - Trombley is running in East Anchorage and has been a consistent conservative voice on the Anchorage Assembly. This seat is critical to maintain a majority on the Assembly who will vote to protect your religious liberties.
BILL EVANS - District 6 - Evans is running in South Anchorage for a seat previously occupied by Chris Birch who was termed out. Birch was a reliable voice for traditional, conservative values on the Assembly and has endorsed Evans.
Please do your part and spread the news as far and wide as you can about support from Trombley and Evans. Turnout in Municipal elections is often unbelievably low and so a few votes one way or the other can have a decisive impact on the direction our community goes.
On Tuesday, April 1st, get out and vote and if you're in East or South Anchorage, vote for Adam Trombley and Bill Evans. Elections matter and your vote will make the difference.
This message paid for by Alaska Family Action
PO Box 231425 Anchorage, AK 99523
I am Jim Minnery, Chair, and I approved this message.
SB49, the bill that defines what a "medically necessary" abortion is when a doctor is seeking payment for the procedure from Medicaid, is currently in the House Rules Committee awaiting a final vote on the floor any day now. We are confident we have the necessary 21 votes to pass this sensible policy but we need to remain vigilant.
Legislators need to know that we are watching and waiting for them to make the right decision in support of this common sense measure that simply requires physicians to describe why they are determining that a procedure is medically necessary. Medicaid has never paid for elective procedures and yet physicians in the State of Alaska have been more than likely committing medicaid fraud regarding abortion.
National studies show that less than 5% of all abortions are typically related to the health of the mother and yet nearly 40% of abortions in Alaska are being classified as "medically necessary". This bill tightens the screws on abortionists who are now claiming that an abortion is "medically necessary" simply because the patient is going through Medicaid to get it paid for.
Click HERE for a new and useful tool on the Alaska State Legislature website that allows you to type in your address and quickly identify your State Representative. Alaska Family Action urges citizens to contact your House Representative right away and ask them to support passage of SB49 on the House Floor.
For a detailed AFA Policy Briefing on why SB49 is good public policy, click HERE.
Some legislators, wanting to derail the bill, are attempting to add an amendment to SB49 that would create a new "family planning" program in Alaska. AFA OPPOSES this amendment for a number of reasons including -
- We've spent more than $7,000,000 on "family planning" in Alaska in the last 10 years under Federal Title X funds and general state funds for public health clinics. Contraception is now more readily available today than in any other time in our State's history. Click HERE for a graphical, factual display of "family planning" in Alaska.
- Funds brought into the State from Federal sources through this amendment would very likely end up in the hands of the largest abortion provider in Alaska - Planned Parenthood. Everyone knows it's then a shell game of accounting that frees up other revenue sources for Planned Parenthood to do what they do best - end the life of pre-born children.
- If someone wishes to make the case that we need yet another government bureaucracy to pass out free contraceptives, then it deserves to be carefully evaluated as a separate bill, or as an amendment to the operating budget. It does NOT belong as part of SB 49, which is a simple bill to clarify the meaning of the term “medically necessary” in the context of abortion.
Again, please click HERE to quickly find your House Representative and send them a short, polite reminder that you're counting on them to support SB49 without any amendments. Do your part and we'll have victory in the House so we can move this bill on to the Senate and eventually on to Governor Parnell's desk for his signature.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York will be in Anchorage next week providing an opportunity for Catholics as well as Evangelicals and Orthodox believers to hear from what Time Magazine called one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World" for 2012 along with being a possible name for Pope in many circles after Pope Benedict XVI stepped down.
Cardinal Dolan was also among the 115 cardinals who gathered in Rome and ultimately selected Pope Francis as the new head of the Catholic Church last year.
As a former President of the United States Conference on Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Dolan has spoken very eloquently and passionately in support of Biblical marriage, the sanctity of life and religious liberty, particularly regarding the ObamaCare mandate which forced private employers to provide co-pay coverage for contraception and abortion causing drugs.
Alaska Family Action highly encourages pro-family Alaskans to attend one of the following public events that will surely be filled to capacity.
PUBLIC EVENTS IN ANCHORAGE
• Monday, March 24th, Cardinal Dolan’s talk titled, “3 Challenges facing Pope Francis and the Church,” will be held at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Anchorage. The free public event will take place from 7:30 to 8:45 p.m. and will include a Q&A session with the audience. A reception with the cardinal will immediately follow.
• Wednesday, March 26th, Cardinal Dolan will celebrate the 5:30 p.m. Mass and give the homily at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. While the Mass is a public event, the Cardinal Dolan’s homily will be directed primarily to the priests of Alaska. Cardinal Dolan is in Alaska for the annual statewide priest convocation and his comments will relate to the reflections provided to the priests over the preceding two days of the convocation.
After weeks of public testimony in numerous hearings, it looks like the Alaska State Senate is finally going to vote on SJR9 - the bill that would let the people of Alaska vote in the November General Election to amend the Alaska Constitution to allow the use of public money for the benefit of all Alaskans seeking educational/training aid regardless of whether individuals enroll in public or private institutions.
Currently, most private schools are not affordable for working class and lower income Alaskans. SJR9 would even the playing field and provide more opportunities for children in our state to thrive academically.
The NEA, the public school teacher union, has spent massive funds lobbying against SJR9.
We have one more opportunity, on the Senate side, to counter their propaganda with common sense.
1) SJR9 gives working class and low income Alaskan parents equal opportunity to choose the school of their choice for their kids.
2) SJR9 is only opening the door to many possible school funding scenarios. It is simply unlocking the door so the people of Alaska can determine what is best at the polls.
3) Passing SJR9 gives Alaskans an opportunity to vote on an extremely important issue. Let the people of Alaska vote !
Our hope is to get at least 100 Alaskans to call the following three State Senators who are either undecided or have indicated they are against SJR9.
PLEASE CONTACT THEM ASAP URGING THEIR SUPPORT OF SJR9 FOR THE THREE REASONS STATED ABOVE
Senator Click Bishop: 800-336-7383
Senator Bill Wielechowski: 800-550-2435
Senator Gary Stevens: 800-821-4925
Thanks for hanging in there with us. All Alaskans deserve educational choice. Help make it happen.
An article yesterday in the Anchorage Daily News declared the -
"Same-Sex Marriage Debate Virtually Over"
With Federal activist judges across the country in conservative states like Texas, Utah, Virginia and Oklahoma ruling that state constitutional definitions of marriage are illegal, I can empathize with the sentiment on a certain level.
It really is just a matter of time before a lawsuit is filed in Alaska and another judge trumps the will of the people and the State legislature. Remember, it took 2/3 of the Alaska State Senate and House and a majority of the citizens (68% actual support) to pass our marriage amendment back in 1998.
The author goes on to say that under one possible future scenario, "pressure would be brought to bear wherever the religious subculture brushed up against state power. Religious-affiliated adoption agencies would be closed if they declined to place children with same-sex couples. (This has happened in Massachusetts and Illinois.) Organizations and businesses that promoted the older definition of marriage would face constant procedural harassment, along the lines suggested by the mayors who battled with Chick-fil-A. And, eventually, religious schools and colleges would receive the same treatment as racist holdouts like Bob Jones University, losing access to public funds and seeing their tax-exempt status revoked."
He goes on to say that in times past, our differences as Americans might have worked themselves out amicably and the scenario above wouldn't have been inevitable but, in light of recent events in Arizona, it looks more and more likeintolerance is the new tolerance.
In case you missed it, my counterpart in Arizona, Cathi Herrod with the Center for Arizona Policy, has made national headlines lately (see this Huckabee Report) for their attempt to simply clarify in a bill whether current religious freedom protections can be invoked when business owners like florists, bakers, photographers, counselors and adoption attorneys are forced by the state to use their creative gifts to provide services to same-sex couples against their deeply held convictions regarding marriage.
Although the bill was passed in the Arizona legislature, the normally conservative Governor Jan Brewer caved in to massive pressure, intimidation and lies foisted on her by corporate progressives and vetoed the legislation. In addition to threats from Apple and American Airlines, Governor Brewer even heard from higher ups in the National Football League (NFL) with the not so veiled threat that the 2015 Super Bowl, scheduled to be in Arizona, might be cancelled unless she axed the bill and kept in line with the LBGTQ activists.
Welcome to the new world of our way or the highway.
Ultimately, whether most people admit it or not, this is a religious freedom issue and it isn't going away. You'll recall back in 2012, Alaska Family Action organized the opposition to Proposition 5, a sexual orientation/transgender non-discrimination ordinance that would have significantly infringed on the rights of businesses, individuals and faith based groups to operate according to their deeply held convictions. Common sense prevailed and we received widespread support from those in our community who believe in both tolerance and the freedom to practice your faith in the public square.
With State Constitutional marriage amendments falling like dominoes, people like Senator Hollis French calling ours a "blot" that needs to be removed, there is certainly no doubt turbulent times are ahead for those who hold a natural, Biblical view of sexuality.
At the same time, as Lord Tennyson said..."Tis not too late to build a newer world." These are trying times but they are defining times. It is our privilege and responsibility, as the Apostle Paul knew so well "to figure out which pagan poets and philosophers we can quote in order to speak the Gospel in a new way. It’s mission territory, not lost ground."
Onward Christian soldiers !
Victories are few and far between in the pro-family, pro-life policy world but when they do occur, we should give thanks !
Earlier today, the House Finance Committee voted 6 to 5 to moveSB 49 out of committee. This is the bill that simply ends public funding for elective abortions simply by defining what a "medically necessary" abortion is. The next step will be a full vote from the House on the floor. We still have much work to do but this was acritical step and one we've been waiting on for weeks.
Attempts to add a "family planning" amendment that would have poured money into the State for contraception, primarily to Planned Parenthood, failed fortunately. The State already spends millions of dollars providing free family planning services.
Your participation in the process mattered. Your voice made a difference. Your values were heard loud and clear. Thank you !
And, to those legislators who faced the onslaught of negative pushback from Planned Parenthood and the ACLU and their constituents, and still stood firm in their resolve in support of SB 49, we ask that you send a short thank you !
They need to know that their vote is appreciated. They need to know we're counting on their vote one more time on the House floor. Let's inundate their offices with gratefulness !
HOUSE FINANCE MEMBERS WHO VOTED YES ON SB49
- Representative Bill Stoltze
- Representative Mia Costello
- Representative Cathy Munoz
- Representative Mark Neuman
- Representative Steve Thompson
- Representative Tammy Wilson
Thanks again for standing with us. You matter.
In less than one hour, at 1:30pm today, the House Finance Committee will more than likely hear final testimony on SB49 and its companion bill in the House, HB173. These proposed bills simply define what a "medically necessary" abortion is when the State is asked by a physician to pay for it through Medicaid.
Please click HERE now and send a brief e-mail or make a short phone call to as many of the members as you can encouraging them to vote YES today on SB49/HB173. Click on each member's name and you will be given contact information. If you are only able to contact a few members, please contact Reps. Costello, Munoz, Wilson and Edgmon. Otherwise, send a message to every member if you can.
Your voice matters and is truly needed as I write this.
Your call or e-mail RIGHT NOW will have a huge impact because much of the testimony this morning, in an earlier hearing, was from Planned Parenthood and the ACLU and their constituents calling to oppose the bill. These people, with straight faces, believe you and I should be paying for ELECTIVE abortions through public dollars. They believe, as do abortionists, that if a mother simply doesn't want to be pregnant, her abortion is "medically necessary" and should be paid for with public funds.
The Alaska Supreme Court has made it very clear however that public dollars are NOT to be used for elective abortions. SB49/HB173 simply describe, in neutral medical terms, the rare physical issues that might warrant an abortion to prevent serious physical harm to the mother.
Please let the House Finance Committee know that Alaskans support SB49/HB173. Call or e-mail them right away. Thanks so much for linking arms with us on this important matter.