Day 94: Optimism in Juneau for end to session

Capitol Building in Juneau, Alaska
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Alaska lawmakers seem confident that the session will end soon after they sailed past the voter imposed 90-day deadline over the weekend.

Rep. Jason Grenn, an independent from Anchorage, said the “general sentiment” in the legislature is that the current session will end within the next 10 or 12 days.

Sen. Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage, guessed that the session would end even sooner. She reiterated though, while laughing, that that was only a guess.

Having lawmakers in session beyond the 90-day deadline is costly for the state. “Each day the session extends past the 90th day costs anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000 per day,” wrote Jessica Geary, the executive director of the Legislative Affairs Agency.

Some big ticket items remain on the table before the session can end.

The operating budget is before a conference committee, meaning legislators from both parties are working together to craft a single bill that could realistically pass both houses.

The operating budget is required to be passed under the Alaska Constitution before the session can adjourn.

Each of the lawmakers Channel 2 News spoke with Thursday highlighted various priorities they were interested in beyond the operating budget.

Grenn pointed to Senate Bill 26, which would decide how much money would be drawn from the permanent fund to pay for the state government in the future.

Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, spoke about a Republican-led push to impose a legally mandated annual spending limit on legislators.

Gardner spoke about the future of the Permanent Fund and developing a mechanism that would tax the 21 percent of people who work in Alaska but live out of state.

Although difficult subjects, the mood in Juneau seems to be generally optimistic, especially compared to last year when lawmakers stayed in session long past the-121 day constitutional limit. “There’s a good atmosphere down here, people are sitting at the same table discussing these things,” said Grenn.

Chenault suggested those sitting opposite may be more likely to compromise than in previous years: “They're not as staunchly dug into their position as they were last year and that in turn will hopefully make for better negotiations and quicker negotiations."

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