Senate approves API, therapeutic court bills; prepares for final day

Posted: Tuesday, May 08, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- State senators on Monday approved legislation to replace the Alaska Psychiatric Institute in Anchorage and to set up therapeutic courts for some repeat drunk drivers.

Senators took final action on nine measures during afternoon deliberations, setting the stage for a last-day blitzkrieg of bills before Senate President Rick Halford brings down the final gavel for the regular session on the 121st day Tuesday night.

Halford, R-Chugiak, cast the lone no vote for House Bill 76. The bill provides $41.7 million for construction of a new API, not including demolition costs, which state officials hope will be covered by the federal government.

The state would sell certificates of participation, which are similar to bonds, for $16 million in new funding. That money would be combined with $19.2 million from earlier appropriations, $3 million from the trust authority and $3.5 million in investment income.

Senate Republicans beat back an attempt to change a provision that holds funding for the new hospital until the federal government provides at least $15 million to demolish the old API.

Sen. Bettye Davis, D-Anchorage, said the current API would not be vacated until the new hospital is completed, and waiting for the demolition money could delay the project.

But Sen. Dave Donley, R-Anchorage, said the community could be stuck with an abandoned building if the demolition money is not obtained first.

House Bill 172, setting up therapeutic courts on a test basis in two Alaska cities, is a priority of House Speaker Brian Porter, R-Anchorage.

Therapeutic courts, with an emphasis on intervention, treatment and close monitoring of drunk-driving offenders, would be set up Jan. 2 in Bethel and Anchorage for three years.

The measure arose out of recommendations of a task force investigating drunk driving in the municipality last year. The bill is aimed at people who continue to drive while intoxicated despite court convictions and jail sentences.

Senators voted 18-1 in favor of House Bill 115, which will allow physician assistants and advanced nurse practitioners to certify the need for emergency treatment for intoxicated people. Current law allows only physicians to start the process that culminates with a judge ruling in favor of involuntary commitment.

Sen. Donny Olson, D-Nome, said often doctors are not available in rural communities to begin the process.

More than 30 bills were on the Senate calendar Monday. More than 20 were still up for final consideration Monday night or Tuesday, not counting last-minute bills that are advanced to the floor from committees.

Among major pieces of legislation left to be considered are changes make by a conference committee to the operating budget, changes made by the House to the capital budget, and a tobacco bonds bill that includes money for school construction.

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