Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, smiles during a meeting of the budget conference committee on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, in the Alaska State Capitol. (Photo by 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.
Bill Wielechowski, Democratic candidate from Anchorage
The Alaska Constitution allows legislators to call a constitutional convention at any time. Are you interested in calling a convention?
Would you be willing to join a coalition majority in which the opposite political party controls a majority of seats?
Should new public employees have access to a pension?
Should the state take over the federal permitting process that regulates construction in wetlands?
Should Juneteenth be a state holiday?
How should the state of Alaska set the amount of the Permanent Fund dividend each year?
The PFD needs to be in the Constitution so the people (and the State) have predictability and stability
What’s the biggest need in your district, and how would you address it?
Many needs, but the biggest at this moment is homelessness. I have worked with my colleagues to fund a statewide housing trust to help provide housing for the homeless. I will continue to support those efforts.
What policies and laws should Alaska follow with regard to abortion?
The Alaska Supreme Court has ruled that a woman’s right to have an abortion is protected under the Alaska Constitution. We are obligated to follow our Constitution.
How should the state reduce the threat of gun violence and mass shootings?
Under the Alaska Constitution, Alaskans’ right to bear arms is extremely broad. We need to get at the root of gun violence – which is often due to substance abuse, mental illness. In fact, 90% of all crime in Alaska is substance abuse related. I have long advocated for and supported substance abuse and mental health treatment.
How much should a legislator’s faith or religion determine state law and policy?
We are all influenced and our values are shaped our faith, religion and personal beliefs. While respecting the religious beliefs of others, we must be careful to follow our Constitutional obligation, as set for in the first clause in the federal Bill of Rights, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
What should the state do to improve retention of public employees, including teachers?
Alaska has the worst retirement system in the nation for public employees. Alaska teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public employees are the only public employees in the nation who do not receive Social Security and also receive no defined benefit retirement. This has caused many of our best and brightest to leave our state. We need to pass a bill restoring a defined benefit for public employees.
What does an ideal state ferry system look like?
The Marine Highway is critical to not only Southeast, but many transiting service members, tourists and our State economy as a whole. An ideal ferry system will meet the need of these groups. I am encouraged that Congress included roughly $1 billion for the Alaska Marine Highway over the next five years.
What, if any, changes does the state need to make to ensure voting is equitable and secure?
We should be making it easier for people to vote – not putting up unnecessarily restrictive bureaucratic blockades. We need same day voter registration. We should allow ballot curing. We should offer statewide vote by mail, which has proven to be safe and effective. We should have more drop boxes for people to drop the ballots. I support reasonable chain of custody laws to ensure ballots are not tampered with, as well as open source voting machine codes to provide transparency.
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 causes of the poor returns of salmon in the Yukon and Kuskokwim drainages are complex and not entirely understood. Some speculate the causes include disease, bycatch and climate change. Critical to addressing this problem is research to determine what the causes actually are. We all know bycatch is a problem and we need state representatives in place who will fight to protect our salmon. Climate change is real and I support state efforts to immediately address this and to move towards more renewable energy. On the Finance Committee I have also supported funding Fish & Game to research the causes of these poor returns.
What constitutional amendments, if any, do you support?
I support a constitutional amendment to put the PFD in the Constitution. I am open to a reasonable change to our constitutional spending cap.
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