Anchorage Rep. Bob Lynn introduced a bill in the House State Affairs committee Tuesday that would ensure an Alaskan with an overturned conviction could collect Permanent Fund dividend money missed while in prison.


“The budget, as we know, is at the top of the things we have to look at this session, very, very important obviously, but justice and fairness is even more important,” Lynn said. “We must be fair to all of our citizens and that’s what this bill is all about.”


House Bill 243 stemmed from the release of the Fairbanks Four last month, when questions were raised about whether the men would receive past dividend money. Legally, the answer right now seems to be no.


“I’m surprised that the administration has not come forward to address this issue… I go to the basic fairness here, and the issue needs to be addressed and resolved,” Lynn told his colleagues Tuesday, some of whom were wondering why the Legislature needed to get involved.


“My first question when I saw the bill, and it’s been haunting me, is why do we need a law to get this done? Why isn’t this handled in the court system already?” queried Rep. Wes Keller.


Jerry Burnett, Deputy Commissioner for the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend Corporation, said people who were previously incarcerated and filed for a PFD during those years did receive the money in the end. Burnett said the issue in the Fairbanks Four case has to do with the fact that the men didn’t apply during the qualifying period.


The bill was tabled in committee, to be taken up at a later date. Two of the other six committee members, Rep. Liz Vazquez and Rep. Max Gruenberg both said Tuesday that they “strongly” support the bill.