House Votes to Protect Constitutional Balance of Power

HB 222 closes funding loophole, reaffirms Legislature as “appropriating body”

Juneau, Alaska – (RealEstateRama) — The Alaska House of Representatives today voted to close a loophole in the process for accepting additional funds for items in the budget when the legislature is not in session, protecting Alaska’s constitutional balance of powers.

House Bill 222, by Representative Mike Hawker, allows the Legislature to put additional sidebars on the Revised Program-Legislative (RPL) process by including language in the budget to prohibit a specified appropriation from being increased without full legislative approval. Currently, the Legislature authorizes the governor to accept and spend any federal or other program receipts in addition to funds already budgeted without restriction simply by complying with specified procedures for notifying the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee.

“House Bill 222 fully protects and reinforces the Legislature’s constitutional authority to appropriate by not only allowing the Legislature to specify what additional funds can be accepted, but, more importantly, what funds we do not want accepted without further legislative approval,” Rep. Hawker, R-Anchorage, said.

During the last interim, the RPL process was used by the governor to accept additional federal funds for Medicaid Expansion, a program that the Legislature had recently expressed interest in reforming before accepting expansion funds. The governor’s action uncovered a loophole that allowed him to usurp the budget process and the balance of powers.

“The spirit of the law is to allow additional funds for approved budget items to be accepted in a timely fashion when the legislature is not in session,” Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, who carried the bill on behalf of Rep. Hawker, said. “However, the process was ‘abused’ last interim when a program that we as a body didn’t agree with was accepted solely by the governor. This ensures that the Legislature maintains the authority as the appropriating body.”

The bill also increases the RPL waiting period from 45 to 90 days, giving the Legislature more time to consider the RPL, call a special session, and, if necessary, override a veto.

HB 222 passed the House on a vote of 26-13 and now moves to the Alaska Senate for consideration.

Contact: Will Vandergriff, 465-5284

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