Legislature will end special session today

Lawmakers will conclude 30-day stay without taxes but with criminal justice bill

Rep. George Rauscher, R-Palmer, left, Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, R-Wasilla, center, and Rep. Jason Grenn, I-Anchorage, greet each other on the first day of the fourth Special Session of the 30th Alaska Legislature on Oct. 23. Michael Penn | Juneau Empire

There will be no grand ceremonies or speeches as the Alaska Legislature ends the fourth special session of the 30th Alaska Legislature today. In fact, most legislators won’t even be in the capital city.

 

At 10 a.m., the Alaska House of Representatives is expected to follow the example of the Alaska Senate, which quietly adjourned in a five-minute Saturday technical session. The only lawmakers present for that session were Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, and Senate President Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks.

Lawmakers will end the session without progress on the effort to solve Alaska’s $2.7 billion annual budget deficit, but they can put a significant criminal justice bill on their list of successes. Senate Bill 54 passed the Senate 11-8 Nov. 10 after passing the House 32-8 earlier in the session. The American Civil Liberties Union has vowed to sue over what it calls an unconstitutional provision in the bill. Gov. Bill Walker has said he will sign the bill despite the threat of lawsuit.

House lawmakers kept the session alive after the vote on SB 54 just in case the Alaska Senate Majority changed its position on a state income tax. The Senate Majority has consistently opposed the imposition of a state income tax, and it did not alter that position before the end of the session.

No additional special sessions are expected before the Legislature returns to Juneau for the start of the regular session in January.

Even without an additional special session, lawmakers have been in the capitol more than ever before. When the session concludes today, lawmakers will have been in session for 211 days, breaking the old single-year record set in 2006.

Despite that record, lawmakers passed the fewest bills in any year since statehood.

Senate Bill 54 was only the 32nd bill passed by the Legislature this year, according to the Legislature’s own statistics. The previous low was 39 bills in 2011.

While the Legislature will not be in session after today’s adjournment, occasional out-of-session meetings will still take place. The first of these will happen after adjournment this morning, as the joint House-Senate Legislative Council meets at 10:30 a.m. to consider the creation of a working group to write a sexual harassment policy for Legislative staff. The Alaska Senate Majority asked for the creation of such a policy two weeks ago, following an incident earlier this year involving Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla.

The House-Senate Select Committee on Legislative Ethics will meet next week on a topic that has not been announced to the public.

At 6 p.m. Dec. 4, the House Resources Committee will meet telephonically in Anchorage to hear a presentation from Keith Meyer, president of the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation. Meyer will deliver an update on the progress of the AKLNG trans-Alaska gas pipeline project.

Gov. Bill Walker’s proposed fiscal year 2019 budget will be released in mid-December, one month before lawmakers return to Juneau for the regular session.


• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.


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