JUNEAU — The Legislature has gotten off to a swift start, not unusual for a second session, though this year has lawmakers grappling with budget deficits and the finer points in plans to advance a liquefied natural gas project.
The budget and pipeline remain major areas of focus this week, with House Finance aiming for the closeout of subcommittee work on the budget by month’s end.
Rep. Alan Austerman, the committee co-chair, told reporters the House version of the operating budget will probably include less in general funds for agency operations than Gov. Sean Parnell proposed. Austerman said the committee, like Parnell, is trying to wring inefficiencies out of departments. But he said if the revenue picture doesn’t improve, lawmakers could be looking at cutting programs next year.
He said there has not yet been a determination on what the total size of the state budget — for operations and capital spending — will be.
Here are three other things to watch for this week:
Golf course alcohol: HB213, from Rep. Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks, would allow privately owned golf courses in Alaska to be licensed to sell alcoholic beverages rather than just beer and wine. Thompson, in his sponsor statement, said golf courses on federal property, like military installations, can serve a “full array” of alcoholic beverages. He said that limits the ability of privately owned courses to secure large events and tournaments when a federal course — with a full liquor license — is available.
The measure also would allow minors access at privately owned courses licensed to serve alcohol to eat or play golf.
The House Labor and Commerce Committee is scheduled to hear the bill Monday.
Constitutional convention: HJR22, from Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, would place Alaska on record as urging Congress to call a convention of the states to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution that “impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office of federal government officials.”
The resolution is cast as a “continuing application” making the request until at least two-thirds of state legislatures around the country make similar petitions.
Wilson told the House State Affairs Committee last week that states fed up with an out-of-control Washington can sit back and do nothing or stand up and push back. She said similar resolutions have been proposed in other states though none had yet been passed.
The committee heard mostly supportive testimony though one caller said additional amendments were not necessary.
Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, said that while he understood the intended spirit behind the proposal, the issues outlined are not necessarily nonpartisan. He said while in recent years there has been almost “apocalyptic dysfunction” on the federal level, he worried a constitutional convention would be like grocery shopping after one has fasted for 48 hours. “It’s just bad to sort of put yourself in that position,” he said.
He said he thought a convention of the states “would lead to the kind of dysfunction we’ve seen in Congress but in a different and perhaps even more important forum.”
The proposal is due up next in House Finance.
State of the Judiciary: Dana Fabe, the chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court, is scheduled to deliver the annual State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the Legislature on Wednesday.