The state’s highest court heard oral arguments Wednesday on whether a proposed ban on commercial setnet fishing in Alaska's urban areas will be put to voters next year and had pointed questions about what the exact effects of such a ban might be.

At issue is whether the ban amounts to an allocation of state resources by popular vote, which is prohibited under the state constitution. Then-Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, with a supporting opinion from the state Department of Law, determined that was the case when he initially declined to certify the ballot initiative in 2014.

Backers of the initiative took the issue to court, where an Anchorage Superior Court judge overruled Treadwell's decision. Opponents of the measure appealed.

In early August, the state Division of Elections certified the 43,000 signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot for the 2016 primary election. But first, it must survive Supreme Court scrutiny.

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