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REPORT FROM JUNEAU: 2nd 2002 SPECIAL SESSION

Senator Loren Leman
Senate Majority Leader
Anchorage, AK
June 21, 2002

SPECIAL SESSION SET FOR MONDAY:
The Legislature will convene at 2 pm on Monday, June 24, in special session to consider extending the Regulatory Commission of Alaska (RCA), which oversees public utilities in the state; and an appropriation to place additional veterans in Pioneers’ Homes. Senate and House Finance Committees will meet later in the afternoon to consider these bills.

RCA -- IS IT PHONE WARS OR SLOW BUREAUCRACY?
I disagree with the absolute need for the Governor's call for a special session over extending the existence of the RCA. However, when the Senate's agreement to a one-year extension and an oversight study for RCA fell apart under last-minute criticism from the Senate Judiciary Chairman, the Governor took the opportunity to call the Legislature back for this special session.

RECOGNIZING VETERANS’ NEEDS:
Because of court decisions, we've had to move away from the original intent – to house our longtime Alaskan seniors – to combining a veteran's home with the Pioneer Home. I believe the Senate's approach for a pilot program, and allowing the state to continue to negotiate with the federal government, is the right approach. This is a change that should be phased in so any complications can be addressed immediately with solutions, rather than wholesale change with possible disruption in service to both veterans and pioneers.

GOVERNOR VETOES CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM:
On Wednesday the Governor vetoed SB 363, which would strengthen Alaska's campaign finance law by requiring Outside groups to disclose their involvement in and financing of political ads and other communications involving elections. Well-financed groups have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into recent Alaska elections without disclosing the source of the money under the current law. I find the Governor's claim that SB 363 "weakened existing law" to be disingenuous.

AND DEFINING "MEDICALLY NECESSARY" ABORTION:
On June 5 the Governor vetoed SB 364, which would clarify what a "medically necessary" abortion is and make very clear that the State is not authorized to use Medicaid funds for elective abortions. I'll reiterate something I wrote in my Weekly Report on May 10 when this bill passed the Senate: "Appropriating money is clearly the province of the Legislature—and our democratic republic depends on keeping it that way." The Governor is wrong.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS:
Reluctantly, I have scheduled a Finance Subcommittee hearing from 4:00-5:30 pm Tuesday, June 25, to hear the Department of Natural Resources answers to questions about park closures in Fairbanks and the Matanuska-Susitna areas. Contact your local Legislative Information Office if you would like to participate. We will focus on the existing private contracts DNR has, whether that kind of an arrangement would work in these parks and what options DNR explored before posting the parks closed.


If you know of others who would like to receive my report by email, please contact me at Senator_Loren_Leman@legis.state.ak.us or 269-0240.

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