Alaska lawmakers begin new session with House failure to support veto override effort

Juneau, Alaska (AP) - alaska Lawmakers opened a new legislative session Tuesday with the House failing to support an effort to override Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy's veto of $87 million in additional education funding last year.

Under the state constitution, the Legislature has the first five days of the regular session for a veto override attempt. If a joint session were held to consider a veto override, three-quarters of lawmakers — or 45 members — would need to vote in favor of the override to succeed.

House Minority Leader Calvin Schrage, an Anchorage independent, proposed Tuesday that the chamber meet in joint session with the Senate on Thursday to debate the veto override, but that motion failed on a 20-20 vote. Schrage later noted the close vote and left open the possibility that the issue could be raised again before the window closes.

Last year, lawmakers passed a $175 million one-time funding increase for K-12 schools, but Dunleavy vetoed half the amount after the Legislature adjourned. School officials have called for a permanent increase in per-pupil school funding allocations, citing the impact of inflation on their budgets.

A House committee plans to again hear on Wednesday a draft of a measure that began as a school internet bill that would include other education-related provisions, including a $300 increase in the per-pupil allocation and Dunleavy's proposal. Which will include payment to teachers in three years. A bonus as a way of retaining them.

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Schrage said the proposed increase in per student allocation in the draft is less than what schools need.

Rep. Craig Johnson, an Anchorage Republican and chairman of the House Rules Committee, who plans to hear the draft plan, said the proposed increase is a starting point and could be changed through the amendment process.

"We hope this is something that can allow schools to plan a little bit ahead," said Johnson, the majority leader in the Republican-led House. "One thing I've learned about education is that we don't have enough money for everything everyone wants."

The draft also addresses the process of charter school applications and correspondence study funding.

Earlier in the day, Senate President Gary Stevens, a Kodiak Republican, told reporters that his bipartisan caucus supports increasing the per-pupil funding allocation and is waiting to see what the House does.

"We're encouraging them to send us a bill that we can work on and deal with and hopefully we can agree to," he said.

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