Alaska Legislature authorizes committee to sue governor over school funding

Members of the Alaska House and Senate hold a press conference after voting to authorize legal action against the administration over K-12 education funding. (KTUU)
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Legislature has voted to move legal action forward against the governor over a question of education funding.

The motion, approved in both the House and Senate, delegates full authority to the Legislative Council for action to sue the administration over forward funding education for fiscal year 2020.

In effect, the Legislative Council, a special committee made up of members from the House and Senate, can now decide whether or not to sue the governor.

However, the vote Tuesday morning does not necessarily mean the matter will head to court.

Lawmakers say the governor could still decide whether or not to block funding for schools. If he did block funding, a trip to the courts would be needed.

The dispute between the Legislature and the administration centers on the constitutionality of forward-funding K-12 education.

Kevin Clarkson, the Alaska Attorney General, released a formal opinion that stated the Legislature needed to add a specific education appropriation item in its budget.

According to Clarkson, the move by lawmakers contravenes a rule that the Legislature cannot bind a future Legislature to appropriate funds.

Matt Shuckerow, the governor’s press secretary, says releasing education funding is not a matter of choice for the governor. Under the Attorney General’s opinion, the governor is not able to release funds for schools.

With the exception of the House minority, the Legislature has been virtually united in its opinion that education has already been funded after a forward funding bill passed in 2018.

The Legislature has its own legal advice that its action is constitutional.



 
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