The Alaska Senate has voted unanimously to join a conference committee intended to create a compromise state budget for the coming fiscal year.
The Senate and House have each passed different versions of the state operating budget, and on Wednesday the Senate voted 0-20 against abandoning its version in favor of the House’s version. That vote, coupled with a similar vote from the House on Tuesday, starts a conference committee.
On the committee’s agenda are the state’s mental health and operations budgets.
A separate conference committee will consider House Bill 75, which makes a variety of changes to the state’s commercial marijuana laws.
The act of convening a conference committee means the Legislature now requires only one day of notice before a committee hearing; normal rules require five days of notice.
At Wednesday’s floor session, the Senate also voted unanimously to send two bills to Gov. Bill Walker for final approval.
House Bill 76 makes technical changes to the laws covering the governor’s council on disabilities and special education. The measure, which was approved 20-0, says the council is not responsible for coordinating federal laws pertaining to the gifted as well as the disabled.
Senate Bill 53, making changes to the state board of barbers, received 20-0 final approval as well. Previously approved by the Senate, it was modified in the House, which meant it required another vote before going to the governor.
Alaska statutes refer to advanced nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists, but the nationally accepted title is “advanced practice registered nurse.” SB 53 changes state statutes to match national standards.
The Senate declined to take up the controversial guns-on-campus legislation, Senate Bill 174, but the deferral was only for a day. The Senate is expected today to take up the measure and Senate Bill 103, which covers how the school districts should educate students who are undergoing psychiatric treatment. SB 103 was also postponed one day.
In the House, both items on the calendar for Wednesday’s floor session were postponed to this morning.
House Bill 370 received several amendments from Rep. Jim Colver, R-Palmer, before a final vote was deferred. The measure expands the ability of a community to exempt a property from property taxes to encourage economic development. Existing state law prohibits such an exemption from lasting longer than five years. HB 370 would extend that period.
House Bill 222, which also did not receive a final vote Wednesday, would restrict the governor’s ability to accept federal funding without the Legislature’s approval.
This issue was a key point of contention between the governor and the Legislature on Medicaid expansion. HB 222 would allow the Legislature to expressly forbid the governor from accepting more federal money to benefit a particular project. Where additional money is not expressly forbidden, the governor would have to wait longer before accepting it.
Sen. Pete Kelly,
Sen. Anna MacKinnon,
Sen. Lyman Hoffman,
Rep. Mark Neuman,
Rep. Steve Thompson,
Rep. Les Gara,
Sen. Click Bishop,
Sen. Lesil McGuire,
Sen. Lyman Hoffman,
Rep. Cathy Tilton,
Rep. Charisse Millett,
Rep. Harriet Drummond, D-Anchorage