Gov. Dunleavy calls lawmakers into a special session in Juneau

Gov. Mike Dunleavy signing the formal proclamation calling the Legislature into a special session Wednesday evening.
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - Gov. Mike Dunleavy has issued a formal proclamation calling the Alaska Legislature into a 30-day special session to take place in Juneau, starting Thursday at 10:00 a.m.

The session will be limited to discussing a crime reform package, an operating budget containing a full Permanent Fund Dividend, a capital budget and a mental health trust budget. Lawmakers will also be asked to discuss funding K-12 education.

“I told Alaskans earlier today 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 tonight,” said Dunleavy in a statement. “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."

Dunelavy floated the idea of holding a special session in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley but decided on holding it in Juneau. He warned that the location might need to change if legislators don't make progress.

"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,” read a statement from the governor.

The 121 constitutional deadline for the end of the legislative session passed at midnight Wednesday. An omnibus bill to tackle crime remained on the table.

House Speaker Rep. Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, said a conference committee would be held at 11:00 a.m. Thursday to iron out differences between the bills passed by the Senate and the House.

House Bill 49, passed unanimously by the Alaska Senate Tuesday morning, would raise sentencing ranges, increase penalties for drug possession offenses, toughen rules on probation and parole and target certain sexual assault offenses.

The bill was sent to the House for concurrence Tuesday but many members of the House majority were concerned that they didn’t have enough time to review it before voting to approve it.

Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, said not voting for concurrence was not a rejection of the Senate’s bill but showed that the House did not simply want to “rubber stamp it.”

The budget, sitting in a conference committee, rejected most of the reductions proposed by the governor at the beginning of the session.

The current version of the budget would make around $40 million in cuts to the Alaska Marine Highway System, $70 million in reductions from the Department of Health and Social Services and $5 million from the University of Alaska.

Legislators also approved fully funding municipal school construction costs, known as school bond debt reimbursement, at a cost of more than $100 million for FY2020.

Education remains a thornier issue to resolve in the upcoming special session. The House majority and Senate have been united that a forward funding measure passed in 2018 funds schools for fiscal year 2020.

The Alaska Attorney General released a formal opinion May 09 stating that that decision is unconstitutional.

According to the opinion, the Legislature’s decision “contravenes the annual budgeting process required by the Alaska Constitution and it is an improper dedication of funds.”

Legislators say they received advice from the Division of Legal and Research Services that says omitting an appropriation item for schools was constitutional.