Legislature to spend $250,000 in limited fight against new map

Posted: Friday, November 02, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- The Legislature will spend $250,000 for expert witnesses and other legal fees in its challenge to the state's 2002 Redistricting Map.

The Legislative Council voted along party lines to approve the measure despite being barred from participating in the actual trial.

Superior Court Judge Mark Rindner dismissed the Legislature from the lawsuit Oct. 24 and limited its participation to filing friend-of-the-court briefs.

Republican leaders in the Legislature oppose the map since it pits 20 GOP incumbents against each other in the 2002 election.

Democrats on the council hotly contested the Legislative Council vote Thursday. The Legislative Council is a 14-member bicameral panel that acts on behalf of the full Legislature when it is not in session.

House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, D-Anchorage, called it an inappropriate use of taxpayer funds. Berkowitz accused the council of improperly aiding Republican leaders in their legal battle.

''We shouldn't spend public money for partisan purposes,'' Berkowitz said.

Nine lawsuits have been filed by communities and Republicans objecting to the new plan approved by the Alaska Redistricting Board in June.

Among those involved in the lawsuit are state House Speaker Brian Porter, R-Anchorage, and Senate President Rick Halford, R-Chugiak. State Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich is also involved.

Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, also questioned the need to hire expert witnesses since friend-of-the-court status does not allow it to call witnesses during the trial.

Sen. Dave Donley, R-Anchorage, defended the decision and said experts may consult with the council's attorney on the Legislature's brief. Donley also did not rule out sharing the witnesses with other plaintiffs in the case.

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