Lawmakers OK funds for division after last election empties its coffers

Posted: Friday, February 25, 2005

The Legislature on Thursday passed a $694,000 supplemental appropriation to the state Division of Elections, which is broke after paying for last fall's election, Director Laura Glaiser said.

The division ran out of money Feb. 9 due to the costs of record turnout, record absentee votes and a court-ordered reprint of 517,000 ballots before the Nov. 2 election, Glaiser said.

"We can't do anything until the funding comes," Glaiser said Thursday.

The House approved the funding bill 30-3. The Senate had passed the bill earlier. Now the measure goes to Gov. Frank Murkowski, where it is expected to be signed quickly.

"We had asked for this to be expedited and we will be addressing this as soon as we can," Murkowski spokeswoman Becky Hultberg said.

The elections appropriation is the first substantive bill to pass both chambers of the Legislature, which on Thursday was 46 days into its 120-day session.

Last fall, the state's ballots were reprinted at a cost of nearly $250,000 dollars after an Anchorage judge found that the wording of a voter initiative summary was biased.

Sponsors of the initiative to change the way the state fills its U.S. Senate vacancies said the summary written by Lt. Gov. Loren Leman was slanted, and sued to have it changed.

Three Democrats on Thursday voted against the funding bill, citing Leman's role in the process as the reason.

"There's a $250,000 mistake by the lieutenant governor," said Rep. Woodie Salmon, D-Beaver. "I don't think we should be paying for something like that."

Democratic Rep. Harry Crawford of Anchorage, one of the initiative's sponsors, said Leman should have worked with them on the language. He and Rep. Eric Croft of Anchorage, another sponsor of the initiative, also voted against the elections division funding bill.

The House on Thursday also passed a bill to restructure prison sentencing guidelines for certain crimes. The bill that would establish prison sentence ranges to put Alaska in compliance with a U.S. Supreme Court decision made last year on sentencing rules.

The bill goes back to the Senate after the House passed an amendment exempting convicts who have not been convicted of a prior felony or who are participating in a state-approved therapeutic program.

A second amendment was rejected that would have set limits to how much company stock a state employee can own when that employee is conducting state business with that company.

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