From left to right: Speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, House Majority Leader Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, and House Minority Leader Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, discuss messages from the Senate in the hall of the Alaska State Capitol on Monday, Oct. 4, 2021. A plan to hold the special session mostly from afar was hampered by demands from Republican Senators. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Plan for remote session stalled by lawmakers

Citing lack of progress, lawmakers want frequent floor sessions

A resolution allowing lawmakers to hold the latest special session mostly from afar ran into trouble Monday evening, as some members of the Senate majority expressed frustration with that arrangement.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, told the Empire Tuesday the four caucus leaders had agreed on a resolution to extend the amount of time lawmakers could take between floor sessions, allowing them to hold committee meetings elsewhere in the state. But some members of the Senate majority took issue with that plan, Begich said, and negotiations were continuing among that caucus.

“The work we all believe can be done elsewhere,” Begich said, referring to members of the Democratic minority. “We are willing to do what it takes to move the process forward.”

Both chambers of the Legislature are scheduled to meet again Friday, but no additional committee meetings have been scheduled in the interim.

Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, did not immediately respond to the request for comment.

[4th special session gets off to a slow start]

House Minority Leader Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, said in a phone interview Tuesday her caucus is not necessarily opposed to holding committee meetings on the road system and wanted to work toward resolving the state’s fiscal deficit. Tilton said she wanted to see the bills introduced by Gov. Mike Dunleavy being taken under consideration and used as a framework for a fiscal resolution.

Earlier this year Dunleavy introduced several bills for constitutional amendments for a new Permanent Fund dividend formula and a spending limit for the Legislature.

Several lawmakers in both parties and in both chambers have been critical of the governor’s proposals for a fiscal resolution. The governor’s proposals still leave the need for additional revenues which lawmakers have been divided over. Some lawmakers have introduced tax bills, but Tilton said she and her caucus were skeptical of new taxes and opposed to a state income tax.

The fiscal policy working group formed over the summer said the state would need to find between $500-755 million in new revenues in order to balance the budget.

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

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