Session not likely to wrap up in 90 days

Lawmakers have until next year to meet new limit

Posted: Tuesday, March 13, 2007

When the 25th Alaska Legislature began Jan. 15, the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives said they were going to try to complete their work in 90 days.

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"Obviously, we aren't going to make it," said Rep. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, co-chairman of the House Finance Committee.

The calendar outside the chambers of House Speaker John Harris, R-Valdez, is being marked to count down the days, but it's still counting from 120, the current legal session limit.

Voters in last year's general election approved the 90-day limit, to take effect in 2008.

Rep. Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks, one of the 90-day initiative sponsors, said it was a good idea to try this session, if only as a trial run for next year, as suggested by Harris.

"We were making nice progress at the outset," said Ramras, who was joined by Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai, in the initiative effort.

Senate President Lyda Green, R-Wasilla, and members of her leadership team were skeptical about the shorter term from the start.

Now, House leaders are saying a voluntary 90-day session is unlikely. Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, said it was probably hopeless to try to hurry through the session, given the issues before the Legislature.

"Of all the years to try and do a 90-day session, this was not a good practice year, given the new administration, AGIA and budget amendments," he said.

Gov. Sarah Palin's Alaska Gasline Inducement Act and revisions to former Gov. Frank Mur- kowski's proposed budget were not submitted until last week.

"If you are going to push the 90-day session, this is what it is going to look like," said Rep. John Coghill, R-North Pole. "Election years are going to be very intense."

Legislators still have to decide whether they'd like to delay the traditional Jan. 15 start time to give the governor more time to prepare a budget, or to end earlier in the year so they could get to other jobs.

Ramras said it was clear from the start that there was no way to get the 90-day session done this year.

"I didn't think it was realistic then," he said.

• Pat Forgey can be reached at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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