Legislative Inaction Forces Governor Dunleavy to Call Immediate Special Session in Juneau
Posted & Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN
May 19, 2019
With only minutes remaining in the 121-day regular session and no indication of progress being made, Alaska Governor Michael J. Dunleavy issued a proclamation Wednesday calling the Alaska Legislature into special session to complete its work on the constitutionally mandated budget bills, a comprehensive crime package to make Alaskans safer, a full permanent fund dividend as outlined in statute, and properly funding public education.
“It’s painfully clear that after spending the last four months in session, lawmakers will not complete the people’s business by midnight tonight,” said Governor Dunleavy. “Alaskans have every right to be disappointed by the legislature’s inaction, but Alaskans are also expecting final action on legislation to address the most pressing issues facing our state like giving law enforcement and prosecutors the tools they need to stop criminals and reducing state spending. As a result, I am calling a 30-day special session to give lawmakers another opportunity to complete the critical tasks they were sent to accomplish by the People of Alaska.”
The special session proclamation called lawmakers back into session in Juneau beginning at 10:00 AM on Thursday May 16, 2019.
“I call the Thirty-First Legislature of the State of Alaska into its first special session in the legislative chambers in Juneau, Alaska at 10:00am on May 16, 2019...,” the proclamation states.
The proclamation directs the legislature to work on five items:
“I told Alaskans earlier (Wednesday] that these items must be completed before adjournment and we would remove any of the five items from the call if they passed by midnight [Wednesday]. Now, I urge lawmakers to work with me in the remaining days to get these bills passed and bring the special session to a close. If the legislature again fails to adopt a full PFD, operating and capital budgets, fund education and pass an effective crime package, it will be evident we will need to move to a new venue,” added Governor Dunleavy.
Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, released the following statement in response to the Governor's call for a special session. “The Senate passed an operating budget with significant cuts, fully-funded the PFD, and toughened the state’s criminal code by repealing and replacing Senate Bill 91. We are committed to working with our colleagues in the House, and the governor, in seeing these critical policy changes through to the end. We will not rest until the people of Alaska have safe neighborhoods, a healthy economy and the Permanent Fund is protected for future generations.”
Senate Democratic Leader Tom Begich (D-Anchorage) in a prepared statement said, "We are disappointed that the Governor is issuing this call before we have completed our work. It is the responsibility of the Legislative leadership in the House and the Senate to pass a budget, address crime and safety, and resolve the Dividend. The Senate Democrats have worked with our colleagues to resolve these issues before the end of the constitutional session limit. We expect them to be resolved and will continue to work towards the end. It is what all Alaskans expect of us. We are doing our part."
Alaska House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (I-Dillingham) on Wednesday also released a statement following the governor’s call for a special legislative session: “The Legislature is considering proposals that will determine whether the Permanent Fund actually remains permanent. We are vetting a massive overhaul of our criminal justice system. The proposed budget could fundamentally change Alaska’s economy. The decisions we face are simply too important to rush. We have worked hard to achieve meaningful compromise, and we are committed to continuing our work to get these monumental decisions right for Alaska.”
Rep. Lance Pruitt (R-Anchorage), the House Minority Leader, released the following statement after House Speaker Bryce Edgmon indicated in a press statement that his leadership team in the House of Representatives is considering a plan to address whether or not the Permanent Fund Dividend should “actually remain permanent.”
Pruitt said, “The fact that, at the eleventh hour, the House leadership is considering plans to gut the PFD program shouldn’t really be all that surprising considering the way they’ve handled business this session. They had 121 days to avoid special sessions, and they knew exactly what needed to get accomplished before tonight’s deadline.”
“At the beginning of this session, we were told that a 21-person majority would never be able to get any work done,” said Rep. Josh Revak (R-Anchorage). “Well, it appears that the current 25-person majority hasn’t worked either. With less than six hours to go before midnight, we have no budget, no education funding, no crime reform, and no PFD.”
“The wheels have come off the bus. Some members have said they feel rushed to get things done, but there has been no sense of urgency whatsoever,” added Rep. Ben Carpenter (R-Nikiski). “I hope Alaskans will show up at every meeting of the special session and voice their concerns directly to those who have willfully ignored their requests for the last four months.”
“The House Majority spent the entire session trying to show Alaskans they knew better, and in the process have only proved that they themselves have no understanding of how to govern,” said Rep. George Rauscher (R-Sutton). “Their intentional delays are forcing Alaskans to shell out money for special sessions, and that’s a tragedy.
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