Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Great Land, Part II

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R)Alaska's politics are a product of its nearly a century as a territory, during which it was exploited by a Congress in which it had no representation, and the rugged individuals who sparsely populate this "last frontier."

Although much of the economy is federally subsidized, "Bridge to Nowhere" notwithstanding, Alaska has a relatively flat governmental structure and a strong libertarian streak.

Most of Alaska has two levels of government: state and "borough," roughly equivalent to a county, but no township or city government, and as far as I know no regional transit boards or metropolitan councils. Much of the state falls into the "unorganized" borough and is administered by the state.

Firearms are licensed on a "shall issue" basis, and once licensed no additional license is needed to carry the weapon concealed. Carrying a firearm is illegal in Alaskan courthouses, schoolyards, bars and domestic violence shelters, but you don't see those ridiculous WEAPONS BANNED ON THESE PREMESES signs everywhere you turn as you do here in Minnesota. Alaska smoking laws resemble the pre-Indoor Clean Air Act era in Minnesota, with smoking and non-smoking sections in public places. Earlier this month, an Alaska Superior Court judge struck down a law that criminalizes the posession of up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use.

The state of Alaska does not have a state sales tax or state income tax. In some boroughs and cities there is a sales tax.

Alaskan politics has been known for its corrupt, good-old-boys ways, but its first female governor, the popular and photogenic Sarah Palin, has largely cleaned house since taking office in 2006. Palin, a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, is the former mayor of Wasilla, 40 miles north of Anchorage (home of the Iditarod dog sled race). Her husband, Todd, works for BP at an oil field on the North Slope and is a commercial fisherman. Alaska's first family includes two sons and three daughters.

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