Members of the Alaska House of Representatives spent hours in floor sessions Saturday and Sunday inside the Alaska State Capitol, seen here on Monday, April 26, 2021. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Members of the Alaska House of Representatives spent hours in floor sessions Saturday and Sunday inside the Alaska State Capitol, seen here on Monday, April 26, 2021. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

House moves budget back to committee

Marathon floor sessions over weekend end in bill rollback

A comprehensive budget bill in the Alaska House of Representatives was sent back to committee Sunday after procedural disagreements during marathon floor sessions over the weekend halted progress.

House members debated amendments to House bills 69 and 71 — the operating and mental health budgets respectively — all day Saturday and Sunday, but when the majority caucus tried to bring an end to the amendment process, members of the House minority objected.

After negotiations between caucus leadership, the bills were sent back to committees where changes to legislation are easier to make.

Even with the delay, House leadership is still confident the Legislature will be able to pass the budget bills within the 121 days allowed by the state constitution, according to House Majority Coalition spokesperson Austin Baird.

[With May 19 goal in mind, lawmakers speed up work]

Dozens of amendments were submitted and debated Saturday, and late that evening, the bill was automatically moved to third reading, according to the House journal, which ends the amendment process. But Sunday morning, members of the Republican Minority tried to move the bill back into the amendment process, but that vote ended in a 20-20 deadlock.

Negotiations between caucus leadership ended in the bill being sent back to the House Rules Committee. Moving the bill back to committee will allow members of the minority to advance some of the ideas they put forward in amendments, Baird said Monday.

If lawmakers are unable to pass the budget by May 19, a special session will have to be called, either by the governor or by the Legislature itself. Both bills still need to go through the legislative process in the Senate as well.

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

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