JUNEAU, Alaska — The state of Alaska has pulled an offer to help the City and Borough of Juneau in an ongoing lawsuit brought by the cruise ship industry.
The state on Wednesday withdrew a legal memo sent the day before that supported the city and borough’s position in the case, the Juneau Empire reported .
The lawsuit was filed by Cruise Lines International Association Alaska and Cruise Lines International Association. The associations claim the city and borough interfere with interstate commerce and violate the Tonnage Clause of the U.S. Constitution by collecting $8 per cruise ship passenger — or a head tax — with a $3 port fee and a $5 additional fee.
Cori Mills, a spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Law, said the memo of support was never supposed to be sent. Mills declined to say how the mistake happened.
“The state will continue to monitor this case, but the state is not a party to the case nor does it directly implicate state statute,” Mills said.
The 19-page memo of support cited legal precedents from across the country that back the city and borough’s stance that the fee collection does not break the law.
“Because Juneau’s fees are for services provided to the cruise ship industry and cruise ship passengers, and are not imposed for the privilege of entering Juneau’s port, the fees do not violate the Tonnage Clause,” the state memo said. “Specifically, the courts have held that fees collected to fund restroom facilities, parking, trash disposal, breakwater, lights, and security are not a duty of tonnage because services are provided in exchange for the fee.”
Jonathan Benner, the lead attorney on the case for the cruise industry, declined to comment Wednesday morning, saying that his office had received the brief Tuesday amid several other filings and needed time to analyze it.
City and borough manager Rorie Watt said he wasn’t sure what the state’s actions meant.
Watt said the city attempted to negotiate an end to the lawsuit last year but was unsuccessful. The assembly has allocated or spent more than $800,000 defending itself from the lawsuit.
Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com