In this July 2015 photo, Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, speaks to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce at the Juneau International Airport. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

In this July 2015 photo, Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, speaks to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce at the Juneau International Airport. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Juneau’s legislators will hold a town hall before special session

If you’re concerned about crime or the state’s fiscal health, Juneau lawmakers want to hear from you.

Juneau’s three delegates to the Alaska Legislature will hold a town hall meeting next week to hear from borough residents.

The meeting, which will take place from 4:30-6 p.m. Wednesday at Juneau-Douglas High School, comes before the Legislature gathers later this month in Juneau to consider crime and the state’s fiscal situation.

Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau; Rep. Sam Kito, D-Juneau; and Rep. Justin Parish, D-Juneau, are hosting the event.

“The governor is calling the Legislature together this month to consider some big issues and make some tough decisions that impact every Alaskan. Decisions about our future have to reflect all Alaskans, not just a few with power and influence. As we get ready for the special session we really need to hear from you,” Egan said in a prepared statement.

Gov. Bill Walker has called the Legislature into a special session starting Oct. 23. On the session’s agenda are two measures: Senate Bill 54, and an as-yet-unintroduced payroll tax.

SB 54, already approved 19-1 by the Senate, rolls back a portion of Senate Bill 91, a criminal justice reform bill that was passed last year. SB 54 has been referred to three committees in the House.

Walker’s proposed payroll tax is yet another attempt to address the state’s multibillion-dollar annual deficit. The House passed a similar but smaller tax earlier this year, only to see the Senate vote it down.

Members of the Republican-led Senate majority remain adamantly opposed to any taxes. Members of the coalition House majority believe new taxes are necessary to avert continued budget cuts, including those that affect public safety.

“There is little doubt that budget reductions in recent years are a contributing factor to the increase in crime statewide,” Kito said in a prepared statement. “Court system offices are now closed on Fridays (after noon) and prosecutors are faced with the unenviable position of choosing who to prosecute not based on their crimes but based on how much it will cost. This is not good governance and not good justice.”

“I believe that we should tackle our problems head-on. The Alaska Legislature will convene in Juneau on the 23rd to deal with criminal justice reforms and the budget deficit. We need to hear from you,” Parish said. “My goal is to give our law enforcement officers and first responders the tools and funding they need to keep our communities safe. We need to change some laws, and we need to solve our fiscal crisis to bring stability and predictability back to Alaskans.”

At the town hall, the legislators will provide an update on the state of the Legislature and take questions from the public. Free pizza will be served.


• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.


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