Legislature heading into the home stretch toward Wednesday adjournment
State lawmakers are entering the final three days before the session’s clock runs out under the 121-day constitutional limit — and there is plenty of work to get done.
The House and Senate are still working on a sweeping crime bill, budget differences and how much the state can afford to pay for Permanent Fund Dividends.
Most of Sunday’s work addressed changes the Senate made to House Bill 49, a sweeping crime bill designed to repeal sections of Senate Bill 91, legislation passed three years ago that quickly became linked to soaring crime rates.
The Senate Finance Committee brought forth a 93-page re-write — also known as a committee substitute — from what the House passed on Wednesday.
Senate leaders say they hope to vote on the bill Monday. Unless the House agrees to changes made, a special committee would be established to work out differences.
The House and Senate already have one committee in place sort through differences in House Bill 39, the state’s operating budget.
The biggest sticking point within the budget is appropriating an agreed upon sum for the annual dividend payout.
The Senate has a $3,000 dividend, which falls under the statutory formula; the House did not include a sum, believing it would get worked out once the Senate’s budget was approved.
Paying a full dividend would require taking money from one of the state’s savings accounts or from the fund’s earnings, the source of the payment.
Each of the last three years, Alaskans have received a reduced dividend and a full payment underpinned Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s campaign last year.
The Senate also wants to move $12 billion from the Permanent Fund’s earnings to the principal, there by protecting it from a legislative draw under the constitution.
Senate Finance Committee Co-Chair Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, introduced the idea of transferring when the committee considered amendments two weeks ago.
The House is considering an $8 billion transfer under House Bill 31, authored by Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka.
The House is working through the state's capital budget under Senate Bill 19, which mostly covers highway, road and airport projects, and tries to leverage the maximum amount of matching federal grants.
There is also the constitutional battle over education.
The Legislature believes they handled the appropriation under legislation separate from the operating budget, a step known as forward funding.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy believes that is unconstitutional and says his position is fortified by an opinion by Attorney General Kevin Clarkson.
Last week in a Facebook live discussion, Dunleavy asked the Legislature to put the money in this year’s budget while promising not to veto the sum.
Dunleavy could call lawmakers into a special session, limiting the bills on which the Legislature can take action.
Lawmakers can also vote to extend the current session by 10 days. Under the constitution, that requires a two-thirds vote from each chamber.
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