The Senate chambers are seen at the Alaska State Capitol on Friday, May 13, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska. (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.
Jim Cooper, Democratic candidate from Palmer
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?
There currently is a formula which the state should adhere to, providing we have a strong fiscal plan and monetary resources to follow the formula. This fiscal plan would allow for the Permanent Fund dividend to, in fact, become permanent and fully funded.
What’s the biggest need in your district, and how would you address it?
Infrastructure needs to be strengthened – i.e. sewage treatment plants, roads, bridges. Another problem is the doctor to population ratio is one-half in Mat-Su when compared to the rest of the state and the nation.
What policies and laws should Alaska follow with regard to abortion?
The state constitution currently protects the right to privacy, this includes women’s health care.. That should not be changed. Allowing women health care, all health care, should be a priority and that includes reproductive rights.
How should the state reduce the threat of gun violence and mass shootings?
New laws should be enacted to restrict the sale of certain firearms; new licensing requirements, longer waiting periods, more intense background checks, eliminating the sale of “bump stocks”, “glock triggers” and education classes for new gun owners.
How much should a legislator’s faith or religion determine state law and policy?
It shouldn’t. An individual’s faith is just that – individual and it belongs in their church and at home and not in state or local government. There are three branches of Government: Executive, Legislative and Judicial and Church is not one of them. The church/faith/religion needs to remain out of Government.
What should the state do to improve retention of public employees, including teachers?
The state needs to increase benefits to public employees. Specifically, teachers need to be enrolled in Social Security. Currently retired educators receive a pension from the state but, when eligible, do not receive Social Security benefits and this should be changed. The state also needs to return to the defined benefit program. For teachers to stay, they have to have a sound future. The state also needs to look at a reciprocity program where teachers entering the state need to get credit for more than just three years prior experience.
What does an ideal state ferry system look like?
The state needs to have a ferry system that services all communities on a regular, reliable schedule – particularly in the Southeast. The ferries also need to be updated.
What, if any, changes does the state need to make to ensure voting is equitable and secure?
The best option is to have mail-in ballots for all. Numerous states have mail-in and some require all mail-in. These states have a large turnout of voters, up to 60%. Some polling places have been eliminated and mail-in ballots rectify that problem. To make it easier, the two witness verification needs to be eliminated. There has been no or minimal “voter fraud” created by mail-in.
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 North Pacific Fishery Management Council currently has studies on the decline of the salmon and it has been determined that climate change is the primary driver in those declines. They are also establishing a group of scientists, tribal members, industry representatives and other experts to review the bycatch problem created by pollack fisheries and to also study what are the other causes of the salmon decline and how to ameliorate those causes. The NPFMC needs to be fully supported as do their efforts for all Alaska fisheries.
What constitutional amendments, if any, do you support?
Potentially term limits for legislators.
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