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May 13, 2019
Crime, Education, and Soon Goodbye
The Alaska Constitution limits legislative sessions to 121 days and today is day 119. There are numerous big issues still to be resolved including the size of this year’s PFD, how much to cut from the budget, and additional criminal justice reforms.
The Crime Bill
Like many of you, I am concerned about crime. Too many of our friends and neighbors don’t feel safe in their own homes and businesses. Public safety is an essential function of government, which is why the House, Senate, and the Governor have made addressing crime a top priority this session. We have all been working on a comprehensive criminal justice bill, House Bill 49, which is intended to fix many of the flaws identified in the legislature’s recent efforts at criminal justice reform.
The House of Representatives passed the bill last week, and the Senate has been frantically working on it for the last few days. Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee started with the House version of the bill and toughened it up. The Senate started debate on the new version of the bill today, and the debate will continue on the Senate floor tomorrow. If the House fails to concur with the Senate changes and the bill ends up in a conference committee, we may not be done in time.
With a two-thirds vote of both bodies, we can extend the session for another ten days, but it’s more likely we will be called into a special session on crime.
Education Dispute Between the Legislature and the Governor
Funding for public education must also be decided before the end of the session. Last year, the Alaska Legislature forward funded education for Fiscal Year 2020, which starts on July 1st. Because the money was forward funded, it is not included in this year’s operating budget. Governor Dunleavy wants the funding included in the budget bill, which would make it subject to the Governor’s line-item veto authority. The Governor’s budget calls for huge cuts in education funding. Additionally, he is holding back $20 million in education funding appropriated for the current school year. This has resulted in a lawsuit to release the money.
Members of the Alaska Legislature at the bill signing ceremony for House Bill 287 on May 3, 2018, at the Harborview Elementary School in Juneau.
At issue is the authority of the Alaska Legislature to appropriate money as it sees fit. The previous Governor had the opportunity to veto the education funding, but he chose instead to sign the bill forward funding education in Alaska for FY 20. The power to appropriate must stay vested in the Alaska State Legislature.
How You Can Follow the End of Session
The last couple of days of a legislative session can be very hectic with bills moving quickly to the floor and between the House and Senate. The Alaska Legislature has a great website that is constantly updated, and Gavel Alaska does a tremendous job of covering committee meetings and floor sessions. Another great resource is the Alaska House Majority website, and as always you can call my office with questions.
I’m here for you, so please keep in touch on matters important to you and your family!
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