I wanted to provide you with a status update from my perspective on the special session.
The Senate returned to Juneau last Friday, approved SB 54, and adjourned the fourth special session without addressing Governor Walker’s revenue bill.
I am disappointed with the Senate’s actions for several reasons:
– The first reason is the Senate chose to concur on SB 54 and adjourn instead of fixing the bill’s constitutional issues. After the House passed the measure, the Department of Law discovered that a part of the bill dealing with class C felonies likely violates constitutional protections for due process. The House attempted to increase sentences for first-time C felony offenders, but the constitutional conflict could instead result in a penalty of probation only if the provision is challenged in court. The American Civil Liberties Union is threatening a lawsuit over the issue. Both the Department and the Alaska Public Defender Agency warned senators of the issue, leaving the House baffled at the decision to adjourn and go home instead of fixing the problem.
– Additionally, the Senate adjourned without considering Governor Walker’s revenue bill. Despite cutting the budget 44 percent, three years of inaction in addressing new revenue has resulted in the loss of $14 billion in savings. Additional cuts need to be made, but Alaska needs new revenue to achieve a balanced and sustainable solution that will get our economy back on track.
Despite stern warnings over the last three years from the Department of Revenue and the Legislative Finance Division on the urgent need for action, the Senate appears to be hoping the problem will go away. Continued inaction will not make the problem go away, but it will cost thousands of jobs and make future solutions more difficult to reach.
The House has decided not to adjourn,but instead will leave the door open for the Senate. We will continue to hold technical sessions on the hope that the Senate will return to Juneau to finish its work on SB 54 and take action on Alaska’s fiscal crisis.
Legislative rules require that neither legislative body can be out of session for more than three days unless both bodies adjourn. The decision to keep the House in session means that the Senate will have to continue at least holding technical sessions until the end of the special session next week.
I do not know if the Senate will return or not, but the House stands ready and willing to work on these important issues should they choose to do so. Alaskans deserve action and we intend to afford the Senate every opportunity to act.
Please contact me and tell me how you feel. Whether your thoughts are on the budget, new revenue, fisheries or transportation issues, or something that is important to you and your family, I’m here for you and will always endeavor to work on your behalf.