New House rules: That amendment is unconstitutional, since it refers to abortion

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In the Alaska House of Representatives, there’s a novel interpretation of Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure: If a budget committee member thinks a budget proposal is unconstitutional, it may not even be offered as a budget amendment.

The new interpretation of lawmaking unfolded when Rep. Sarah Vance of Homer offered an amendment to the Court System budget that would subtract $334,700 from Fiscal Year 2022.

That is the approximate amount spent on state-funded elective abortions. Her explanation was that it’s the Legislature’s intent that the State shall not pay for elective abortions.

That $334,700 was the sum that the Dunleavy Administration had paid back to the court system after the Alaska Superior Court declared it unconstitutional for him to reduce the court’s budget by the amount that the State is paying for elective abortions — a result of the court’s interpretation of the Constitution, which it says allows for abortion.

Vance’s amendment was the first to be moved in the Judiciary Finance subcommittee on Monday. But immediately, Rep. Matt Claman called for a point of order, and asked the amendment be ruled out of order because, he said, it was unconstitutional.

“We all take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the State of Alaska, with three independent branches of government. It is uniquely the province of the courts to say what the law is,” Claman read from his prepared remarks. “When we support the decisions of the Alaska Supreme Court, and support fair and impartial courts, we strengthen the rule of law.”

Claman went on to say that the amount Vance was trying to cut is the exact amount the governor attempted to veto last year only to run up against the decision by Superior Court Judge Jennifer Henderson.

Henderson said the governor could not veto the court’s money as a way to get back at the courts for forcing the state to pay for elective abortions. Gov. Mike Dunleavy did not appeal that ruling.

“The courts decision confirmed that cuts may be made for any reason, but not for an improper reason. Attempting to punish the courts for properly interpreting the Alaska Constitution is an improper reason for making a budget cut and the proposed cut is an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers. And with that I would ask the chair rule this amendment out of order,” Claman said.

Rep. David Eastman came to the defense of the amendment, citing the Mason’s Manual rule that says no proposal may be ruled out of order based on constitutionality, as that is for the voting body to decide.

Chairman Josephson seemed befuddled for several moments, appearing unsure of what to do. Should he rule an amendment out of order because his fellow Democrat caucus member said it is unconstitutional? Or is an amendment allowed to be voted on, and have the budget subcommittee members decide if it’s proper or not?

Josephson then waxed political: Of all the claims made against the governor by the Recall Dunleavy Committee, “this was the most serious. The others I found relatively picayune. That is, not terribly significant.”

“The problem is you could do this with every ruling of the court,” Josephson argued. With any court ruling a lawmaker disagrees with, he or she could offer a decrement amendment to the court’s budget in the relevant amount.

“You could do this all day long and you’d be left with no money to operate the court system,” he said. “The governor in both FY 20 and 21 has or is paying these sums and seems to acknowledge he can’t do what he did.”

Vance, along with Rep. Chris Kurka and Rep. David Eastman, argued that it is up to the committee itself to make the determination if the amendment to dock the amount from the court budget is proper, and it isn’t proper for the chair of the committee to decide on the constitutionality of the motion.

Democrats on the committee ultimately voted to uphold the ruling of the chair, with Vance, Kurka, Eastman, and DeLena Johnson voting against the ruling.

Thus, precedent appeared to be set in the House Judiciary Committee on March 15, 2021: If the committee chair doesn’t like an amendment because he or she feels it is unconstitutional, the amendment can aborted before even being offered for a vote.

16 COMMENTS

  1. The Alsaka Supreme Court Violated the State Consitution that gives the authority for a line item Veto to the Governor. They also do not control the budget process Claman is wrong in the interrupting of the Consitution.

  2. Why bother with laws at all? If the progressives ‘feel’ about something they will just enforce it as law. What is the use of a Constitution when they follow their ‘feelings?’ The unwashed masses just need to stay in their places, wear their mask and not allow diseased children or relatives within six feet. And when things go sour hand out more funny money to replace production. How’s that working out? Maybe the progressives will try to transmute lead into gold next to solve all our problems. It works in their deranged minds just like sunshine powers their cars!

  3. Court rulings, even Supreme Court rulings, sometimes get reversed. Who’s to say what will prevail? Also, its not just the court that decides these matters. The legislature, by its actions & the sense of legislation, contributes to the debate. The courts are necessary but not always the end all be all. After all, judges are merely fallible mortals like the rest of us, albeit with a load more power & influence. The US Supreme Ct in Heller clarified the meanings of the 2nd Amendment which had previously been interpreted in other ways for years. So I don’t think any one person should be making decisions like that. Opinions can be expressed of course! But probably a more accurate position would be the overall vote of the legislature, but even that would probably still be up for debate in some cases.

  4. As complicated and convaluted as this seems to be, I must as one thing.
    What laws mandate that the state must pay for these “elective” procedures?
    I argue that , my taxes should not be used in any way to provide for any “elective” procedure. No matter what the procedure is for: be it abortion, transgender modifications , or penile implants. WHAT’S next?
    Let me know when I can get an “elective” breast lift.
    These representatives need to be reigned in and awakened to the obsurdity they present that impacts ALL OF US.

  5. This demonstrates the disastrous excesses of our out-of-control Judicial System. For a nonjudge (Legislator) to rule on constitutionality takes an amazing level of self-importance and perhaps even arrogance. Abuse of power jumps to mind.

    The Constitution does not put conditions on the Governor’s ability to veto appropriations. They are not subject to Judicial veto but can be overridden by a 75% vote of both houses of the Legislature. There is no Judicial override on appropriations in the Constitutional text.

    It would be good to return to the exercise of law in keeping with the Constitution. Some Judges and some Legislators act as though their job is to find ways around the Constitution rather than complying with it.

    • So Jim, in your opinion, when is a “fund” not really a fund?
      .
      (hint: when it’s an “account.”)

  6. Let’s change the laws to fit are agenda.
    Why do we even have laws, if they don’t go by them.
    What kind of a world are we living in
    Wars rumors of wars what’s next?

  7. What laws mandate that the state must pay for these “elective” procedures? The Legislature make the laws, not the judiciary. Therefore the judiciary made an unconstitutional decision
    Our taxes should not be used in any way to provide for any “elective” procedures. No matter what the procedure is for: be it abortion, transgender modifications , or penile trans or implants. WHAT’S next?
    Let me know when I can get an “elective” penile transplant from someone who has had a very large one.
    These representatives and the Judiciary, need to be reigned in by our Governor and awakened to the absurdity they present that impacts ALL OF US.

  8. I love it when the court comes to its senses and reverses itself. Common sense should always be the guide to a court’s decision. The illogical games by politicians will be dealt with by the electorate.

  9. It is elective. those females and males getting an abortion KNOW exactly what they are doing, and many purposefully gleefully are knowing they are killing a baby. Why should the public be enabling by paying for it while these males and females are gleeful they can have their cake and eat it too without the full understanding they are Murdering someone like you and I.

  10. It is deeply disturbing to see others’ absolute devotion to the slaughter of children in the womb.

    Keep up the good work,
    Kurka, Eastman, Vance and Johnson!

    Any person who supports, defends, or promotes the slaughter of children is unfit for political office.

  11. State Legislatures everywhere need to get a backbone and stand up to these activist judges who believe only they have the wisdom to rule the country!

  12. I contact Sara Vance and others about this. I suggest that when Rep Tarr’s Red Flag legislation comes up we object during the sectional on each aspect that violates the 4th, 5th, 6th and of course the 2nd Amendments for removal. I suggested that since Matt Claman is Judiciary Chair and he will rule against that we do the same at each committee and on the floor.
    We can play this game, even better than the socialists since we know the Constitution a hell of a lot better than them!

  13. Claman uses rule of law in typical liberal fashion – when it suits the means to end. Same as science – the clamoring of ‘science’ only when it suits, just as rule of law when it suits. Add in also ‘racism’ , ‘justice’ (can list a number of topics they like to throw before the word ‘justice’), ‘canceling’ anything else they deem doesn’t fit with their goals. Good grief.

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