With time running out on the 2019 legislative session, Alaska lawmakers will spend the next few weeks negotiating a budget while working furiously to get their agendas passed.
In an update on the session so far, Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Kenai/Soldotna, told the Clarion his priority in Juneau is to see lawmakers approve a budget that lowers government spending.
“We haven’t gone through our amendments yet, but I’m pushing for as many cuts that are attainable and deliverable this year,” Micciche said. “None of them being a cost shift to local municipalities.”
Micciche is also hopeful he will see his five crime bills passed — SB 12, SB 32, SB 33, SB 34 and SB 35. The crime bills cover changes to law regarding how sexual assault cases are handled, pre-trial sentencing, probation and parole and crimes related to controlled substances.
“It took many evenings of public testimony, but we think we have it right,” he said. “It’s expected to drastically turn around crime in the state.”
He said the biggest challenge with the crime bills is getting the democrat-led House to agree. However, he says he expects the bills to pass in some form.
“There are four neighborhoods in my district living in conditions that are unacceptable, with active drug houses,” he said. “I feel the bills must pass this year.”
The Senate is also serious about passing Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s crime bills as well, he said.
“The Senate made these crime bills stronger,” he said.
Micciche, who supports Dunleavy’s constitutional amendment to statutorily protect the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend, is pushing for a full permanent fund dividend this year.
Micciche says he supports another Dunleavy constitutional amendment putting a spending cap on the state budget.
“We have to control future growth,” Micciche said.
He says passing these two constitutional amendments is imperative.
“We’re trying to pass them,” he said.
Another priority of the central peninsula lawmaker is to find policies that support diversifying Alaska’s economy.
“We have to get past the single commodity called oil,” he said. “We have to build other opportunities for Alaskans.”
Of course, he says, his ultimate goal right now is to help pass his crime bills and an operating budget.
“Those top priorities are hand in hand,” he said. “The PFD also plays into that priority and legislation to diversify the economy.”
During this session, Micciche said the outreach to his office has been unprecedented. He said it’s important for residents to make their voices heard, and encourages the community to reach out to his office with any questions or concerns they might have.
“Legislators listen,” he said. “It’s difficult to get the public to participate, but without their interaction, legislators tend to navigate within a bubble.”