House Majority trickles into Juneau as clock winds down on special session
The clock is winding down on a second special session in Juneau, slated to end Saturday. Most of the House majority remained in their home districts Friday morning, with members trickling in throughout the day. The legislative body held a technical session, with just two members of the majority caucus present, before adjourning until Saturday morning.
House Bill 111, on oil tax reform, is the only item on the session agenda. While there is wide support for ending the state’s cash credits to oil companies, the two legislative bodies still have yet to reach a deal.
Now, the window of opportunity is narrowing. If the conference committee tasked with negotiating a compromise were to reach an agreement soon, the House would have just one day to gather enough votes to revive and pass the bill.
Because nearly all of the House minority’s members are present in Juneau, Rep. Scott Kawasai (D-Fairbanks) says he’s hopeful the majority and minority caucuses could work together to get a compromise approved on time.
“I think what it boils down to is most of the Senate is here, most of the House Republicans are already here and many of the House Democrats are coming in tonight. What this means is that it’s going to be a bipartisan effort in the end,” said Kawasaki. “Folks will vote their conscience and ultimately on some sort of a compromise. But it’s going to take both, folks on both sides of the aisle to really get this through.”
Senate President Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks) says he was encouraged to see members of the House Majority trickling into Juneau throughout the day, including the lead negotiators on HB 111. The Senate is poised to act quickly, with all of its members in the capitol building. But Kelly says any public action on the measure won’t likely happen until Saturday.
“The work should be completed today, as far as the behind the scenes, things should be completed today. Then, I believe we could probably go out tomorrow and vote for it. Something could happen though and then it all falls apart,” Kelly said in an interview Friday afternoon. “If you go through tomorrow without action, then it’s over because the special session ends. So, tomorrow is the day that it will happen, if it’s going to happen.”
The House is scheduled to meet in a floor session Saturday morning at 11. Regardless of action on oil taxes, legislative work likely isn’t over this year. Lawmakers have yet to pass a capital budget to fund state projects. Gov. Bill Walker has said he wants would like that legislation passed before September.