AKLEG Recap, Day 116: Alaska Legislature maybe possibly likely to finish session today

Something might be going on in there.The Alaska State Capitol building as photographed in 2010. (Photo by Kimberly Vardeman/Creative Commons)

Barring any last-minute hijinks (like leaving plans in copiers) the Alaska Legislature should pass the operating budget, the capital budget and a few other bills and be done today (though we’re hearing that might have been a little optimistic). Here’s what happened and what to look forward to.

Just five days left in the 121-day session.

Is the smoke-free workplace bill, Senate Bill 63, scheduled for a vote in the House?

Yes.

39-Eastman

Freshman Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, cast a grand total of eight lone no votes on the House floor on Friday bringing his grand total for the 30th legislative session to 59 lone no votes. The votes on Friday included lone no votes against: House Bill 312, the mini omnibus crime bill; House Bill 44, which institutes tougher rules on per diem and conflict-of-interest votes; and House Bill 214, the Bree’s Law bill.

The Alaska Legislature, as far as we know, doesn’t keep a record book of these sort of things, but we imagine Eastman has probably set a record.

House Finance adds to capital budget

Update: The Friday House Finance Committee meeting began with this question from Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage:

“Has this been predetermined?”

Pruitt said he had come across a list of amendments that the House Finance Committee was going to approve and which single one from the minority that it would “let pass.” (Copies of this memo were circulating around the building ahead of the meeting.)

“Are we going through a process that has already been determined and we’re going to waste our time and everyone else’s time?” he asked. “That was disturbing when someone handed this to me that they had gotten this off a copier here.”

Dang.

Original section: The House Finance Committee took up amendments on the capital budget on Friday only making it through part of the stack before adjourning for the night. Here’s what was added:

  • $200,000 for the Goldstream Public Use Area.
  • $20 million for the reconstruction of the Port of Anchorage.
  • $1.6 million to design an Arctic deep port in Nome.
  • Shifts management of a $75,000 community watch grants o the Fraternal Order of State Troopers.

Other majority amendments that have yet to be voted on include a $20 million increase to K-12 schools (amounting to an $80 increase to the per student funding formula), $7 million for deferred maintenance at the University of Alaska, $6 million for pre-kindergarten programs and $48 million for Medicaid funding.

The final piece, the Medicaid funding, is particularly important because the state is quickly running out of Medicaid money thanks to last year’s decision to underfund Medicaid and a refusal this year to fund the entirety of the supplemental budget request.

Without the funding, the state wouldn’t be able to pay Medicaid providers for the rest of the year, but it wouldn’t get the state off the hook. Medicaid spending is set by federal and state law so the state will still be on the hook for the spending in the upcoming budget year.

Initiative-buster passes Legislature

The House approved the Senate changes to Rep. Jason Grenn’s House Bill 44 on a 39-1 (that one being Eastman) on Friday night. The changes to the bill essentially copy the Alaska Government Accountability Act initiative, which is backed by Grenn and Midnight Sun Publisher Jim Lottsfeldt.

That initiative–and now House Bill 44–would cut off per diem if the Legislature can’t pass a budget by 121 days, would limit foreign influence in state candidate elections, would limit the meals that lobbyists can buy legislators and beefs up the Legislature’s conflict-of-interest rules.

The initiative polled strongly and we’ve heard concern from some legislators that the additional attention to per diem and the conflict-of-interest rules was making some incumbents a little nervous going into the general election.

House Bill 44, if signed into law, also won’t have the two year protection against repeal that the initiative would have under the Alaska Constitution.

Crime bill passes

The mini omnibus crime bill the Senate tacked onto House Bill 312, by Reps. Matt Claman and Chuck Kopp, passed the House on concurrence Friday night on a 39-1 (again, the one being Eastman) vote. The bill makes it a crime to attack a caregiver in a health care facility (which was the original intent of the bill).

It also updates the state’s pretrial risk assessment tool to take into consideration out-of-state criminal records, removes automatic release for low- and moderate-risk offenders accused of minor crimes and gives the attorney general the power to classify new illicit drugs as controlled substances.

Eastman raised the concern that the attorney general power could potentially be used to make marijuana illegal, but Rep. Les Gara pointed out that that’s explicitly forbidden by the bill.

Which also prompted this burn.

‘Bree’s Law’ passes

It’s not exactly what the parents of Bree Moore had hoped for, but the Legislature has approved House Bill 214 naming Alaska’s teen dating violence awareness and prevention program the “Bree Moore Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Program.”

The bill passed the Senate in the morning with yet another admonishment from Sen. Anna MacKinnon to the Moore family for alleged bullying, intimidation and hallway blocking while lobbying for the bill.

It passed the House without such allegations.

Legislature passes tax credit bonding bill

The Senate approved House Bill 331, the “let’s pay off our oil tax credits with bonds” bill, on a 14-5 vote. The Senate didn’t make any changes from the House version of the bill so its next stop is the desk of Gov. Bill Walker.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, offered a flurry of amendments that ranged pretty far afield from tax credits, but were related enough because the bill was primarily a bonding bill. Those amendments included bonding to pay supplemental PFDs and for housing loans for veterans, among other more technical changes. Every amendment failed.

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