Senate Bill 35 may leave school districts saying,
Thanks, but what comes next?
March 05, 2004
Senate Bill 35, an appropriation bill that may add new money for cash-strapped Alaska schools, was hidden behind "door 3" by the majority, stripped of its original provisions, then rolled out without public input or testimony in the Senate Finance Committee Thursday then trotted to the floor while the ink was drying. Democrats objected to the process and noted that public involvement could have corrected some major flaws.
The SB35 appropriation is not a fix for K-12 schools, Senate Democrats noted, the new money in SB35 cannot be spent on schools unless the legislature passes another bill in the future. This is not early funding. SB35 only says money is available at some point in the future if another bill is passed by the House, the Senate, and not vetoed by the Governor.
Senators Lyman Hoffman (D-Bethel) and Donny Olson (D-Nome) asked the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics for an advisory opinion on whether the Republican-led Senate Finance Committee violated open meetings principles by scheduling, under bills previously heard, a bill last heard more than 10 months ago. Ethics guidelines previously suggested to the legislature by the ethics committee in 1995, but ignored by the Republican-controlled legislature, required a 24-hour notice of the number and title of a bill. (See attached.)
"We have been sounding a persistent call about the education funding crisis for several years now," said Senate Democratic Whip Kim Elton (D-Juneau). "And while we are please to see our colleagues finally recognize the crisis, there are substantive ethical and legal questions about a process that violates the very core principles of an open, public process."
Democrats also expressed reservations about accessing the Constitutional Budget Reserve for SB35. "These CBR shenanigans are just a Republican ploy to get us to give them a blank check to more easily get at the Permanent Fund Dividend, said Senator Donny Olson (D-Nome). "Schools are our highest priority and we should pay for education out of the general fund. "
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