Legislature continues working past statutory limit
Lawmakers are still on the clock, but they have a new timekeeper: the state constitution.
The Legislature adjourned Sunday, the ninetieth day and the statutory limit to hold sessions, but just for the day. They’ll return to work Monday, and it’s business as usual.
That’s because the state constitution that allows lawmakers to continue working, so the House and Senate have until May 16, the one-hundred-twenty-first day to close out this session.
Unlike last year, there’s plenty of optimism among the House, Senate and Gov. Bill Walker that differences will be worked out before mid-May.
“Last year was a full out philosophical battle between a conservative Senate and a liberal House,” said Senate President Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks). “The philosophical battle was mostly over taxes and spending. Those battles have mostly been fought or won or worn people out to the point where it’s pointless to continue with rhetoric.”
Last year, the Legislature worked through the one-hundred-twenty-first day and returned for four special sessions throughout the year.
The argued over taxes on the oil industry – and are still engaged in that battle – over income taxes and over just how much to cut from the state’s operating budget.
Differences remain, but the tone has changed.
“We’ve got a second year under our belt in terms of working together,” said House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham). “That’s a big difference. Last year we were all sort of new in our roles. On the House, in particular, we didn’t have the working relationships that we have today.”
Most lawmakers believe they will need between two and three weeks to wrap up, but plenty of work that needs completing as well.
The House and Senate are working out differences in the state’s operating budget. A special committee has been established to work out differences.
This places the Legislature in what’s known as the “24-hour rule,” which enables bills to advance through committees faster.
The Legislature has also yet to discuss a capital budget used for statewide construction and maintenance projects. Last year it took a one-day special session in July to finish the work.
Lawmakers also have a series of education funding and crime bills that are being worked on as well.
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