U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski will be the headline speaker in the Alaska Legislature this week as she makes her annual pilgrimage to Juneau to deliver an address on Alaska issues in Congress.
Murkowski, Alaska’s senior U.S. Senator, will speak at 11 a.m. Thursday in a joint session of the Alaska Legislature.
The senator’s speech is expected to be more optimistic than most: She will be able to speak about Congressional approval of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and approval of a long-sought road between King Cove and Cold Bay (a lawsuit is now pending). The topic of offshore oil drilling is also expected to make an appearance during the speech.
Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, is also scheduled to be in Juneau this week, but no formal Legislative address is expected. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, is scheduled to deliver a followup speech next week.
Unemployment vote expected
On Monday morning, the Alaska House of Representatives is expected to have a floor vote on House Bill 142, sponsored by Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage. If approved by the House, Senate and governor, HB 142 would boost the maximum state unemployment payment from $370 per week to $510 per week.
According to information provided to the Legislature, that would equal 50 percent of Alaska’s average weekly wage and would still be the lowest on the West Coast, including Hawaii.
Budget closeouts upcoming
Throughout the week, lawmakers in the House will put finishing touches on the budgets of individual state agencies. Budget closeouts will send individual department budgets from subcommittee to the full House Finance Committee for consideration. In conversations with reporters last week, Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon said he intends for the state budget’s spending plan to pass out of the House and over to the Senate by the second week of March.
If that happens, the House will have finished its budget work about two weeks earlier than last year. The question of how to pay for the budget is expected to remain unresolved, however, with a final decision to come at the end of the session.
Pebble Mine hearings
The House Resources Committee will hold a pair of hearings about the proposed Pebble Mine this week. At 1 p.m. Monday, the committee will hear from tribal officials and area residents. At 1 p.m. Wednesday, state agencies will present their information about the mine.
Monday is the deadline for lawmakers to introduce new legislation. While House and Senate committees (or the governor) may introduce legislation after Monday, no new personal bills may be introduced. Expect a large number of last-minute bills to be introduced today. Given the time remaining in the session and the attention devoted to the budget, expect few to gain significant traction.
• Contact reporter James Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 523-2258.