FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 6, 2016
Senate Democrats Condemn Last-Minute Illegal Efforts of Republican Majority to Persist With Failed Lawsuit
JUNEAU – The Republican-led House of Representatives yesterday filed a notice of appeal to the Supreme Court in its case against Governor Bill Walker for accepting Medicaid expansion. A Superior Court ruling has already affirmed the authority of the governor to take that action. The notice was filed Thursday by House leadership without the mandatory vote of both bodies, and minutes before the 30 day deadline to appeal the ruling. The appeal was filed by The House of Representatives rather than The Legislative Council, the plaintiff in the case.
Senator Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak), head of the Legislative Council, obtained an opinion from Legislative Legal Services in March of this year, inquiring about necessary steps to pursue an appeal to the Supreme Court. The opinion from the Director of Legal Services, dated March 3, 2016, stated:
“…once the legislature convenes in session, the interim authority of the Legislative Council ends, and the decision whether to institute an appeal with the Alaska Supreme Court requires a decision by a majority vote in both the house and the senate. This conclusion is supported by the legislative history under AS 24.20.060(4)(F), and past precedent of the legislature.”
“This action taken by House leadership is absolutely illegal, according to our own lawyers,” said Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage), a member of the Judiciary Committee. “And even if it weren’t, and they won, they are basically suing the state to take federally funded health care away from 40,000 sick people, and they’re killing thousands of new jobs. It’s inexplicable.”
“We’re in deficit spending right now, as everyone knows,” added Senator Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage). “This action is not only a complete waste of time, it’s a colossal waste of money. It goes to show how tone deaf the majority is about Alaskans’ real concerns. How can they call themselves fiscal conservatives when they are so eager to waste Alaskans’ money?”
The Alaska Senate Democrats and Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition in the House have been opposed to the lawsuit from the first legal opinion. They continued to oppose the authorization of up to $400,000 to pay outside law firms to sue the governor, and funds to pay state attorneys to defend the same suit. Each made motions during operating budget discussion on the floor in April to call the issue to a vote. The motions were tabled in both bodies, preventing a vote.
“The absolute last thing we need right now is this kind of pointless partisan politicking,” said Sen. Wielechowski. “Our own attorneys have said the lawsuit has no merit. A court has ruled it has no merit. It’s over. These eleventh hour tricks are nothing but an abuse of process, and an abuse of power.”
For further comment, contact Jeanne Devon, Press Secretary for the Alaska Senate Democrats at 907-465-5319.