Republicans override Knowles veto on bills

Posted: Thursday, January 17, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- Lawmakers in the Republican-dominated Legislature on Wednesday approved four bills vetoed by Democrat Gov. Tony Knowles last year.

In a joint House-Senate session, voting largely along party lines, lawmakers overrode Knowles vetoes on measures on campaign contributions, replacement of a U.S. senator, and the transfer of 3,500 acres to the Denali Borough.

Senate Bill 166 would require the governor to wait five days before filling the vacancy of a U.S. senator.

Democrats complained that the measure was a partisan tactic that would allow U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, who is running for governor, to name his replacement if elected.

''This was bad public policy when it passed last year and its bad public policy now,'' said Senate Minority Leader Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage. ''The common sense democratic solution is a special election decided by the people.''

Under the previous law, a governor may immediately replace a senator who leaves office with less than 30 months left in his term. Knowles vetoed the bill last session and accused Republicans of attempting to change the law for ''one possible circumstance.''

His veto was overridden 41-18. Rep. Lisa Murkowski, R-Anchorage, the Senator's daughter, attempted to recuse herself due to a conflict of interest, but Democrats objected. She voted in favor of the new law.

Lawmakers also rejected Knowles' veto of Senate Bill 103 to allow individuals to make unlimited contributions to political parties for party expenses.

Such contributions are commonly known as soft money. Contributions for use in a specific campaign are limited to $5,000.

The new law allows professionals, such as lawyers and media consultants, to contribute unlimited services to campaigns without reporting the value of those contributions.

''By allowing soft money and unlimited donations of professional services, the Legislature has turned its back on campaign finance reform,'' Knowles wrote in his veto letter.

The vote was 40-19. Rep. Andrew Halcro, R-Anchorage, voted no.

House Bill 177 places new campaign finance limits on groups such as the Alaska Conservation Voters, which has supported Democrat candidates with contributions from sources Outside.

The bill is a response to a 1999 Alaska Supreme Court ruling that loosened some campaign finance restrictions for nonprofit organizations.

It creates a new category of ''non-group entity'' in campaign finance laws and limits the group to contributions of $500 a year to any one candidate instead of its current $1,000 limit.

It also puts a 10 percent limit on its contributions from nonresidents. And the bill would require full disclosure of all contributions.

It passed 41-18 with no debate.

A Denali railroad bill that Knowles vetoed transfers 3,500 acres of state land to the Denali Borough. It passed 41-18. The borough wants to provide an easement on the land for Kantishna Holdings, a private firm, to build a railroad from Healy to the eastern edge of Denali National Park.

To continue the remaining 55 miles to Wonder Lake in the park, the company would need an easement from the National Park Service.

Knowles said last year House Bill 244 would have given away state land without thorough public hearings, was not consistent with state land use planning procedures and was a violation of competitive bidding processes.

Two measures vetoed by Knowles -- one to install two legislators on the Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation Study committee and another to study the permanent fund -- were not called.

Senate Bill 88 would have transformed a local planning process into one dominated by the state, Knowles said in vetoing the measure.

Senate Bill 193 would have allowed the Legislative Council to spend $200,000 in permanent fund earnings to study the social and economic effects of the fund on Alaska.

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