Alaska judge to hear arguments in budget case
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) – A state court judge scheduled arguments for the next month on Tuesday regarding whether the trial of Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor over the state’s budget process is not applicable and should be rejected.
Superior Court Judge Herman Walker had previously said he intended to dismiss the case after the State Chamber passed provisions on Monday on the effective date of a budget that she had not adopted earlier this month. Walker has set a deadline of Tuesday for parties involved in the case to explain why he should not dismiss the case as moot.
In a brief hearing Tuesday in Anchorage, Walker agreed to hear arguments on July 23.
Taylor sued the Legislative Affairs Agency after the House failed to pass the effective date provisions on June 15. Gov. Mike Dunleavy called the budget “flawed”, pointing to the failure of the effective date as a concern.
Taylor, in his trial, argued that under the state’s constitution, laws do not come into force until 90 days after they are passed, unless the legislature with two-thirds support in each chamber does provides for other effective dates. He said the bill’s retroactive provisions do not provide a workaround. The new fiscal year begins on Thursday.
Megan Wallace, a senior legislative attorney, in a note to the Speaker of the House said the governor could heed the bill’s retroactive provisions or use other tools to maintain state government active until its entry into force, such as interim loans.
While a number of lawmakers disagreed with Dunleavy’s interpretation, the House gained the support it needed on Monday to proceed to another vote and pass the effective date provisions. Dunleavy said the action would avoid a threat of a partial government shutdown.
The law department, which Taylor heads, said Taylor still wanted a court to rule on the effective date issue.
“This has implications for years to come, and it is much better to resolve the issue before it recurs in the future with another potential shutdown,” Taylor said in a statement Monday.
Lawyers representing the Legislative Affairs Agency, in court documents, said the case should be closed. They argued, among other things, that state political action against the legislature is prohibited by Alaska’s constitution.
The Legislative Affairs Agency carries out policy defined by the Legislative Council, made up of the leaders of the House and Senate, and provides other legislative services. He does not have the power of appropriation; it’s up to the legislature, agency lawyers said.
The lawsuit “inappropriately” uses the agency as an “agent of the legislature,” argued attorneys James Torgerson, Kevin Cuddy and Connor Smith, representing the agency, in court documents.
The documents filed by the agency’s attorneys included a letter from Dunleavy to State Supreme Court Chief Justice Joel Bolger dated June 18 in which Dunleavy set out differing views on the issue of effective date and claimed he had asked Taylor “to seek a ruling on the matter” through the courts.
Dunleavy called for the problem to be dealt with “as expeditiously as possible”.
Bolger, in a response letter, told Dunleavy he could not engage in such communications and said he was sure Taylor’s office was “familiar with the proper procedures for bringing your concerns to the table. the attention of the appropriate forum ”.