On Wednesday morning, the Alaska Senate voted final approval of legislation that gives the green light to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed disbursement of more than $1 billion in federal CARES Act coronavirus relief funding.
It was a vote that almost didn’t happen.
The governor wanted his plan approved by a legislative committee rather than the full Legislature. But after the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee provided its approval, a lawsuit was filed with the intent of blocking disbursement of the funds until the Legislature fulfilled its constitutional role as the Alaska government’s appropriating body.
Members of the Alaska Senate and House of Representatives made their way back to Juneau and reconvened. The House voted to approve the funding on Tuesday; the Senate gave final approval on Wednesday.
It should be noted that the votes did not pertain to an actual appropriations bill, which would have opened the process to potentially lengthy debates on divisive topics such as Alaska Permanent Fund dividends and the governor’s budget vetoes. However, the legislative process used this week was described by Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, as constitutional, legal, effective and fast.
And now it’s complete. Time will tell how the lawsuit will proceed and what it’s potential effect might be. Stedman said he hopes the CARES Act funding checks will start going out on Friday.
Big questions remain about how some aspects of the funding will be able to be used — particularly the $586.6 million in community assistance money being distributed to local governments.
But for Wednesday, it was good to see the Legislature acknowledge its proper role, meet in the capitol, and vote.