JUNEAU (AP) There is not enough support among Republicans in the Legislature to return to a special session to preserve the state's senior citizen Longevity Bonus program, which is slated to end in August.
House Speaker Pete Kott, R-Eagle River, said already 21 House Republicans have said they do not want a special session to override a Gov. Frank Murkowski veto of the program.
With more than half of the House opposed, a two-thirds vote to force a special session becomes a mathematical impossibility.
Legislative leaders are still waiting to hear from lawmakers who could not be contacted by Thursday. But Kott said the outcome is clear.
''It's not an official vote, but it's official in my mind there's not going to be a special session,'' Kott said.
Murkowski vetoed $44 million in funding for the program that provides monthly checks to about 18,000 eligible seniors. The governor had said the state cannot afford it and that it was unfair to elderly Alaskans who do not qualify.
But Republican lawmakers, under intense pressure from senior groups, did not go along with eliminating the program during the legislative session.
House Republicans included funding for the program in the fiscal 2004 budget. Senate Republicans approved an alternative that phased it out over five years.
In both cases, Republican lawmakers ultimately left the politically unpopular task of eliminating funding for the program to the GOP governor.
In response, Minority Democrats had called on GOP leaders to return to a special session to override the veto. Democrats were angry that the program was eliminated without a formal vote and saw the special session as a way to turn up the heat on Republican lawmakers.
But just as the prospects of a special session appear dead, the prospects of a political victory for Democrat are clouded. Republican leaders say they have no plans to make public the names of lawmakers who voted against a special session, and a legal opinion from a legislative agency provides some support for that position.
House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, D-Anchorage, asked the Division of Legal and Research Services whether such a roll call vote must be made public under the law. The agency said it is unclear in Alaska law whether Republican leaders can be forced to disclose the names.
''The law is not clear, and legitimate arguments can be made on both sides, but I believe that the better position is that the votes are public,'' the agency's Pam Finley said in a July 18 memo.
Alaska law makes legislative votes a public record but shields some internal workings of the Legislature from disclosure. It is not clear which category this survey falls into, the agency said.
Senate President Gene Therriault, R-North Pole, said he has no plans of releasing results of the survey unless a two-thirds vote is achieved. Kott said the same.
''It's a little bit different than an officially sanctioned vote,'' he said.
But Democrats, angry that Republican lawmakers have acquiesced to the Murkowski veto, said voters should know the results from the special session poll.
''People have to be on the record if they are going to take this drastic measure to cut 18,000 seniors off of the program,'' said Minority Whip Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau. ''A vote is a vote it should be in the public.''
Kerttula would not say whether Democrats plan to take the matter to court. The minority caucus has not discussed the matter, she said.
Therriault characterized the Democratic drive for a special session as little more than ''great political theater'' meant to embarass Republicans. Since three-fourths of lawmakers would be needed to override a veto anyway, the prospects of saving the Longevity Bonus program were unlikely, lawmakers observed.
''I am sure they know there's absolutely no chance of success,'' Therriault said.
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