Anchorage judge dismisses attorney general’s suit against legislative agency over budget date dispute

The Alaska Capitol building in Juneau.
The Alaska Capitol building in Juneau.(KTUU)
Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 2:13 PM AKDT
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - An Anchorage Superior Court judge has dismissed the attorney general’s lawsuit against a legislative agency over when the operating budget became effective, saying that the Alaska Constitution prohibits the state of Alaska from suing the Legislature.

Once a bill is signed, it becomes effective 90 days later. Two-thirds of legislators in both the House of Representatives and Senate needed to change that for the budget in June so funds could go out on July 1, the start of the next fiscal year.

The vote passed in the Senate and initially failed in the House, leading Gov. Mike Dunleavy to call the budget “defective.” Some legislators argued the governor’s position was wrong and that funds could go out on time.

Alaska came perilously close to its first state government shutdown before the House passed the effective date change and Dunleavy signed the budget on June 30.

A week earlier, Attorney General Treg Taylor sued the Legislative Affairs Agency, the nonpartisan office that provides logistical support for the Legislature. The agency had signaled that the Legislature would keep operating even if a shutdown occurred.

Taylor argued that wasn’t possible and wanted the lawsuit to clarify the effective date issue for the future.

Judge Herman Walker Jr. had allowed the case to proceed even though the effective date question had been resolved. He said although the lawsuit was brought against a legislative agency, it was really against the Legislature and therefore prohibited by the state’s constitution.

Grace Lee, a spokesperson for the Department of Law, said a full review of the case would be made to decide whether to appeal the decision to the Alaska Supreme Court.

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