Alaska House takes budget testimony this week

Alaskans will get their first opportunity to offer public testimony on the state’s budget this week, as the Alaska House of Representatives pushes toward a final vote on the state’s annual spending plan in early March.

At 1 p.m. Thursday, the House Finance Committee is scheduled to take public testimony on the state’s operating budget and mental health budget. A second round of public testimony is expected Friday.

The finance committee will be busy this week as it combines suggestions from House subcommittees into an amended version of the budget proposed by Gov. Bill Walker in December. That House version of the budget will be amended by the finance committee after public testimony, then be sent to a full vote of the House for consideration. The Alaska Senate will undergo a similar but separate version of the same process, and the two versions of the budget will be negotiated until there is a final solution by the time the Legislature adjourns — whenever that is.

This year, the amount of spending is not expected to be nearly as controversial as the subject of how the budget will be paid. Alaska lacks enough money in its principal savings account, the Constitutional Budget Reserve, to cover its multibillion-dollar deficit. With the Alaska Senate’s majority caucus firmly opposed to any new taxes, lawmakers are considering a significant draw from the Alaska Permanent Fund. That is the biggest argument of the Legislative session and is not expected to be resolved until the final vote of this year’s Legislature.

Sullivan to speak

Alaska’s junior U.S. Senator, Republican Dan Sullivan, will address the Alaska Legislature at 11 a.m. Monday in his annual speech to lawmakers. Sullivan’s speech, which is expected to last about 40 minutes, will touch on military issues more than the address given last week by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska’s senior U.S. Senator. Sullivan is a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, and the U.S. military spending bill passed by Congress includes millions of dollars for fighter aircraft facilities in Interior Alaska, and millions more for antiballistic missile defense in Alaska.

Marijuana on the agenda

Several marijuana-related bills will be heard in House and Senate committees this week. At 1 p.m. Monday, the House Judiciary Committee will take public testimony on House Bill 319, which would require marijuana licensees to be fingerprinted every six years instead of every year. In the same meeting, the Judiciary Committee will consider House Bill 316, which would seal the records of people convicted of marijuana crimes before Alaska’s legalization effort passed the ballot in 2014.

At 9 a.m. Tuesday, the House Finance Committee will consider a bill that would allow the Marijuana Control Board to continue operating for another six years. At 3 p.m. that day, the House Health and Social Services Committee will hear public testimony on House Bill 296, which would divert a quarter of all state marijuana tax revenue to a fund that pays for efforts to deter children from using marijuana. At 9 a.m. Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee will consider Senate Bill 128, the Senate version of the same legislation.

Constitutional amendments on tap

The Legislature will consider various constitutional changes this week, all of which have a steep path to follow before reaching the statewide ballot. At 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee will discuss a constitutional amendment that would require voters to approve any new taxes passed by the Legislature. At 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, the House State Affairs Committee will take public testimony on House Joint Resolution 1, which would ask voters to formally repeal the constitutional amendment that declares marriage to be between one man and one woman. While Alaska’s constitutional amendment relating to marriage became a dead letter with a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision, it remains formally part of the state constitution.

At 1:30 p.m. Friday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear a proposed constitutional amendment from Sen. Donny Olson, D-Golovin. The amendment would allow the Legislature to pass a law requiring parental consent for any child who wants to get an abortion. An Alaska Supreme Court decision has found that the Legislature does not have that power, because the child’s decision is protected by the Alaska Constitution’s right to privacy.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at or call 523-2258.

More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of Feb. 26

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola (center) walks with Alaska Rep. Will Stapp, R-Fairbanks, and Alaska Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, into the Alaska House of Representatives chambers ahead of her annual address to the Alaska Legislature on Monday. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
Peltola celebrates federal intervention in Albertsons, Kroger merger in legislative address

Congresswoman says wins for Alaska’s fisheries and state’s economy occurring through collaboration.

Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, speaks in support of Senate concurrence on a version of an education bill passed by the Alaska House last week during a Senate floor discussion on Monday. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Senate concurs on House education bill, Dunleavy is skeptical

Dunleavy schedules press conference Tuesday afternoon in Anchorage to discuss the legislation.

A photo by Ben Huff being exhibited as part of his presentation at 6:30 p.m. at the Alaska State Museum. (Photo courtesy of the Alaska State Museum)
Here’s what’s happening for First Friday in March

Both the state and city museums are celebrating 20 years of artistic… Continue reading

Goose Creek Correctional Center is seen in fall. (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Corrections)
Alaska prison failed to provide adequate dental care to inmates, state investigator finds

Goose Creek Correctional Center has gone years without a hygienist, forcing patients to wait

Jirdes Winther Baxter chats with Wayne Bertholl during her 100th birthday celebration Saturday at the Juneau Yacht Club. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Jirdes Winther Baxter, last survivor of 1925 Nome serum run, celebrates 100th birthday in Juneau

Five generations of family, dozens of friends and a coalition of political leaders offer tributes.

The Safeway supermarket in Juneau, seen here Oct. 4, 2023, is among those in Alaska that might be sold if its parent company, Albertsons Companies Inc., merges with Kroger Co., the parent company of Fred Meyer. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
US sues to block merger of grocery giants Kroger and Albertsons, saying it could push prices higher

Eight states, not including Alaska, join lawsuit against parent companies of Fred Meyer and Safeway.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Friday, Feb. 23, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read