Last year, the first day of the legislative session was filled with much pomp and circumstance. Lawmakers had flowers pinned to their clothes, local Boy Scouts carried flags onto the floor and led lawmakers in the Pledge of Allegiance.
This year, not so much.
Tuesday marks the second session of the 31st Alaska State Legislature. New Legislatures begin following elections, and with a few exceptions, there are no new legislators this session.
Sen. Josh Revak, R-Anchorage, was already sworn into the Senate where he will take the seat of the late-Sen. Chris Birch, who died unexpectedly last year. Filling his former seat in the House will be Rep. Mel Gillis, R-Anchorage. Both lawmakers were sworn in during the interim, according to Jessica Geary, executive director of the Legislative Affairs Agency.
But aside from that, the Legislature is going to get right back to business.
“The House of Representatives is largely going to pick up where it left off last year,” Austin Baird, communications director for the House Majority, said Monday. “You’ll see the formal introduction of the legislation that was pre-filed and the committee work is going to continue.”
Baird said committee schedules have to be read across the floor, Baird said, in order to comply with public disclosure laws.
The Capitol was bristling with energy Monday afternoon, as lawmakers and staff got ready for session. Pages fetched meals from the Capitol’s eatery and workers hauled ladders and equipment through the halls.
The only ceremony set to take place is a singing of the Alaska Flag Song, sung by students at Sayéik: Gastineau Community School. The singing will be accompanied by members of Juneau Alaska Music Matters, played before the House of Representatives.
Both houses of the Legislature will meet at 1 p.m. and introduce legislation which will then be sent to the relevant committees. Some lawmakers have pre-filed bills already.
As of Monday afternoon, the only scheduled committee meetings were the House Transportation Committee and the Senate Health and Social Services finance sub-committee.
The Transportation Committee meeting at 2 p.m. will hear a presentation on “The Importance of (the Alaska Marine Highway System) to Alaska & the Need for Increased Funding” from the Alaska Municipal League and local municipalities. The meeting will be livestreamed on AKL.tv.
Lawmakers from both chambers will also attend Legislative Ethics Committee meetings.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy will be present for the first day of the Legislature, according to Jeff Turner spokesperson for the governor, but will be attending mineral exploration conference in Vancouver, British Columbia on Wednesday and Thursday.
Dunleavy presented a budget with no cuts or increases to the Legislature in December, and called on lawmakers to look at some of the state’s spending formulas which are set by law.
“So over half the budget is really not in my control to change,” Dunleavy told reporters at the budget unveiling at the Capitol in December. “If we’re going to change any of those formulas, it has to be done with the partnership of the Legislature.”
Some lawmakers, even from the governor’s own party, were critical of the budget which would draw the state’s savings down to roughly $540 million.
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.