Special session: House fast-tracks crime bill, governor's tax lacks support
The Alaska legislature gaveled in for a record-breaking fourth special session Monday. This is the first time state lawmakers have ever spent so much time in Juneau in a single year.
But lawmakers did not stick to their own schedule. They spent most of the morning in closed-door caucus meetings. Because of that, two of the afternoon's committee hearings on changes to state crime law were canceled or delayed.
The Senate already approved modifications to criminal justice reform through Senate Bill 54 earlier this year. Now, it appears to be on the fast-track in the House.
The House Majority waved one of the bill's committees referrals in a floor session Monday afternoon, taking public testimony that same day.
The move didn't come without opposition from the House Republican Minority.
"My fear is that as we go through the process, today and tomorrow in Judiciary, the next step will be waving it out of Finance," said House Minority Leader, Rep. Charisse Millett (R-Anchorage).
"I think we all consent that crime is on the rise here in Alaska, Alaskans do want a fast fix, and much like the governor, I can’t stomach going another day jeopardizing public safety," said House Majority Leader, Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage).
The governor’s tax proposal doesn’t appear to have strong support in either body. The Senate has repeatedly opposed an income tax. On Monday, Senate President Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks) said a payroll tax is no different.
"A tax isn’t needed, we’ve pretty much said 'no' to a tax, and I don’t think that’s going to change too much," Kelly said.
"We’re still not too keen on it, we want to make sure that we’re not burdening one group of people over another group of people," said Tuck. "And it just seems like the working families might be burdening the brunt of this fiscal situation that we’re in right now."
The House Judiciary Committee will take public testimony Tuesday from 6 to 9 p.m. If you'd like to testify, you're asked to do so from your local legislative information office. In Anchorage, that’s the Wells Fargo building on the corner of Minnesota Drive and Benson Boulevard.