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Referendum on Labor Ordinance Could be Delayed to 2015

Published On: Sep 25 2013 06:23:20 PM AKDT   Updated On: Sep 26 2013 06:25:33 AM AKDT

A petition signed by more than 22,000 that calls for a referendum on Anchorage Ordinance 37 was submitted last week, but voters may not be able to review the controversial labor law until 2015.

That is one of three paths a possible referendum could take if the signatures are verified by the Municipal Clerk's Office.

Option No. 1

If at least 7,135 votes are verified, voters could decide the future of AO-37 during a special election held within 75 days, but it would cost voters $280,000. 

"The problem is the cost of that," said Assemblyman Dick Traini, who represents Midtown. "That's a huge cost, and I'm sorry, we just don't have the dollars,"

Traini said passing AO-37 in the first place was a mistake, but he wants voters to decide the issue beyond the 75 days.

Option No. 2

The referendum could be added to the spring municipal election to save money, which Traini supports.

"The only thing that makes common sense with me is to have it on the April 14th election and let the people vote on it," said Traini. "Then it'll be settled for once and all, whether AO-37 should be gone permanently or should be back into effective law."

Option No. 3

A referendum could wait Municipal Election in April 2015 or whenever the Alaska Supreme Court decides whether the issue should be left to voters. 

"I want that cleared up before we go through and do and have a referendum on the ballot," said Assemblywoman Jennifer Johnston, who represents South Anchorage. "So this is independent of how you feel about the referendum, how you feel on AO-37 you need to have it defined by the courts first."

Union representatives said they are willing to wait until this spring but not until 2015. Anchorage Police Department Employee Association Treasurer Gerard Asselin said the Municipality is dragging its feet on the court decision.

"The Municipality all along had said since the day that this was introduced hurry up hurry up we need to get this done and now it's very weird to us that they did not exercise an option that's available to them which is the expedited hearing."

Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan said it is up to the Assembly to decide when elections are held. Sullivan does not have an opinion on the issue, he said. 

The city's Attorney said an expedited hearing could not be requested until signatures are counted and a deadline has been set for a possible referendum date.

The Assembly will vote on the three possibilities in two weeks after hearing public testimony. 

Contact Mallory Peebles