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.
John Bennett, nonpartisan candidate from Fairbanks
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?
A percentage of oil income.
What’s the biggest need in your district, and how would you address it?
High cost of fuel and heating oil – We should look at an excess profit tax on the oil companies. If the private sector does not step up to build an in-state refinery, maybe the state should.
High energy costs – We must look at a long-term solution to the high cost of electricity in the Interior, and clean up our air at the same time. Large-scale hydroelectric and micro-hydroelectric projects tied to the intertie should be investigated. Also, expand solar and wind generation, as well as backup battery storage.
What policies and laws should Alaska follow with regard to abortion?
The Alaska Constitution, Article 1 – Declaration of Rights, Section 22 Right of Privacy, protects Alaskans’ personal freedom.
How should the state reduce the threat of gun violence and mass shootings?
Anyone who wants to own a firearm should be required to take a gun safety course prior to purchase. All gun purchases should include trigger locks, perhaps paid for by the state, or gun safety organizations.
A red flag law, for violent or mentally ill persons should be discussed, or put to the vote by the people.
How much should a legislator’s faith or religion determine state law and policy?
There should be a strict separation between a legislator’s personal beliefs and legislation they craft and vote on. It should be up to individual legislators’ integrity to recuse themselves, if legislation conflicts with their beliefs.
What should the state do to improve retention of public employees, including teachers?
The state is experiencing an overall workforce shortage; particularly in hiring and retention of public sector employees. Changes must be made in the benefits, salaries, and pensions of public employees, so that state positions are competitive with private industry positions. At a minimum, the state must return to a defined benefit retirement system.
What does an ideal state ferry system look like?
The Alaska Marine Highway System must be directly managed and operated by the State, and given the same priority as every highway. It is a critical link to communities and commerce. It must keep permanent employees who are well trained, and well compensated.
What, if any, changes does the state need to make to ensure voting is equitable and secure?
The first step to ensure equitable voting requires a nonpartisan redistricting board. During voting, if any mistakes are found on mail-in ballots, the voter should be informed, and allowed to correct mistakes, prior to the election deadline. If photo ID is required to vote, the state must fund mobile units to travel to rural areas and bush villages. There must not be any language barriers to voting. Finally, public service announcements, on radio and television, should detail how voting integrity is currently maintained, to restore the public’s faith that their votes are secure.
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?
This is a very complex issue that cannot be adequately addressed in this format. Also, grouping two very different drainages that have different species, totally different migration patterns, and different external pressures cannot do either justice.
It is important to have input from groups and individuals with varied expertise in fisheries, to guide Alaska through this critical issue. It will take both state and federal funding to study this enormous problem from different angles.
What constitutional amendments, if any, do you support?
A constitutional convention should be avoided at all costs. With all the controversy over the Permanent Fund Dividend, the legislature should investigate enshrining the PFD in the constitution, through the amendment process. The dividend amount should be based on a percentage of oil revenues, so that the corpus of the Permanent Fund would never be threatened, even during a major recession, or long periods of low oil revenues.
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