Alaska lawmakers override four vetoes

Posted: Thursday, January 17, 2002

Lawmakers in the Republican-dominated Legislature on Wednesday approved four bills vetoed by Democrat Gov. Tony Knowles last year.

In a joint House-Senate session, voting largely along party lines, lawmakers overrode Knowles vetoes on measures on campaign contributions, replacement of a U.S. senator, and the transfer of 3,500 acres to the Denali Borough.

Senate Bill 166 would require the governor to wait five days before filling the vacancy of a U.S. senator.

Democrats complained the measure was a partisan tactic that would allow U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, who is running for governor, to name his replacement if elected.

"This was bad public policy when it passed last year and it's bad public policy now," said Senate Minority Leader Johnny Ellis, an Anchorage Democrat. "The common-sense democratic solution is a special election decided by the people."

Under the previous law, a governor could replace a senator who leaves office with less than 30 months left in his term.

Knowles' veto was overridden 41-18. Rep. Lisa Murkowski, an Anchorage Republican and the senator's daughter, attempted to recuse herself due to a conflict of interest, but Democrats objected. She voted in favor of the new law.

Other veto-override votes involved:

• Senate Bill 103, which allows individuals to make unlimited contributions to political parties for party expenses. Such contributions are commonly known as soft money. Contributions for use in a specific campaign are limited to $5,000.

The new law allows professionals to contribute unlimited services to campaigns without reporting the value of those contributions. The vote was 40-19.

• House Bill 177, which places new campaign-finance limits on groups such as the Alaska Conservation Voters, which has supported Democrat candidates with contributions from sources Outside. The bill is a response to a 1999 Alaska Supreme Court ruling that loosened some campaign finance restrictions for nonprofit organizations.

It creates a new category of "nongroup entity" in campaign finance laws and limits the group to contributions of $500 a year to any one candidate instead of its current $1,000 limit. It also puts a 10 percent limit on its contributions from nonresidents. And the bill would require full disclosure of all contributions. The vote was 41-18.

• House Bill 244, a Denali railroad bill that transfers 3,500 acres of state land to the Denali Borough. The borough wants to provide an easement on the land for Kantishna Holdings, a private firm, to build a railroad from Healy to the eastern edge of Denali National Park. The measure passed 41-18.

Two measures vetoed by Knowles were not called up for override votes:

• Senate Bill 88, which would have installed two legislators on the Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation Study committee.

• Senate Bill 193, which would have allowed the Legislative Council to spend $200,000 in permanent fund earnings to study the social and economic effects of the fund on Alaska.

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