February 5, 2003 - Fairbanks Daily News: Alaska Judge rejects dividend checks for Peace Corps volunteers

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2003: 02 February 2003 Peace Corps Headlines: February 5, 2003 - Fairbanks Daily News: Alaska Judge rejects dividend checks for Peace Corps volunteers

By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, February 08, 2003 - 4:22 pm: Edit Post

Alaska Judge rejects dividend checks for Peace Corps volunteers





Read and comment on this story from the Fairbanks Daily News on an Alaskan judge's rejection of dividend checks for Peace Corps volunteers. The Legislature removed Peace Corps volunteers, along with Olympics team members, from the list of allowable absences in 1998. The House passed a bill to place Peace Corps members back on the exceptions list last session, but the measure failed in the Senate. The lawyer representing volunteers said Peace Corps members are as deserving of a check as anyone. At the time he filed the lawsuit, 26 Alaskans were serving in the volunteer agency. "They do more by serving in the Peace Corps and serving their country than most people do by just sitting at home or going to work." Read the story at:

Judge rejects Peace Corps fund checks*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.



Judge rejects Peace Corps fund checks

By DAN RICE, Staff Writer

The Legislature, not voters, must decide whether Peace Corps volunteers from Alaska are eligible to receive a permanent fund dividend check while serving out of state, a Fairbanks Superior Court judge has ruled.

In a decision that placed another hurdle in front of Fairbanks graduate student Brian Brubaker's efforts to get Alaska Peace Corps members a portion of the state's annual payout, Judge Mark Wood ruled in favor of the state last Friday in a lawsuit filed by Brubaker.

Brubaker sued in August 2001 after then-Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer rejected his and two other sponsors' initiative application to let voters decide if Peace Corps volunteers should receive a dividend.

Brubaker filed a motion asking the judge to rule that the initiative could proceed, allowing him to start collecting signatures to get the initiative on a ballot.

However, Wood agreed with the state's position that voters could not decide whether Peace Corps volunteers should get a dividend. If the volunteers were to get a dividend, it would constitute a state appropriation, something only the Legislature can approve according to the state Constitution, Assistant Attorney General Sarah Felix argued.

"(The) Alaska Constitution prohibits use of the initiative process to enact an appropriation," Felix wrote in asking Wood to rule in favor of the state. Wood approved Felix's motion on Friday.

Felix, contacted by phone at her Juneau office, said the judge's ruling terminates Brubaker's lawsuit in Superior Court.

Brubaker's next option is to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court. But when contacted Tuesday, Brubaker, a graduate student who's been handling the lawsuit without the assistance of a lawyer, said he has yet to decide whether to appeal.

He had argued that even though voters cannot decide an issue of state appropriation, giving Peace Corps volunteers a dividend would not be a new appropriation. The total amount the state would give out would still be the same, though more people would be getting a portion of it, Brubaker argued in his unsuccessful suit.

Even if he had won the suit, Brubaker would have had to collect some 29,000 signatures to get the initiative on the ballot.

Ultimately, Brubaker, who has never served in the Peace Corps, said he hopes the Legislature will approve giving volunteers a dividend.

Alaska residents generally have to be present in the state for at least six months to receive a dividend check. Checks last year were $1,540.

Exceptions to the rule of being present in the state include people who attend college or vocational training out of Alaska or serve in the military.

The Legislature removed Peace Corps volunteers, along with Olympics team members, from the list of allowable absences in 1998. The House passed a bill to place Peace Corps members back on the exceptions list last session, but the measure failed in the Senate.

Brubaker said Peace Corps members are as deserving of a check as anyone. At the time he filed the lawsuit, 26 Alaskans were serving in the volunteer agency. "They do more by serving in the Peace Corps and serving their country than most people do by just sitting at home or going to work."

Reporter Dan Rice can be reached at drice@newsminer.com or 459-7503.

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Special Interests - Alaska Dividend Check

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