Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, listens to Finance Division Director David Teal answers questions from the Senate Finance Committee on the state’s budget at the Capitol on Thursday, April 25, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, listens to Finance Division Director David Teal answers questions from the Senate Finance Committee on the state’s budget at the Capitol on Thursday, April 25, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Will the Legislature finish on time? Senate leaders are optimistic

Some House members frustrated at pace of crime bills

As the end of Legislative session approaches, lawmakers expressed differing views on whether the job will get done, and get done right, in time.

Sen. Bert Stedman, the co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, told reporters Thursday morning that he was confident that the Legislature can get a budget to Gov. Mike Dunleavy and a robust package of crime bills done, all by the 121st day of session on May 15.

The constitutional limit for sessions is 121 days, but the governor or Legislature can call a special session of up to 30 days. Thursday was the 101st day of session.

[Permanent Fund Dividend still a major question mark this session]

Stedman, R-Sitka, said the budget will likely hit the Senate floor sometime next week. He said many aspects of the Senate’s current proposal are similar to the House proposal that rejected many of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed cuts.

“My conversations with him are pretty direct, frankly,” Stedman said of talking with Dunleavy. “I expressed to him that there’s no way we can deliver the budget reductions in one year. It can’t be done. We need legislative action, the agencies need time to prepare themselves, there’s a litany of things. We’re delivering what we can deliver.”

Others aren’t so happy with the pace of the Legislature’s progress.

At a press conference Thursday morning, House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt lamented that crime legislation still hasn’t been passed. Even more frustrating, Pruitt said, is that the House Majority proposed a criminal justice bill that he called too soft, and that the bill appears to be moving quickly (it was introduced Wednesday and the House Judiciary Committee met about it Thursday).

Sen. Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, left, Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, center, Rep. DeLena Johnson, R-Wasilla, and other legislators listen to debate for and against Amanda Price for commissioner of the Department of Public Safety during confirmation voting during a joint session of the Alaska Legislature at the Capitol on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Sen. Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, left, Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, center, Rep. DeLena Johnson, R-Wasilla, and other legislators listen to debate for and against Amanda Price for commissioner of the Department of Public Safety during confirmation voting during a joint session of the Alaska Legislature at the Capitol on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, introduced House Bill 145 on Wednesday, which makes a variety of changes to criminal justice laws in the state. It increases sentencing ranges for sex and drug offenders and seeks to close loopholes in sex offense and sex offender registration loopholes.

In Pruitt’s eyes, though, it doesn’t go far enough. He said that if this bill — instead of Dunleavy’s stricter proposed bills — is passed by the Legislature, he would encourage the governor to veto it and call a special session to take a more serious look at crime.

“We shouldn’t have to be in a special session to deal with this,” Pruitt said. “We should have talked about this a long time ago. That’s part of where, I hope the public is as frustrated as I am.”

The governor’s crime bills are moving, but are going slowly. The Senate Finance Committee heard Senate Bill 32 on Thursday afternoon, which ramps up penalties for drug offenses.

Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, told reporters Thursday morning that she still believes legislators are dedicated to passing a complete, effective crime package. Stedman was also confident that crime bills will be finished by the end of the 121st day.

Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, and Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, watch the votes tally for Amanda Price for commissioner of the Department of Public Safety during confirmation voting during a joint session of the Alaska Legislature at the Capitol on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, and Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, watch the votes tally for Amanda Price for commissioner of the Department of Public Safety during confirmation voting during a joint session of the Alaska Legislature at the Capitol on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

“Correcting the crime problem has been the No. 1 goal for the Senate this session,” Giessel said. “We are laser-focused on it. Clearly the budget is ahead of it in priority, but right behind it is the crime bill. Something will get passed this session. We are confident of that.”


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


More in News

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. On Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, the top U.S. public health agency said that coronavirus can spread greater distances through the air than 6 feet, particularly in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces. But agency officials continued to say such spread is uncommon, and current social distancing guidelines still make sense. (NIAID-RML via AP)
COVID at a glance for Friday, Jan. 22

The most recent state and local numbers.

A Coast Guard Station Juneau 45-foot Response Boat-Medium patrols Auke Bay during an exercise in 2018. A response boat similar to the one in the photo was struck by a laser near Ketchikan on Saturday, Jan. 17, prompting an investigation into the crime. (Lt. Brian Dykens / U.S. Coast Guard)
Coast Guard wants information after laser pointed at boat

“Laser strikes jeopardize the safety of our boat crews…”

The valleys of Jim River and Prospect Creek in northern Alaska, where an official thermometer registered Alaska’s all-time low of minus 80 degrees F on Jan. 23, 1971. Photo by Ned Rozell
Alaska’s all-time cold record turns 50

The camp was there to house workers building the trans-Alaska pipeline

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. On Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, the top U.S. public health agency said that coronavirus can spread greater distances through the air than 6 feet, particularly in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces. But agency officials continued to say such spread is uncommon, and current social distancing guidelines still make sense. (NIAID-RML via AP)
COVID at a glance for Thursday, Jan. 21

The most recent state and local numbers.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy addresses the public during a virtual town hall on Sept. 15, 2020 in Alaska. ( Courtesy Photo / Austin McDaniel, Office of the Governor)
Dunleavy pitches dividend change amid legislative splits

No clear direction has emerged from lawmakers.

Joar Leifseth Ulsom, right, wearing a bib with ExxonMobil lettering on it, congratulates Peter Kaiser on his win in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Nome, Alaska. The world’s most famous sled dog race has lost another major sponsor as the Iditarod prepares for a scaled-back version of this year’s race because of the pandemic, officials said Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. ExxonMobil confirmed to The Associated Press that the oil giant will drop its sponsorship of the race. (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News)
ExxonMobil becomes latest sponsor to sever Iditarod ties

The world’s most famous sled dog race has lost another major sponsor.

Has it always been a police car? (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Police calls for Friday, Jan. 22, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This electron microscope image made available and color-enhanced by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Integrated Research Facility in Fort Detrick, Md., shows Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, orange, isolated from a patient.	(THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/National Institutes of Health)
State reports 24 COVID-19 deaths

Only 1 of the deaths happened recently, according to the state.

Most Read