Informal floor sessions were held this week at the Alaska State Capitol, seen here on Sept. 24, 2021, but committee meetings were held remotely as many lawmakers have returned home. But only the House of Representatives was busy as the Senate was stalled by COVID-positive senators. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

Senate is stalled while House gets to work

House committees are hearing bills after a slow start

The second week of the Alaska State Legislature’s fourth special session of the year saw some committee work begin in the House of Representatives while the Senate remained quiet.

Meetings of the House Judiciary, Ways and Means and State Affairs committees were held through the week, hearing bills aimed at resolving the state’s long-term fiscal crisis.

The first week of the special session saw only brief organizational meetings. House members were able to pass a resolution extending the amount of time required between floor sessions and allowing them to hold committee meetings remotely. The Senate has not yet passed a similar resolution.

Several lawmakers have said they don’t expect much legislation to be passed during this session, but bills could be worked on and taken up again in the next session. Over the summer a fiscal policy working group met and drafted a set of broad recommendations but no actual proposals. House committees heard bills this week offering various elements of the working group’s recommendations.

Part of the working group’s recommendations included an additional $500-775 million in new revenues and between $20-200 million in additional cuts to the state budget. The working group made no recommendations as to where revenues or cuts might come from.

On Friday, the House Judiciary Committee heard a presentation from Rep. James Kaufman, R-Anchorage, on an appropriations limit. Kaufman and Rep. Sara Rasmussen, R-Anchorage, are co-sponsors on two bills for a spending cap, one of which is a constitutional amendment.

[COVID cases delay Senate]

Revising the state’s spending limits is mentioned in the report, but a set appropriations limit is not mentioned. The Legislature limited itself to a 5% of market value draw to the earnings of the Alaska Permanent Fund in 2018. The working group said lawmakers will likely need to exceed that limit at least once to put the state on stable fiscal footing but several lawmakers have said they won’t overdraw the fund until there’s a stable fiscal plan in place.

Several bills heard this week offered various formulas for calculating the Permanent Fund Dividend, most of which involve splitting the POMV draw between spending on state services. Gov. Mike Dunleavy has advocated for a 50-50 split, which several Republican lawmakers have endorsed. A few Democratic lawmakers support a 50-50 split as well. Rep. Liz Snyder, D-Anchorage, submitted a bill for a 50-50 split that was heard Wednesday before the House Ways and Means Committee.

Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, also has a bill that would split the POMV draw 50-50 but only after an incremental increase over several years.

The Alaska State Senate held only informal technical sessions this week following the announcement Tuesday two members of the Senate Majority Caucus tested positive for COVID-19 and a third was feeling ill.

No meetings are yet scheduled for next week.

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

More in News

A Princess Cruise Line ship is docked in Juneau on Aug. 25, 2021. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for the week of Sept. 25

Here’s what to expect this week.

Faith Rogers’ family, from left to right, James Rogers (father), Michelle Rogers (sister), Harmony Wentz (daughter), Maria Rogers (mother) and Mindy Voigt (friend) sit with Faith’s three dogs in their family home. Faith Rogers, 55, of Juneau was found dead along a popular trail on Wednesday, Sept. 21. Police are investigating the death as a homicide. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
‘It’s shocking’: Family hopes for answers after suspicious death of loved one

“She wanted to make things beautiful, to help make people beautiful…”

People work together to raise the Xa’Kooch story pole, which commemorates the Battle of the Inian Islands. (Shaelene Grace Moler / For the Capital City Weekly)
Resilient Peoples & Place: The Xa’Kooch story pole — one step toward a journey of healing

“This pole is for the Chookaneidi, but here among us, many clans are represented…”

A bracket fungus exudes guttation drops and a small fly appears to sip one of them.( Courtesy Photo / Bob Armstrong)
On the Trails: Water drops on plants

Guttation drops contain not only water but also sugars, proteins, and probably minerals.

A chart shows what critics claim is poor financial performance by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, especially in subsidizing private industry projects intended to boost the state’s economy, during its 55-year existence. The chart is part of a report released Tuesday criticizing the agency. (MB Barker/LLC Erickson & Associates/EcoSystems LLC)
AIDEA’s fiscal performance fishy, critics say

Report presented by salmon industry advocates asserts state business subsidy agency cost public $10B

Police vehicles gather Wednesday evening near Kaxdigoowu Héen Dei, also known as ]]Brotherhood Bridge Trail, while investigating a homicide. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Police: Woman was walking dogs when she was killed

JPD said officers are working “around the clock” on the criminal investigation.

In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, a Coast Guard Cutter Kimball crew-member observes a foreign vessel in the Bering Sea, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. The U.S. Coast Guard cutter on routine patrol in the Bering Sea came across the guided missile cruiser from the People's Republic of China, officials said Monday, Sept. 26.  (U.S. Coast Guard District 17 via AP)
Patrol spots Chinese, Russian naval ships off Alaska island

This wasn’t the first time Chinese naval ships have sailed near Alaska waters.

An Alaska judge has ruled that a state lawmaker affiliated with the Oath Keepers, Rep. David Eastman, shown in this February 2022 photo, may stay on the general election ballot in November even though he's likely ineligible to hold public office  (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Judge keeps Oath Keepers lawmaker on November ballot

Judge ordered delaying certifying the result of the race until a trial scheduled for December.

Water rushes down Front Street, just a half block from the Bering Sea, in Nome, Alaska, on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022 as the remnants of Typhoon Merbok moved into the region. It was a massive storm system — big enough to cover the mainland U.S. from the Pacific Ocean to Nebraska and from Canada to Texas. It influenced weather systems as far away as California, where a rare late-summer storm dropped rain on the northern part of the state, offering a measure of relief to wildfire crews but also complicating fire suppression efforts because of mud and loosened earth. (AP Photo / Peggy Fagerstrom)
Repair work begins in some Alaska towns slammed by storm

ANCHORAGE — There’s been significant damage to some roads and homes in… Continue reading

Most Read