The Alaska House of Representatives spent three days in floor sessions at the Alaska State Capitol, seen here on Wednesday, April 6, 2022, and on Thursday finished working through the 87 amendments submitted to the state’s operating budget bill. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

The Alaska House of Representatives spent three days in floor sessions at the Alaska State Capitol, seen here on Wednesday, April 6, 2022, and on Thursday finished working through the 87 amendments submitted to the state’s operating budget bill. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

House finalizes budget amendments, set to vote on Saturday

Only six of 87 amendments approved

The Alaska House of Representatives Thursday finished working through the 87 amendments submitted to the state’s operating budget bill, and will hold a vote on the bill as amended on Saturday.

Just before 5 p.m. Thursday, lawmakers had worked their way through all 87 amendments submitted to the budget bill — though many of those were not offered or tabled — and recessed until 6:15 p.m. to debate amendments on the state’s mental health budget bill, which had only one amendment submitted.

House Majority Coalition spokesperson Joe Plesha said a vote on the bill itself would be held on Saturday.

Only six amendments of the 87 submitted were eventually adopted. Amendments approved Thursday included bonuses for public defenders, increased payments for jurors, funds to the Department of Natural Resources and a removal of funds for the Department of Law to pay fines incurred by Gov. Mike Dunleavy for the illegal firing of two doctors from the Alaska Psychiatric Institute. Wasilla Republican Reps. David Eastman and Chris Kurka joined with members of the Majority in voting for that amendment.

Several amendment proposals from Eastman suggested transferring money from various state accounts to the Alaska Permanent Fund for the purpose of paying Permanent Fund dividends in line with the state’s statutory formula.

[House passes amendment to exempt state Medicaid program from covering abortions]

Another amendment from gubernatorial candidate Kurka would defund the position of chief medical officer for the state. Kurka has called for the firing of Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink.

Kurka said the position had served a purpose in the past, but “to many people in my district, there has been incalculable damage as of late.”

Rep. Kevin McCabe, R-Big Lake, said it was inappropriate for Kurka to make such an amendment while he was campaigning for governor.

“To me, the ethics are a little bit murky,” McCabe said.

The amendment was ultimately ruled out of order by a vote of 30-7.

When session began Thursday morning House members had already worked through 58 amendments over the previous days but had only approved two, including one that would prevent the state’s Medicaid program from funding abortions. Lawmakers have passed similar amendments in the past, but the Alaska Supreme Court has repeatedly found abortion is covered by the state constitution’s right to privacy.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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