The Alaska Legislature will begin to crack open the state budget and start the debate about how to pay for it as lawmakers enter the first full week of the regular session.
The finance subcommittees of the House Finance Committee are scheduled to start meeting and holding hearings on departmental budgets, and the main finance committees will hear from the leaders of the Alaska Permanent Fund. Senate Bill 26, which would direct a portion of the Permanent Fund’s earnings to the state’s $2.5 billion budget deficit, will be the most-fraught item of this year’s session, and this week marks the first time during this session that the fund’s leaders have appeared in front of the Legislature.
Angela Rodell, CEO of the fund, is scheduled to appear in front of the House Finance Committee at 1:30 p.m. today. She will make a repeat appearance in front of the Senate Finance Committee at 9 a.m. Tuesday and is scheduled to appear in the latter meeting with Bill Moran, chairman of the fund corporation’s board of trustees.
The subcommittee for the state’s prison budget will meet at 8 a.m. Tuesday and will be followed at noon by the group looking at the department of military and veterans’ affairs budget. At 4:30 p.m. is the budget for the Department of Administration. Education and Department of Revenue budget subcommittee meetings will take place Wednesday, followed by Commerce, Fish and Game, health, transportation, public safety and revenue budgets Thursday. A second veterans’ affairs budget meeting (this one focused on the Alaska Aerospace Corporation) is scheduled for Thursday. A second education budget meeting will take place at 8 a.m. Friday.
The budget meetings this week are preliminary and informational; no action is planned.
A statewide ban on smoking in public places was blocked by Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, in 2016. Lawmakers are trying again, however, and the Senate again approved the ban in 2017. The proposed ban is in the hands of the House Judiciary Committee, which will take public testimony on the idea at 1 p.m. Monday. A second hearing on the ban, which is Senate Bill 63, has been scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday. If the bill is approved by the judiciary committee, it will again be decided by LeDoux, who is the chairwoman of the powerful House Rules Committee, which sets when (and if) bills are scheduled for final vote on the House floor.
Lunch and learn
Throughout the regular session, organizations host presentations in the Capitol and offer free lunch to all in attendance as a way to encourage turnout. Lunches vary from sandwiches and wraps to pizza. The events are open to the public.
At noon Monday in Room 205 is a presentation by the public-private nonprofit Pacific NorthWest Economic Region Foundation. PNWER’s executive director and others will explain economic ties and opportunities between Alaska and other states and provinces in the Pacific Northwest.
At noon Thursday, also in Room 205, the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation will give a brief update on the progress of the trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline.
Public testimony opportunities
Though it is early in the session, several committees are scheduled to take public testimony on various bills and resolutions advancing through the Legislative process. To stay up to date, visit http://akleg.gov/pages/testify.phpSB 63, statewide smoking ban, 1 p.m. Monday
HB 273, renewing the marijuana control board, 3:15 p.m. Tuesday
HB 274, renewing the board of psychologists, 3:15 p.m. Tuesday
HB 275, renewing the board of massage therapists, 3:15 p.m. Tuesday
HB 180, updates standards for wire transfers and regulations covering prepaid cards and bitcoin, 3:15 p.m. Tuesday
SCR 14, awarding the state’s Decoration of Honor to three killed Alaska soldiers, 3:30 p.m. Tuesday
SB 131, creating a separate budget process for education and schools, 8 a.m. Wednesday
HB 43, relaxing restrictions on experimental drugs or treatments for the terminally ill, 1:30 p.m. Wednesday
HB 267, allowing the state to release hunting and fishing records to municipalities if they tax hunting and fishing locally, 8 a.m. Thursday
HB 152, updating the state’s military code of regulations applied to the National Guard, 3 p.m. Thursday
SB 131, creating a separate budget process for education and schools, 3:30 p.m. Thursday
To offer public comment by phone, call the Legislative Information Office at 465-4648. In Juneau, visit the Capitol.
• Contact reporter James Brooks at email@example.com or call 523-2258.