Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget and legal team introduced a new option to fund public education.

Under House Bill 1001, Dunleavy wants to repeal an appropriation made last year under House Bill 287 for the upcoming school year — this is known as forward funding — then place it in the operating budget for fiscal 2020, which begins July 1.

The bill got its first hearing on Monday in the House Finance Committee during the fifth day of the special session Dunleavy called last week. It will get a similar hearing on Tuesday in the Senate Finance Committee.

Dunleavy and the Legislature have differed on whether last year’s appropriation for the fiscal year 2020 is constitutional.

Monday’s hearing reprises the weeks long debate, which began early May and comes underpinned by dueling legal opinions.

Each was written by Attorney General Kevin Clarkson and Megan A. Wallace, director for the Division of Legal and Research Services.

Wallace stood by her May 4 opinion sent to the Legislature, telling the committee: “In the opinion of Legal Services, the appropriations made in HB 287 from last year remain valid appropriations and until a court renders a decision invalidating those appropriations, those are binding by law and, in our opinion, the governor would be constitutionally required to execute those appropriations."

Clarkson’s opinion was released several days later and reaffirmed by Cori Mills, the Department of Law’s assistant attorney general.

“There's a duty to uphold the constitution first and foremost and then we have the duty to defend statutes,” she told the committee. “In this case the attorney general has found that this was not a valid statute. It followed an unconstitutional process."

Earlier this month, Dunleavy said in a Facebook live discussion that he would not veto the funding if the Legislature would place it back in the budget. That pledge was re-stated in Monday’s hearing.

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