Senator Berta Gardner

February 15, 2013

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A Violation of Procedure and Loss of Public Trust

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

quote from Senator Gardner

The Senate Floor session today was quite dramatic and I think it’s important that the community know about these things when they happen.

Today, the Senate President removed the Senate Education Committee referral for Senate Joint Resolution 9, a resolution that would put a question to the voters about whether state funds may go to fund religious or private schools.

Committees are the workhorses of the legislature. It’s in this setting that Senators are given opportunity to ask questions of the Department of Education on the record, to learn from experts in the field on the record, and for Alaskans to provide testimony on the record. Senate Joint Resolution 9, which deals with education funding and the issue of state voucher payments for private schools, both religious and secular, is of broad public interest and is clearly under the purview of the Education Committee.

In removing the Education referral, backed by all the Republicans in the Senate, the Senate President today has successfully avoided a thorough vetting of the voucher issue, truncated the public process and signaled intent to move the resolution as quickly as possible. We’ve seen this rush to passage already, with the Cruise Ship Wastewater Discharge bill. It is ugly, undemocratic and leads to error.

We have a third example this session of Republican leadership’s taking shortcuts. Senate Bill 49 is a bill that narrowly defines the term “medically necessary,” for the purposes of abortion, and mandates that a woman must report a case of rape or incest “promptly” in order to qualify for an abortion under Medicaid. Conspicuously missing is a referral to the Senate Health and Social Services. Again, the issue here is not about personal positions on the topic of abortion, but rather the denial of the good legislative process. If sponsors and proponents fear good legislative and good public process, one can only assume that they recognize their proposals are not good policy and will not stand up to adequate scrutiny.

The procedures in place for the committee process are tried and true methods of vetting a bill. Ideas are made stronger by the process as Senators learn more about specific issues. I do not support subverting the rules of the game for expediency. The Senate Republicans seem to be doing just this; altering committee referrals so as to keep the opportunity from some Senators to engage an issue. No matter where one stands politically, we should be able to find common ground opposing such blatant manipulation of procedure.

I’m Berta and I’m still listening,

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact my office

signed: Berta

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