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Alaska Law Skirts Ballot Initiative

June 09, 2004|From Associated Press

JUNEAU, Alaska — A bill to prevent Alaska governors from making long-term appointments to the U.S. Senate is now law -- without Gov. Frank H. Murkowski's signature.

Legislators passed the bill after it became clear that a citizens initiative to do about the same thing had enough signatures to go on the November ballot. Lt. Gov. Loren Leman said the new law would knock that question off the ballot.

The governor has 20 days to sign or veto a bill. If he takes no action within that time, the bill becomes law without his signature.

The governor's spokesman, John Manly, said Murkowski did not give a reason for not signing the bill.

The initiative arose after Murkowski, a Republican, appointed his daughter, then state Rep. Lisa Murkowski, to fill his U.S. Senate seat after he was elected governor in 2002. The appointment sparked cries of nepotism.

The new law calls for a special election to be held between 60 and 90 days after a U.S. Senate vacancy occurs. Previously, the governor could appoint a new senator if less than 2 1/2 years remained in the departing senator's term.

The new law still calls for the governor to appoint a replacement, but the replacement would serve only until the special election.

Sen. Murkowski faces three GOP challengers in the August primary. If she wins, she'll run against former Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles in November.

Some Republicans speculated that initiative sponsors wanted the ballot question to be in front of voters at the same time they decided whether to elect Sen. Murkowski. Democrats speculated that Republican lawmakers passed the bill to keep the initiative off the ballot and avoid embarrassing her.

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