As the preseason is to the National Football League, prefile season is to the Alaska Legislature.
Today, Alaska’s 60 lawmakers will release a slate of bills to be considered starting Jan. 19, when the 29th Legislature begins work on its second regular session.
Among Juneau’s three delegates to the capitol, only Democratic Rep. Sam Kito III said he plans to pre-file bills.
In a Thursday interview for the Empire, Kito said he will today release a bill that would allow organizations to sell raffle tickets through an electronic kiosk, and a separate bill that would allow the Alaska Legislature to hold a 120-day regular session.
“They’re both one-line bills,” Kito said, adding, “one line can definitely get a lot of people interested or concerned.”
That’s likely to be the case with the 120-day session.
While Alaska’s constitution allows the Legislature to hold a regular session as long as 120 days, Alaska voters in 2006 passed a measure limiting the Legislature to 90 days. Proponents said it would save money and force the Legislature to become more efficient.
Lawmakers balked under the restrictions, saying they resulted in rushed legislation. Because the measure passed as a statutory change rather than a constitutional amendment, the Legislature could reverse the 90-day limit, and several attempts have been made. The closest one came in 2011 when Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, pushed a bill that passed the Senate but failed to pass the House before the end of the session.
The past two regular sessions of the Legislature have gone beyond the 90-day limit, and Kito said as early as May 2014 that he was interested in returning to a 120-day session.
“I do think that we end up with better legislation when the Legislature is convened for a full 120 days,” he said Thursday.
Kito said he expects the Legislature will be grappling with revenue (taxation) issues on an annual basis, something it hasn’t had to do in more than three decades. Those issues will require more time to address, he said.
Will the Legislature support Kito’s proposal?
“I’m going to find out,” he said.
Kito’s other prefiled bill comes at the suggestion of a person in Skagway, he said. As envisioned, a one-line change in the statutes governing the Department of Revenue would allow organizations to sell raffle tickets at an electronic kiosk.
The change does not include pull-tabs. Rather, it’s an alternative to having a 10-year-old knock on your door and sell you one for a fundraiser, he said.
Kito said he’s also interested in the bill as a way to address the concerns of Juneauites regarding cuts to middle school sports and activities travel.
If fundraising is made easier, it might help that program.
“That’s kind of what really got me interested,” he said.
Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, and Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, each said they do not plan to prefile any bills today or next Friday, when a second batch of prefiled bills will be released.
Speaking Thursday, Muñoz said she does have plans for new legislation, including a measure to ease land exchanges between the state and a private agency, and a bill that would lower the hurdles for families with drug-addicted family members to place that person into treatment involuntarily.
The former bill is being driven by issues the state and Echo Ranch have faced with access to Point Bridget State Park, while the latter is being driven by Juneau’s heroin crisis.
• Contact reporter James Brooks at 523.2258 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.