ANCHORAGE -- Gov. Tony Knowles vetoed a bill Saturday that would have changed the way the governor chooses a successor should one of Alaska's U.S. Senate seats become vacant. The governor also vetoed a bill that would have taken $200,000 from Alaska Permanent Fund earnings to study the economic and social effects of the permanent fund dividend.
The Senate succession bill would have required a 5-day waiting period before the governor could appoint someone to fill a vacant Senate seat.
State Sen. Dave Donley, an Anchorage Republican who sponsored the bill, said the purpose was to give the public time to comment on any appointment.
Democrats said the bill would have had the effect of letting Sen. Frank Murkowski choose his successor if he was elected governor of Alaska.
Murkowski has not said he plans to run for governor, but he has expressed interest in the office in the past and has often been mentioned as a contender by Republicans.
In a news release issued Saturday, Knowles called the bill a "blatantly partisan move."
Donley said Saturday that the measure was not intended to benefit Murkowski.
Even under existing law, a senator who wins election as governor could name his successor by waiting until one minute after the governor's term expires before resigning from the Senate, Donley said. After being sworn in, the new governor could then appoint a successor to the Senate.
"It makes absolute good public policy to make a governor wait at least five days," Donley said.
Regardless of who would name a successor for either of Alaska's senators, the replacement would have to be a Republican. The law was changed in 1998 to specify that the successor must be of the same party as the person being replaced.
Donley said he thought there would be enough votes to override the governor's veto when the Legislature reconvenes in January.
Knowles also vetoed a bill that would have appropriated $200,000 from the earnings of the Permanent Fund to study the economic and social effects the dividend has on the state. Knowles said the study was unnecessary.
The bill was sponsored by the Senate Finance Committee, which is chaired by Donley and Sen. Pete Kelly, a Fairbanks Republican.
Donley says the study would have tried to find out if people move to Alaska in order to receive the dividend. It would also have examined the possibility of increasing the residency requirement for dividend eligibility from one year to two.
Knowles said the state and federal courts have already addressed eligibility issues and further analysis was not likely to change those decisions.
But Donley said the study could provide additional information that could lead to a different outcome in the courts.
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