LAW AND STATE GOVERNMENT OF ALASKA

Like all other U.S. states, Alaska is governed as a republic, with three branches of government: an executive branch consisting of the Governor of Alaska and the other independently elected constitutional officers; a legislative branch consisting of the Alaska House of Representatives and Alaska Senate; and a judicial branch consisting of the Alaska Supreme Court and lower courts. The State of Alaska employs approximately 15,000 employees statewide.

The Alaska Legislature consists of a 40-member House of Representatives and a 20-member Senate. Senators serve four year terms and House members two. The Governor of Alaska serves four-year terms. The lieutenant governor runs separately from the governor in the primaries, but during the general election, the nominee for governor and nominee for lieutenant governor run together on the same ticket.

Alaska's court system has four levels: the Alaska Supreme Court, the court of appeals, the superior courts and the district courts. The superior and district courts are trial courts. Superior courts are courts of general jurisdiction, while district courts only hear certain types of cases, including misdemeanor criminal cases and civil cases valued up to $100,000. The Supreme Court and the Court Of Appeals are appellate courts. The Court Of Appeals is required to hear appeals from certain lower-court decisions, including those regarding criminal prosecutions, juvenile delinquency, and habeas corpus. The Supreme Court hears civil appeals and may in its discretion hear criminal appeals.

State politics
Although Alaska entered the union as a Democratic state, since the early 1970s Alaska has been characterized as a Republican-leaning state.[58] Local political communities have often worked on issues related to land use development, fishing, tourism, and individual rights. Alaska Natives, while organized in and around their communities, have been active within the Native corporations. These have been given ownership over large tracts of land, which require stewardship.

Alaska is the only state in which possession of one ounce or less of marijuana in one's home is completely legal under state law, though the federal law remains in force. The state has an independence movement favoring a vote on secession from the United States, with the Alaska Independence Party labeled as one of "the most significant state-level third parties operating in the 20th century".

Most Alaskan governors have been conservatives, generally Republicans, but some have not always been elected under the official Republican banner. For example, Republican Governor Wally Hickel was elected to the office for a second term in 1990 after leaving the Republican party and briefly joining the Alaskan Independence Party ticket just long enough to be reelected. He subsequently officially rejoined the Republican party in 1994.

Taxes
To finance state government operations, Alaska depends primarily on petroleum revenues and federal subsidies. This allows it to have the lowest individual tax burden in the United States, and be one of only five states with no state sales tax, one of seven states that do not levy an individual income tax, and one of two states that has neither. The Department of Revenue Tax Division reports regularly on the state's revenue sources. The Department also issues an annual overview of its operations, including new state laws that directly affect the tax division.

While Alaska has no state sales tax, 89 municipalities collect a local sales tax, from 1–7.5%, typically 3–5%. Other local taxes levied include raw fish taxes, hotel, motel, and bed-and-breakfast 'bed' taxes, severance taxes, liquor and tobacco taxes, gaming (pull tabs) taxes, tire taxes and fuel transfer taxes. A percentage of revenue collected from certain state taxes and license fees (such as petroleum, aviation motor fuel, telephone cooperative) is shared with municipalities in Alaska.

Fairbanks has one of the highest property taxes in the state as no sales or income taxes are assessed in the Fairbanks North Star Borough (FNSB). A sales tax for the FNSB has been voted on many times, but has yet to be approved, leading law makers to increase taxes dramatically on other goods such as liquor and tobacco. In 2009 the Tax Foundation ranked Alaska as having the 4th most "business friendly" tax policy. More "friendly" states were Wyoming, Nevada, and South Dakota.

Federal politics
In presidential elections, the state's electoral college votes have been won by the Republican nominee in every election since statehood, except for 1964. No state has voted for a Democratic presidential candidate fewer times. Alaska supported Democratic nominee Lyndon B. Johnson in the landslide year of 1964, although the 1960 and 1968 elections were close. Republican John McCain defeated Democrat Barack Obama in Alaska, 59.49% to 37.83%. McCain's running mate was Sarah Palin, the state's governor and the first Alaskan on a major party ticket. The Alaska Bush, the city of Juneau and midtown and downtown Anchorage have been strongholds of the Democratic party. Matanuska-Susitna Borough and South Anchorage typically have the strongest Republican showing. As of 2004, well over half of all registered voters have chosen "Non-Partisan" or "Undeclared" as their affiliation, despite recent attempts to close primaries. Because of its population relative to other U.S. states, Alaska has only one member in the U.S. House of Representatives. This seat is currently being held by Republican Don Young, who was re-elected to his 19th consecutive term in 2009.

On November 19, 2008, long time Republican senator Ted Stevens was defeated by Democratic Anchorage mayor Mark Begich. Stevens had been convicted on seven felony counts of failing to report gifts on Senate financial discloser forms one week prior to the election. The conviction was set aside in April 2009 after evidence of prosecutorial misconduct emerged.

Republican Frank Murkowski held the state's other senatorial position. After being elected governor in 2002, he resigned from the Senate and appointed his daughter, State Representative Lisa Murkowski as his successor. In response to a subsequent ballot initiative, the state legislature attempted to amend the law to limit the length of gubernatorial appointments. She won a full six-year term in 2004. In 2006 Frank Murkowski was defeated in the Republican primary by Sarah Palin, who in 2008 became the Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States.

Luciano Mende

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