House Speaker Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, listens to representatives debate a COVID-19 disaster declaration on Thursday, March 25, 2021. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file)

House Speaker Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, listens to representatives debate a COVID-19 disaster declaration on Thursday, March 25, 2021. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file)

House passes emergency declaration bill

Governor says it’s not needed

The House of Representatives passed a bill that would retroactively extend the state’s disaster declaration for the COVID-19 pandemic, but Gov. Mike Dunleavy has said he believes the move to be unnecessary.

The House Coalition made of mostly Democrats, independents and led by Speaker Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, argued the declaration would provide the governor legal tools to combat the pandemic now and should the situation change in the future.

“It’s been a rocky year, but we can finally see the shoreline and a clear path to return to life as normal,” Stutes said in a news release. “(The bill) is unequivocally good policy because it simply gives the state flexibility in case we get another surprise during the home stretch.”

The governor and many Republican lawmakers said the state needs to move away from an emergency response footing and more toward reopening the state’s economy. Republicans tried to remove the declaration language in a floor session Thursday, leading to an hourslong debate over the direction of the state in managing ongoing health and economic crises. House Republicans Kelley Merrick, R-Eagle River; Sara Rasmussen, R-Anchorage; and Bart LeBon, R-Fairbanks; voted for the bill.

[Lawmakers clash on how to manage pandemic]

The bill now goes to the Senate where Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, has his own version of a disaster bill that would not declare a full emergency, but it would give the governor several specific abilities Dunleavy’s office has determined are needed to effectively combat the pandemic.

While he did not say he would veto a bill declaring an emergency, Dunleavy did send a letter to lawmakers Wednesday saying a disaster declaration wasn’t necessary. Micciche previously told the Empire his intent was to pass a bill the governor would sign.

The bill allows Alaska to operate airport testing sites for out-of-state travelers during the upcoming summer tourism season, off-site testing and vaccination clinics, waivers to health care providers so they can provide healthcare for patients remotely, and to continue receiving $8 million a month in federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamp benefits, the coalition said in a release.

Contact reporter Peter Segall at Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

More in News

Kelly Tshibaka addresses members of the community at Nikiski Hardware & Supply on Friday, April 9, 2021 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Tshibaka makes rounds on the peninsula

The former DOA head is challenging Sen. Lisa Murkowski for her Senate seat.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy announces a tourism aid initiative during a press conference on Friday, April 9, 2021, at Wings Airways Hangar in Juneau, Alaska. Dunleavy was joined by officials and business owners, including Alaska Sen. Peter Micciche (left). (Governer’s Office/Kevin Goodman)
Dunleavy announces tourism aid initiative

Dunleavy said 1.3 million tourists were expected to come to Alaska via cruise ship before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down operations.

Sockeye salmon. (Photo via Alaska Department of Fish and Game)
Sockeye runs on Kenai and Kasilof predicted to be less than 20-year average

The sockeye fishery opens the third Monday in June or June 19, whichever comes last.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Kenai Peninsula cases continue rise

State reports more than 1,200 new COVID cases this week

Dr. Cheryl Siemers, the new director of Kenai Peninsula College, is seen in this undated photo. She begins her term on Monday, June 21, 2021. (Courtesy photo)
Cheryl Siemers to lead Kenai Peninsula College

Gary Turner is the current KPC director, and will be stepping down in June.

U.S. Rep. Don Young addresses a joint chamber luncheon at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center on Friday, April 9, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Don Young presented with bipartisanship award

Young is the longest-serving Republican in Congressional history, having represented Alaska for almost 50 years.

A screenshot of the Kenai Peninsula Borough GIS Parcel Viewer shows the different layers available, including aerial imagery. (Screenshot)
Borough, cities to get millions more in COVID relief money

Roughly $1.36 billion in federal funding is expected to flow into Alaska.

The Kenai City Council meets on Wednesday, Feb. 18 in Kenai, Alaska. (Screenshot)
Kenai approves projects manager position

The manager will be responsible for capital projects “from inception to completion.”

Kenai City Hall on Feb. 20, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai approves grace period utility payment plan

Doing nothing would have made delinquent accounts due with penalty and interest on past due amounts.

Most Read