Alaska lawmakers set new record for time spent in session
Lawmakers have set a new record in Juneau for the longest time spent consecutively in session, according to the Alaska legislative roster.
It’s been 165 days since lawmakers first gaveled into session back in January. The only other time the legislature has spent this much time in the capital city was in 1981 when it adjourned after 164 days.
Lawmakers are currently in a second special session, after surpassing the 121-day constitutional deadline in May.
The Legislative Affairs Agency estimates each day of the special session costs the state about $30,000, most of that comes from per diem payments to lawmakers.
But this session, many lawmakers say they aren’t claiming per diem.
Rep. Jason Grenn (I-Anchorage) resorted to eating canned soup and other low-budget foods after the regular session when he vowed not to take any more per diem payments.
“For me, it’s about doing what’s right for Alaska and showing people that we’re not down here extending the session just so we can earn more money, but we’re down here doing important work,” Grenn said in an interview earlier this month. “Instead of these extended sessions, I think if none of us took per diem, you’d probably see a little spur in action.”
Others, like Sen. Dennis Egan of Juneau, say they consider per diem payments part of the legislative salary. Egan says he isn’t claiming per diem during this special session, but will if meetings drag on.
“I haven’t yet because we’re aren’t doing anything. I’m not going to claim per diem for coming in here and doing a three-minute technical session. But, if we have meetings that go on and on and on, yes, I will claim per diem,” Egan said in an interview Friday.
“In fact, I didn’t claim anything last year, none. And, did I get one kudos? Not one. Not one kudos for not collecting any per diem,” Egan added.
The Legislative Affairs Agency told KTVA it doesn’t have a final tally yet on who is taking per diem during special session. It hopes to have that information available by Thursday. Right now, only a handful of lawmakers is in Juneau — most are taking time off in their home districts. Lawmakers are expecting to return to Juneau on Monday, July 10.
On Friday, Gov. Bill Walker signed into law an operating budget passed by lawmakers last week to keep state services running through next year and set Permanent Fund dividend checks at $1,100 this fall. But, legislators have yet to approve the state’s capital budget, which pays for things like highway and ferry improvements. Walker wants them to take up oil tax legislation first.
The post Alaska lawmakers set new record for time spent in session appeared first on KTVA 11.