Does the “effective date clause” on legislative bills mean what the founders of the Alaska Constitution intended, or can the governor ignore the clauses and just start spending money on July 1?
The Democrat majority in the House had said everywhere on social media that the governor should disregard the effective date clause on the budget, while the governor says that doing so would violate the Constitution. Without the Legislature’s affirmative action to adjust the effective date, a bill goes into effect 90 days after it is passed.
Alaska’s Attorney General decided that since there was a dispute between the legislative and executive branch, it was for the courts to decide.
The House Democrats blinked, and returned to Juneau to pass a legitimate effective date clause, which may show just how concerned they were about the court decision going against them. For the first time in memory, a government shutdown would have been blamed on the Democrats, something they were not prepared to face.
Now, Alaska’ Attorney General Treg Taylor said that, although the July 1 government shutdown has been averted with the actions in the House today, he will continue to press for an answer from Superior Court, since the situation is likely to arise again.
“While we are pleased that a government shutdown has been averted, the important legal question remains—does the operating budget need a July 1steffective date passed by two-thirds of each house? This has implications for years to come, and it is much better to decide the issue before it arises again in the future with another potential shutdown,” said Taylor. “Getting an answer before the budget process begins again next year would ensure that everyone knows the actual legal impact of failing to pass a July 1st effective date.”
Oral arguments on the matter are scheduled for noon on June 29, although the parties are currently discussing next steps, the Attorney General said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the budget, HB 69, can now go to the governor’s desk, and he has said he will review it. He has signaled he will sign it so the government doesn’t shut down. The governor has a few bad choices:
- Sign a budget that has a $525 Permanent Fund dividend. Veto whatever programs seem excessive.
- Veto the dividend portion to zero and call the Legislature back into special session (he can do so no earlier than July 28) to either follow the statute or fix the statute, so Alaskans get a bigger dividend.
- Veto the $525 dividend to zero, and launch a citizen initiative that would call for a Constitutional Convention to put the formula in the Constitution.
Whatever the governor decides, it’s sure to play into the next election cycle. The governor faces reelection in 2022, if he chooses to run.
On the Must Read Alaska Show on Monday, Rep. Ben Carpenter of District 29-Nikiski, said that pressure from the business community had an effect on many members of the Republican minority to vote for the budget, even with the lack of a fiscal plan. He said that pressure appeared to be effective.
Carpenter said that the “Sense of the House” agreement to return to Juneau in August to develop a fiscal plan is a document that was based on the honor system, and there is no guarantee the House Majority will deal in good faith in August. Even during Monday’s convening of the House, the Democrat majority tried many maneuvers to trick the Republicans into voting for something they had not agreed to during negotiations.