Alaska in Brief

Q&A with Alaska House District 1 candidate Dan Ortiz

By: - July 28, 2022 12:42 am
Rep. Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan, speaks on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives on Monday, May 2, 2022 at the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau. (James Brooks / Alaska Beacon)

Rep. Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan, speaks on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives on Monday, May 2, 2022 at the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau. (James Brooks / Alaska Beacon)

The Alaska Beacon asked Alaska’s legislative candidates to answer a 15-question survey about their positions on a variety of issues. Read all of their responses here. Answers have not been edited.

Dan Ortiz, nonpartisan candidate from Ketchikan

Yes/No questions

The Alaska Constitution allows legislators to call a constitutional convention at any time. Are you interested in calling a convention?

No

Would you be willing to join a coalition majority in which the opposite political party controls a majority of seats?

Yes

Should new public employees have access to a pension?

Yes

Should the state take over the federal permitting process that regulates construction in wetlands?

No

Should Juneteenth be a state holiday?

Yes

Open-ended questions

How should the state of Alaska set the amount of the Permanent Fund dividend each year?

The bipartisan fiscal working group was on the right track in trying to figure out a sustainable long-term formula for the Permanent Fund. The Permanent Fund is meant to support Alaskans for generations into the future, and whatever formula we use must allow us to draw on the Fund without damaging the fund for our grandchildren/future generations.

What’s the biggest need in your district, and how would you address it?

It has been among my top priorities to protect the interests of our valuable fishing and tourism industries, as well as maintaining vital government services – especially for the elderly, in education, and in transportation infrastructure, including AMHS and roads.

I’ve been effectively working to address these needs since 2016 by serving on the finance committee and as the education, transportation (2020-2022), fish and game (2016-2020), and DEC finance subcommittee chair. I consistently remind my House colleagues of the priorities put forth in the AK Constitution regarding education and fisheries (“maximum sustainable yield”). I’ll continue working to support a return to reliable ferry service and investment in critical transportation infrastructure, which will help to maintain and grow a strong economic base for all of Alaska.

What policies and laws should Alaska follow with regard to abortion?

As a private individual I believe in the sanctity of human life. As an elected public official, my number one responsibility is to uphold the principles outlined in the U.S. and Alaska Constitutions. The right to privacy, which has historically included abortion, is written into our state Constitution. I will support Alaskans to exercise all of their constitutional rights in all contexts.

How should the state reduce the threat of gun violence and mass shootings?

Guns are an important tool that many Alaskans use to hunt, feed themselves and defend their families. As a legislator, I strongly support protection of all of the rights outlined in the U.S. Constitution, including our Second Amendment right to bear arms. There are many ways that our state could work to reduce the threat of gun violence without infringing on the rights of our many responsible gun owners. I would support initiatives that increase behavioral health resources for at-risk individuals and other initiatives that do not affect the rights of law-abiding Alaskans. I also believe that in our country, state elected officials should adopt policies that balance all of the rights listed in the U.S. Constitution, especially those listed in the Bill of Rights. No single right is more important than any of the others. In other words, our courts and lawmakers should ensure that policies/laws that promote the exercising of certain rights do not reduce or limit other rights that we as U.S. citizens and Alaskan residents have.

How much should a legislator’s faith or religion determine state law and policy?

My faith is an important part of my personal life. As a legislator, my duty is to listen to and serve the constituents of District 1, and to act in accordance with our state constitution and legal framework. No elected official should promote policies or legislation that would infringe on the rights that all Alaskans are entitled to, whatever the motivation (religious beliefs included) for promoting a particular policy or law.

What should the state do to improve retention of public employees, including teachers?

As a teacher and coach for decades at Ketchikan High School, I have been enormously grateful for the privilege of teaching and supporting our region’s young people. There are many talented teachers out there who leave the profession, however, because they cannot make it work financially – especially for their long term retirement planning needs. I support a return to a Defined Benefit retirement plan, which would help us to support and retain talented educators.

What does an ideal state ferry system look like?

The Alaska Marine Highway is just that – a highway for our coastal communities. Having regular, frequent ferry service is not a luxury for many of the communities in District 1 – it is a lifeline that allows communities to access food, mail, health care, and more. There have been a variety of solutions proposed to rebuild a functional marine highway, and I am open to solutions that recognize the social and economic importance of this system to our region.

What, if any, changes does the state need to make to ensure voting is equitable and secure?

Vote-by-mail is useful for many Alaskans who have postal service but would have difficulty getting to a polling place. The rates of ballot rejection in the last by-mail election were staggeringly high, and higher in rural areas. It is challenging to maintain a balance between accessible voting and secure voting, but expanded voter education would be a good first step to reducing ballot rejection. Finding ways for voters to fix, or cure, problems with their ballots would be another useful step.

What do you intend to do about the poor returns of salmon in the Yukon and Kuskokwim drainages, and what are the main causes of the problems?

The devastating chum and chinook salmon returns in the Yukon and Kuskokwim drainages will require action from our fisheries management bodies. I also support recent federal disaster relief efforts and believe that monies directed to disaster relief should be prioritized to the western region, and the legislature should consider other actions that fight to preserve our salmon runs.

What constitutional amendments, if any, do you support?

I am open to considering constitutional amendments on a case-by-case basis, and I support potentially adopting an amendment that grants a constitutional right to a sustainable Permanent Fund Dividend for current and future generations of Alaskans.

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James Brooks
James Brooks

James Brooks is a longtime Alaska reporter, having previously worked at the Anchorage Daily News, Juneau Empire, Kodiak Mirror and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. A graduate of Virginia Tech, he is married to Caitlyn Ellis, owns a house in Juneau and has a small sled dog named Barley. He can be contacted at [email protected]m.

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