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Juneau – By the overwhelming margin of 33 in favor to 3 opposed, the Alaska House of Representatives Friday passed bipartisan legislation adding an additional mechanism for funding the Alaska Legal Services Corporation (ALSC), safeguarding low-income Alaskans’ access to the civil justice system.
House Bill 106 would allow the Alaska State Legislature to appropriate into the Civil Legal Services Fund up to 25 percent of filing fees paid to the Alaska Court System during the previous fiscal year. If the legislature appropriates the full 25 percent permitted by HB 106, this would provide approximately $750,000 annually to the fund.
“Justice for all is a core principle of America that we all stand behind, and Alaska Legal Services Corporation ensures that all Alaskans really do have access to civil justice,” said Representative Zach Fansler (D – Bethel), the bill’s primary sponsor.
ALSC—established in 1966—is not a state agency but is instead a nonprofit charitable 501(c)(3), whose funding comes from a variety of state, federal, and private sources. The Civil Legal Services Fund was originally designed to be capitalized by civil punitive damages collected by the state. However, the state has only collected $20,000 in punitive damages in the past four years.
ALSC does significant work on behalf of Alaska veterans and elders, protects Alaskans from domestic violence, and also contributes to efforts to lower recidivism rates through helping people bring continuity to their lives.
HB 106 is cosponsored by Reps. Fansler (D-Bethel), Gara (D-Anchorage), Kopp (R-Anchorage), LeDoux (R-Anchorage), Edgmon (D-Dillingham), Kito (D-Juneau), Guttenberg (D-Fairbanks), and Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks).
The bill will now be sent to the Alaska State Senate for consideration.