Legislature Adjourns with Flurry of Bills Passed; Governor Parnell Calls Special Session
ALASKA - Early Monday morning, the 27th Alaska State Legislature adjourned its regular session, after which Governor Sean Parnell signed a proclamation calling for a special session to convene Wednesday, April 18, in Juneau to address three topics: oil tax legislation, an Alaska natural gas pipeline, and tougher penalties for sex trafficking.
It was not an elegant end to the session, as both the house and senate proceedings actually ran over into the 91st day, contrary to the citizens’ initiative approved by voters in 2006.
And despite nearly a year and a half of intense debate about oil production taxes, the senate failed to pass a bill back to the house until the final day – helping to set up the special session called by the governor.
But legislators gaveled out with some notable accomplishments.
The capital budget was passed Sunday. The Senate Bipartisan Working Group said in a press release the capital budget adds $4 to the state's savings for each dollar spent on capital projects. The capital budget for FY2013 comes to $2.94 billion.
The legislature passed Senate Bill 74, which requires insurance coverage for people under 21 years old who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Just a week ago, it seemed doubtful this bill would make it out of the House Health and Social Services Committee.
The insurance will cover medically necessary treatments include speech, behavioral, occupational and physical therapies.
Not all children will be covered though because the bill exempts a business with 20 employees or less, and the bill also doesn't cover most Medicaid recipients, any state or federal employees or any self-insured businesses.
The bill was passed with an amendment to create a task force that would look more closely at autism across the state in hope that more autistic children can one day be covered by insurance.
Another bill that passed Sunday will require judges to consider fetal alcohol spectrum disorders as a factor in sentencing.
If a person before the court suffers from the disorder, a judge will have the option to be more lenient.
But lawmakers today clarified that if the defendant is involved in a seriously violent crime, the mitigating factor cannot be used.
"I very sincerely hope that when that leniency is authorized it involves a required mandate for treatment or supervised order, or whatever is appropriate to make sure that these offenders, in exchange for that leniency are gotten into the guidance help and care that they need," said Representative Mike Hawker (R-Anchorage).
One bill requires victims of crimes to be given notice of delays in trials.
"Delays can prevent victims from reaching emotional, physical and financial closure from traumas that they've suffered, resulting from crimes by perpetrators against them… Delays in prosecution can affect the availability of witnesses, a victim's ability to recall important details of the event and it can create impediments to a successful trial," said Representative Anna Fairclough (R-Eagle River).