Knowles to expand special session to include veterans bill

Posted: Tuesday, June 04, 2002

KETCHIKAN (AP) -- Gov. Tony Knowles will expand a June 24 special session of the Legislature to include a request for $2.6 million more in funding for a veterans initiative, he said Monday.

Knowles made the announcement while speaking at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Ketchikan.

The Democrat governor said he will ask the Republican-controlled Legislature for funding to fill as many as 100 vacant beds for veterans and seniors within the Alaska Pioneers' and Veterans' Homes.

Lawmakers rebuffed that request during its special session that concluded March 21 and instead approved a pilot program to allow aging veterans to be granted admissions preference within the state's pioneers homes.

The Legislature is scheduled to return for a special session to consider reauthorizing the Regulatory Commission of Alaska. The state's utility and telephone regulatory agency is set to expire this year and enter a one-year phaseout period.

Knowles had threatened calling the Legislature into special session on the veterans bill while it was gridlocked during a seven-day overtime session on various initiatives.

Lawmakers ultimately approved a veterans bill to allow the state to receive federal funds for 94 veterans now staying in the state's assisted living centers. But it provided no funding to fill the 100 vacant beds in the state's assisted living centers.

Veterans' groups opposed the bill for that reason, but agreed to support the measure in return for a special session to seek funding, the Knowles administration said.

At the VFW convention, Knowles also signed into law a bill he introduced in January to authorize $500 million in bonds for guaranteed veteran housing loans.

The bill extends the current program and provides veterans with low interest rates with no income limitations.

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