Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 6:25 PM on Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ordinance opens door for Smith to run again



By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff writer

Just when it looked like the door was closing on Bill Smith's service representing Homer on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, passage of Ordinance 2011-24 may make another three-year term possible.

An initiative passed by borough voters in 2009 limited the amount of time an assembly member could serve to two consecutive terms, with any portion of a term considered a term. Smith served the third and final year of Deb Germano's three-year term representing Homer after Germano resigned from the assembly in 2007. Smith was re-elected for a full, three-year term in 2008. Under current code, Smith would be limited out at the completion of his term this year.

However, the Aug. 2 passage of Ordinance 2011-24 on an eight-to-one vote — only Brent Johnson of Kasilof opposed the action — redefined "term" to include a full, rather than a portion of a three-year term of office for an assembly member. The ordinance takes effect Oct. 14 or upon preclearance by the U.S. Department of Justice, whichever occurs last.

The Oct. 14 date complies with state statute that "we cannot change the effect of an ordinance adopted by initiative within two years of its effective date," said KPB attorney Colette Thompson. "The voters approved the term limits initiative in the October election of 2009. That was certified Oct. 13 of 2009."

Laws that change any voting qualifications or prerequisites to voting must be precleared by the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., according to Section 5 of theVoting Rights Act.

"If they do not submit an objection within 60 days, then its considered legitimate to proceed as though there was no objection," said Thompson.

The results of the Oct. 4 municipal election will be certified by the assembly at its Oct. 11 meeting. Should Smith decide to run for re-election and win voters' approval, he could not be sworn in before Oct. 14 or upon the preclearance of Justice, whichever comes later, according to the ordinance.

Homer would not be without representation in the interim, said Thompson, because "the term of office of assembly members basically continues until the successor qualifies."

In other words, Smith, if re-elected, would continue to serve until he could be sworn in.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com

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