Governor calls Legislature into 30-day special session to decide on crime, budget, PFD bills
Gov. Mike Dunleavy has called lawmakers back to work for a 30-day special session to begin Thursday morning.
The session will remain in Juneau. Dunleavy on Wednesday said he was considering holding the session in the Mat-Su Borough.
Lawmakers had until the end of Wednesday – the 121st and final day of the regular session – to wrap up an operating and capital budget, work out differences in a sweeping crime bill and agree on the size of Permanent Fund dividend for Alaskans.
None of that was achieved, so Dunleavy placed those items on a proclamation announcing the special session.Dunleavy also said he wanted lawmakers to put education funding in the budget. Legislative leaders believe that was done last year with advance funding.
Dunleavy announced his plan with about six hours left in the final day, saying it didn’t appear lawmakers would complete their work.
“Obviously I think a lot of us are disappointed,” Dunleavy said. “We had 121 days to be able to get the work done. Although there were some significant efforts.”
Dunleavy needed to issue a proclamation within an hour after the second of the two chambers adjourned. The proclamation lists specific items for the Legislature to address, the start date and the venue for the special session.
Dunleavy said he was considering have the special session the Mat-Su Borough, nearly 600 miles away from the capital, but he did not make a firm commitment during his second news briefing of the day.
Lawmakers began the day with low expectations to finish their work, though no one had conceded an imminent special session. Still, many expect extra time devoted to at least resolving the dividend payout.
The House did not appropriate any money for a dividend in its budget before sending it over to the Senate, which approved a $3,000 dividend.
Dunleavy didn’t put any dividend money in his budget proposal, but rather the appropriation as part of a separate bill that includes back pay for reduced dividends each of the last three years.
Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, said late Tuesday the Senate does not have the 11 votes needed for an agreement on a dividend.
“That issue is extremely complicated,” she said. “There are many moving parts and that may well be part of a special session.”
Dunleavy says he wants a budget forwarded with a $3,000 dividend and the education funding.
The debate over education funding has also triggered a constitutional argument with both sides relying on legal opinions.
Last week during a live Facebook discussion, Dunleavy asked lawmakers to put the funding in next year’s budget, promising not to veto. Lawmakers, however, are holding firm with its position.
“I have a feeling there will be a lawsuit initiated,” he said. “We can’t initiate a lawsuit from the executive side of things but nonetheless, I think that’s an issue that needs to be settled.”
Dunleavy says he hopes lawmakers can work through differences on House Bill 49, a 96-page crime bill the Senate unanimously passed on Tuesday.
The House, however, rejected changes the Senate made. A special committee made up of three members from each chamber was formed to work out an agreement.
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