A Superior Court judge’s ruling in favor of a referendum targeting Anchorage’s controversial labor law rewrite could be headed to the Alaska Supreme Court, after an appeal announced Friday by city officials.
City Attorney Dennis Wheeler says the city is appealing Judge Eric Aarseth’s Aug. 19 ruling in a challenge by petition organizer Andy Holleman against the municipality, ordering city officials to provide petition ballots for a referendum to overturn Assembly Ordinance 37. AO-37, passed by the Assembly in March, restricts collective bargaining by city unions.
“Because the standards for determining the legal sufficiency of future referenda or initiatives that address legislative or administrative matters is such an important principle in the administration of fair elections, the Municipal Clerk’s Office is following the Municipal Attorney’s advice to appeal the court’s decision on the referendum,” Wheeler wrote in a Friday statement.
According to Wheeler, the city opted to appeal Aarseth’s decision to establish guidelines on a variety of matters extending beyond AO-37 itself. He cites concerns ranging from the city’s contention that the ordinance is an administrative measure, which can be approved by the Assembly without being subject to a referendum, to powers granted by the state constitution which allow home-rule municipalities like Anchorage to make their own rules governing initiatives and petitions.
“The results of the Court’s decision on this appeal will be far-reaching and will guide future municipal officials,” Wheeler wrote. “The Municipality and its citizens can only benefit from the clarity and guidance to be gained from the Alaska Supreme Court’s decision on this appeal.”
Earlier this week, local unions turned in three times the number of signatures necessary to put the AO-37 repeal petition on local ballots. City Clerk Barbara Jones' office says the city is still verifying signatures for the repeal petition Friday.
"Although the Municipal Clerk's office has 10 days, or until Thursday, September 26, 2013, to certify whether a sufficient number of qualified voters signed the petition consistent with municipal code, the Clerk's Office will provide an update to the public sooner if possible," officials wrote.
Aarseth had given the city 30 days to appeal his decision.
Contact Chris Klint