100 Years of Alaska's Legislature
"From Territorial Days to Today"

1983 - 1984

Juneau, Alaska

13th State Legislature

Crab Fishery Crisis


Commercial Crab Seasons Canceled

After the soaring revenues of 1982, oil prices began to slip. The effects were not widely apparent immediately, however, as population and construction continued to increase. Efforts begun in the 1970s to develop a large-scale agricultural industry had resulted in the Delta Barley project and the appropriation of over $8 million for construction of a grain terminal at Seward. Contention subsequently embroiled the project in delays that were not resolved until a settlement agreement was reached in January of 1983. By then, however, although the site and materials had been purchased, the political will to build the Seward Grain Terminal was gone.

While overall oil production and revenues continued to be high, the corporate income taxes from these activities plummeted after the shift in 1981 away from a system of separate accounting. At the same time, because certain eligibility restrictions for the Longevity Bonus Program had been found to be unconstitutional, the Legislature reduced the program's residency requirement from 25 years to one year. With this change, the program became available to far more citizens. Contending that the program would eventually overwhelm the budget, the Governor proposed tying eligibility to income. Lawmakers rejected the proposal, but the argument would recur numerous times in the next years as revenues continued to decline and costs of the program rose dramatically.

After the bribery conviction and expulsion of a powerful Senator during the previous Legislature, lawmakers in 1984 passed a comprehensive ethics bill creating the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics and prohibiting nepotism, conflicts of interest, and gifts intended as a reward or inducement for official action. The Act also established guidelines for contracts and leases with the state, loans from the state, and representation of clients before public bodies. Nevertheless, other Senators were soon to come under scrutiny for criminal behavior or criticism for misuse of funds.

Among other concerns of the 13th Legislature were issues such as testing for tuberculosis; prohibiting smoking in public places; strengthening laws protecting both children and the elderly; addressing disparities in funding for education; encouraging rural students to pursue careers in teaching in rural schools; funding erosion control projects; rejecting measures to restore the death penalty; authorizing municipalities to conduct games of chance with cards, dice, and roulette wheels; considering promotion of a nuclear-free arctic and sub-arctic; amending the Power Cost Assistance Program and changing its name to the Power Cost Equalization Program; and raising the drinking age to 21.

Beyond the Legislature

The Honorable Thomas R. Berger hears testimony on the impact of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) on the lives of Alaska Natives. His seminal report, Village Journey, is published in 1985.

Voters approve a constitutional amendment limiting legislative sessions to 120 days.

Weiss v State becomes a class action suit, challenging the State's stewardship of Mental Health Trust lands.

Crab stocks drop so low that commercial seasons are canceled.

Alaska's several time zones (except for the westernmost Aleutian Islands) are collapsed into Alaska Standard Time.

"Crack" cocaine is developed in the Bahamas and soon appears in the United States.

Toxic gas leaks from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, killing 2,000 and injuring 150,000.

Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie is arrested in Bolivia and brought to trial.

Sally Ride, physicist and astronaut, becomes America's first woman in space, aboard space shuttle Challenger.

More than 125 million watch the final episode of M*A*S*H.

Scientists report findings of recurring springtime thinning of ozone over the South Pole-the Antarctic Ozone Hole.

Joe Hayes

Jalmar Kerttula