- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 7, 2014

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - One of the casualties of the extended legislative session was a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at helping lower the cost of student loans.

SJR23, from Sen. Anna Fairclough, passed the Senate 19-1 on April 11, and was on the House calendar in the waning days of the session. But the House gaveled out last month without taking it up.

House Speaker Mike Chenault said it was a casualty of a long session, and people wanting to go home. The scheduled 90-day session lasted 95 days, ending April 25.

SJR23 had 13 Senate co-sponsors, Republicans and Democrats, and five representatives, again, Republicans and Democrats, signed on. Fairclough, R-Eagle River, said she had unanimous support for it in the House.

“Those that will suffer are the students of Alaska who could have saw a reduction in debt over the next few years,” she said.

The measure proposed a change to the constitution to allow for authorization of state general obligation debt for funding student loans. The executive officer of the Alaska Student Loan Corp. had said the proposal would allow the corporation to leverage the state’s credit rating to achieve the lowest possible costs for financing state education loans and making loans more widely available.

Senate President Charlie Huggins took the blame for the measure faltering, the Juneau Empire reported (https://bit.ly/1njd1SE ). He said the measure was widely supported, but he underestimated how it could get bogged down in the system.

“I thought we were there,” Huggins said. “On behalf of the Senate, I turned my attention a different direction, and it was a bad assumption.”

Fairclough said if she’s re-elected, she plans to bring the measure back.

SJR23 wasn’t the only proposed constitutional amendment that wasn’t brought up at the end of session. A proposed constitutional change to create a transportation infrastructure fund languished in Senate Finance after passing the House 34-4.

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Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, https://www.juneauempire.com


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