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REPORT FROM JUNEAU: WEEK 17

Senator Loren Leman
Anchorage, AK
May 10, 2002

COMING DOWN TO THE WIRE:
The regular session of the 22nd Alaska Legislature is required by law to end by midnight Tuesday, May 14. During the last four days things will move quickly. Committee hearings still require 24 hours notice. If you are interested in legislation in process I recommend that you follow it online at www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/ which is updated frequently. Floor sessions will likely run into the evening. Stay tuned.

CAPITAL BUDGET:
The Senate passed SB 247, the capital budget that funds projects around the State from school repairs to harbor improvements, late this afternoon on a 14-6 vote. The capital budget was reconsidered, so will go to the House for consideration tomorrow.

BUDGET RESERVE VOTE:
When the State's annual income is not enough to cover appropriations, as is the case this fiscal year, a withdrawal must be made from our Constitutional Budget Reserve. With a vote of three-fourths of each house required to draw on these reserves, minority members often leverage for more spending in their districts in return for a vote to draw on the CBR. This practice has cost a lot of money over the years. An unfortunate Alaska Supreme Court decision has allowed for this, and would be changed by SJR 24, our proposed constitutional amendment. When you hear me talk about "systemic changes" that need to be in place before we increase taxes on individuals or spend Permanent Fund money, this is an example of what I mean.

WHAT DO YOU KNOW?
Of all the states, where does Alaska rank in spending per pupil on K-12 education?

  1. 11th
  2. 40th
  3. 5th
  4. 16th.
Answer below.

A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE:
The Senate and House passed many bills this week as time grows short in this Legislature, but SB 364, which passed the Senate 12-8 on reconsideration Wednesday, concerned an especially important principle. When the Alaska courts ordered the State to spend Medicaid money for abortions last year -- money that we had not appropriated -- it used the phrase "medically necessary," which is essentially meaningless as defined by Department of Health and Social Service regulations. SB 364 provides a definition for "medically necessary," including those necessary to save the life of the mother. Appropriating money is clearly the province of the Legislature -- and our democratic republic depends on keeping it that way. The Legislature has clearly stated that it does not want to fund elective (non-medically necessary) abortions. I support that position and voted for this bill.

FOCUSING ON THE BUDGET DEBATE:
I'll be appearing on the Capitol Focus program on the Alaska Superstation (Channel 13 in Anchorage, 2 in Fairbanks and 8 in Juneau) this Sunday at 5 pm, along with Sen. Austerman and Reps. James and Hudson. The topic is our different approaches to the budget, taxes and spending from the Permanent Fund. It will be a good discussion.

Answer:
C. Alaska has the 5th highest per-pupil spending in the nation at $9,410.
The State ranks first in total education spending per resident, and in the percentage of our personal income spent on education -- 10.2 percent.


If you know of others who would like to receive my weekly report by email, please contact me at Senator_Loren_Leman@legis.state.ak.us or 465-2095.

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