The House leadership announced today that it plans to stick around Juneau until the end of the special session next Monday.
The move is in protest of the Senate’s abrupt adjournment on Friday, where it passed Senate Bill 54 with a glaring constitutional problem and adjourned. The Senate adjournment allowed the conservative chamber to avoid taking up Gov. Bill Walker’s proposed wages tax (even though the tax was written to appeal to the anti-income tax Senate) and go home.
House Speaker Bryce Edgmon said in a prepared statement that staying in session is an attempt to make progress on both the revenue bill and to fix the destined-for-litigation crime bill, though he recognized it’s a long shot.
“We want to keep the door open for the Senate to return to finish work on a flawed crime bill and to take action on the fiscal challenges facing Alaska,” he said. “I know the odds are slim that the Senate will return to Juneau, but we owe it to Alaskans to give our best effort until the very end. That’s what we intend to do.”
The Senate will be forced back to Juneau on Tuesday because of a legislative rule that keeps the session alive when one chamber is still in session, but nothing prevents the body from simply adjourning a second time. The 30-day special session is set to expire on Monday, Nov. 21.
The House seemed to signal that a series of technical sessions to keep the session alive will come at little to no cost for the state, saying “The local Juneau delegation will preside over the House in the coming days. This will allow the House to realize significant savings on travel, per diem, and other costs.” But a Monday floor session had more than a dozen representatives in attendance, though many of those legislators were there to pack up before heading home for a final time.
The representatives that were present at Monday’s floor session include: Drummond, Eastman, Fansler, Foster, Gara, Grenn, Johnson, Kito, Millett, Ortiz, Parish, Seaton, Spohnholz, Stutes, Thompson and Edgmon.
Edgmon said the full House will be called back if the Senate decides to return in any meaningful way, which we don’t count on.
Taken together, the Senate’s adjournment and the House’s refusal to leave makes for an lame, fizzling end of the special session. The state’s budget situation remains just as worrisome as it’s been and Legislature’s fix to crime is has a glaring constitutional problem that will likely undercut its impact.