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Senate fast-track bill gives Redistricting Board $50,000

Posted: Wednesday, April 10, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- The Alaska Redistricting Board would get a fraction of the money it requested to complete work on the state's legislative map under a measure passed in the Senate on Tuesday.

Senate Republican leaders included $50,000 in a supplemental spending bill to allow the board to make court-ordered changes to the state's new legislative map.

But the funding plan did not include $200,000 in unpaid legal fees incurred while defending legal challenges to the map in court.

''We're not on board for that right now,'' said Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks. ''We're just trying to get the nuts and bolts work of the committee done.''

Senate Republicans who crafted the bill included a provision that forbids the board from using any of the funds toward the costs of the legal challenge.

But it would allow the board to hold a meeting in Juneau on Friday to consider alternate plans to fix the redistricting map in time for a June 1 deadline, said Gordon Harrison, board executive director.

That map, which would pit 20 Republican incumbents against each other, was struck down by the Alaska Supreme Court in March.

Republicans had accused the board of creating a partisan map that benefits Democrats at the expense of the GOP. Several Republicans, including Senate President Rick Halford, House Speaker Brian Porter and the state party chairman, filed lawsuits.

The state high court ruled that three House districts outside Anchorage were not compact and ordered all Anchorage districts to be adjusted.

Harrison had requested $454,000 from the Legislature to fund the office and pay past legal debts. But that plan met stiff resistance from both House and Senate leaders.

The Senate approved a plan to fund some office expenses and pay for a Friday board meeting planned for 10:30 a.m. in Juneau.

''The $50,000 will keep us going and keep our key staff people here another month,'' Harrison said.

Harrison said his office requires staff to formulate several optional maps and to pay transportation and other costs associated with holding the meeting.

The board is facing a June 1 deadline, which is also the deadline for candidates to file for state offices. But the map must also undergo a Justice Department review, which could take up to 60 days.

The spending plan approved by the Senate now goes to the House for consideration.

Redistricting Board Chairwoman Vicki Otte said the board wants a commitment from legislative leaders that the funds will ultimately be approved.

The bill is not expected to pass the House and reach the governor's desk by Friday.

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