If Legislature needs special session, lawmaker wants it in Railbelt

If the Alaska Legislature goes into special session this year, Sen. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, is again promoting the idea of a meeting on the road system.

On Tuesday, Stoltze updated Senate Concurrent Resolution 16, a measure he put forward last year to urge Gov. Bill Walker to hold any special session in the Railbelt.

The resolution didn’t advance, so Stoltze is renewing it.

Stoltze said he doesn’t know if a special session will be needed this year.

“It’s not a matter of a self-fulfilling prophecy but how to address any future special session,” he said in the Senate State Affairs Committee, which he chairs and where the resolution was introduced.

A resolution lacks legislative power — if passed by the full House and Senate, it would serve as little more than a letter to the governor saying the Legislature wants a special session (if there is one) on the road system.

Stoltze said he decided against binding legislation for a simple reason: “The governor has said he would veto it,” Stoltze told the committee.

This summer, the Alaska Capitol is scheduled to undergo the third and final year of renovations intended to maintain its facade and reinforce the building against earthquakes.

Those renovations were a key point in the Legislature’s decision to hold one of its three special sessions in Anchorage last year.

With this year being the last of construction, and the contractor being held to a performance bond — it must finish on time or pay a penalty — “I don’t want the state, for political reasons, forcing us to stay in this building during construction season,” Stoltze said.

Last year, lawmakers went beyond the 90-day statutory limit for legislative sessions, and instead relied upon the Alaska Constitution’s 121-day limit.

Lawmakers worked to the 98th day, then Gov. Bill Walker called a special session to finish budget work. That special session lasted 24 days, until lawmakers adjourned themselves and immediately called a second special session, this time in Anchorage.

That special session lasted 22 days, finishing its work June 11.

In the fall, Walker called a third special session to address the buyout of natural gas pipeline partner TransCanada. That special session lasted 13 days.

This year, a special session is not thought likely, but it remains possible if a deadlock over budget cuts and new revenue develops in the final 30 days of the regular session.

Stoltze said his resolution only applies to the last part of the second session of the 29th Alaska Legislature and does not involve moving the Legislature permanently.

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