Jueves, 17 Agosto, 2017

With deadline near, Alaska Legislature eyes taking more time

The Latest: Edgmon: Support to extend appears insufficient Alaska Legislature faces more time as session deadline looms
Ramiro Mantilla | 20 May, 2017, 03:17

Wednesday marked a constitutional deadline for Alaska lawmakers to end their regular session.

Alaska legislators are set to convene a special session called by Gov. Bill Walker to complete work on a budget and plan for addressing a multibillion-dollar state deficit.

Minutes after the House and Senate adjourned, Gov. Bill Walker called lawmakers into a special session starting at 11 a.m. Thursday. House Speaker Bryce Edgmon said Wednesday there didn't appear to be sufficient support to extend the session.

As of press time on Wednesday, both the House and the Senate remained in session.

House Minority Leader Charisse Millett said Tuesday that her caucus was not inclined to support a 10-day extension. But the North Pole Republican said he understands the need for a narrow focus.

Another alternative for lawmakers to complete their work is to meet in special session.

Edgmon says ideally the House would be working on fiscal issues with the Senate. After four months in session, there is little indication that either side is willing to yield on what it sees as the best path forward.

They also made changes to the criminal justice overhaul passed previous year - Senate Bill 91 - and they agreed to comply with the Real ID act, to spare Alaskans from seeking passports to get on military bases next month.

Sen. John Coghill said he was disappointed the agenda did not include a bill that contained what were seen as more substantive changes to criminal justice legislation passed previous year.

Edgmon said his coalition committed to staying busy and addressing other bills of importance while the Legislature was meeting.

The Republican-led Senate, meanwhile, Wednesday approved allowing ride-share companies, like Uber and Lyft, to operate in Alaska. That bill now goes to Walker for consideration.

When it comes to a fiscal plan, there's general agreement about using earnings from Alaska's oil-wealth fund - the Alaska Permanent Fund - to help fill the deficit. But there is sharp disagreement over what else should be done.

The House majority has insisted on a broad-based tax, like an income tax, and changes to oil tax and credit policy as part of an overall solution.

Entering the special session, the House and Senate have each drafted their own versions of the state operating budget, a Permanent Fund spending plan, and a plan to cut oil and gas drilling subsidies.

Jessica Geary, finance manager for the Legislative Affairs Agency, said she did not have accurate reporting for extended session costs so far.