Arguments regarding legislative affairs lawsuit heard Friday; ruling expected next week

Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 4:41 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - On Friday, Superior Court Judge Herman Walker Jr. said he plans to make a ruling next week after listening to arguments in a case focusing on the state budget process.

Last month, Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor filed a lawsuit against the Alaska Legislative Affairs Agency over the state’s budget process after the Alaska House of Representatives initially failed to adopt effective date provisions for a spending package.

“Last month, Alaska came within days of a government shutdown because a July 1 operating budget effective date did not initially obtain the required two-third vote to overcome the default effective date set for all legislation by the Constitution,” said Assistant Attorney General Margaret Paton-Walsh.

She said Taylor believed the operating budget would not authorize spending until its effective date, and that employees of the executive branch faced the possibility of layoffs among other consequences.

“The primary issue in the complaint is a particular service-related act of the Legislative Affairs Agency, (and) its declared intention to continue to operate under this budget regardless of the lack of a proper effective date on July 1,” said Paton-Walsh.

She also said the issues raised by Taylor’s lawsuit could come up again in the future. However, Attorney James Torgerson with the Alaska Legislative Affairs Agency argued the lawsuit is brought in the name of the state against the Legislature, which is something he says is barred by the Alaska Constitution.

“Based on the pleadings, the motion should be granted and the complaint should be dismissed because it’s clear from the complaint itself, that the relief that’s sought violates Article 3, Section 18,” Torgerson said.

He also said the attack on the Legislative Affairs Agency is based on the potential decision to continue operating after July 1.

“The issue here as set forth in paragraph 14, is that the executive director of the Legislative Affairs Agency sent a note in which she said it will likely be the Legislature’s position that a functional budget was passed, which allows authorized legislative personnel to continue employment on July 1, and from there she went on to say here’s some things that we might be doing, but the point is she was communicating and relying upon the Legislature’s likely position,” Torgerson said.

Walker said he plans to issue a ruling in this case next week.

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