Alaska state Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, speaks during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Saturday, April 16, 2016, in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

Alaska state Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, speaks during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Saturday, April 16, 2016, in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

Lawmakers assess options to wrap work as session’s end looms

JUNEAU — Legislative leaders planned to weigh their options for completing critical work on a state budget and other key issues as the scheduled end of the session loomed on Sunday.

Gov. Bill Walker has said he wants legislators to deliver a fiscal plan to confront an estimated $4 billion state budget deficit exacerbated by low oil prices. Legislators on Saturday had yet to finalize state spending plans or decisions on how to fund them.

Senate President Kevin Meyer said a lot will depend on how far apart lawmakers are late Sunday.

“If it looks like it’s just going to take a few more days to get the critical bills done then, yeah, we’d stay,” he said. But if it looks like the sides are “way far apart,” lawmakers would probably look at other options that could include adjourning and going into a special session in another location, he said.

It will be difficult to stay in the Capitol for more than a week or two beyond Sunday, he said. Renovation work is scheduled to begin Monday on the Capitol, and the construction schedule aims to have the Capitol effectively cleared out by May 2.

Voters approved a 90-day session, but the state Constitution allows lawmakers to meet in regular session for up to 121 days, with an option to extend for up to 10 days.

A key stumbling block on the House side has been how far to push changes to the state’s oil and gas tax-credit system. A House rewrite of Walker’s credits bill reached the floor, but Speaker Mike Chenault said he didn’t think it had the votes to pass. He sent it to the House Rules Committee to keep it alive while legislators tried to reach a compromise.

“I think all of us realize that we need to address the tax-credit issue before we can go much farther on some of the other revenue measures or even the budget bill,” Chenault said Thursday.

House Minority Leader Chris Tuck agreed and has called it the key piece of the puzzle.

The Senate has been hearing its own version of the credits bill while awaiting action from the House.

Meanwhile, there was a flurry of activity to advance other bills that have been in committee. The House and Senate each held floor sessions, and House and Senate negotiators met again on the state operating budget.

One of the bills moved from the Senate Finance Committee on Saturday addressed proposed restrictions on who can teach sex education in public schools.

Rather than requiring that that person be a licensed teacher under contract with the school, as had been proposed, the rewrite makes a provision to also allow for someone supervised by a licensed teacher to teach sex education if the person is approved by the school board and parents can review the person’s credentials.

Jessica Cler, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, said the rewrite would still drastically limit access to sex education and place extra burdens on school districts. It would make sex education the most burdensome subject to approve and teach at the district level, she said.

More in News

Stickers are available for voters at the Kenai No. 1 precinct for Election Day on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna to hold ‘I Voted’ sticker design contest

City council members approved the program during their Wednesday night meeting

Bill seeking to bump use of Alaska Performance Scholarship clears the House with unanimous support

The money is awarded to high-performing high school graduates to help pay for postsecondary education at participating institutions in Alaska

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Commissioner Ryan Anderson answers questions from state senators during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 in Juneau, Alaska. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
State officials working to meet Friday deadline for revised transportation plan

The federal government rejected the plan on Feb. 9, citing numerous deficiencies

Travis Every, top left, speaks in support of fishing opportunity for the east side setnet fishery before the State Board of Fisheries at the Egan Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska, on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Local fishers talk conservation, opportunity before Board of Fisheries in Anchorage

Local fishers from the Kenai Peninsula traveled to Anchorage this weekend to… Continue reading

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, presents information on a bill establishing a voluntary buyback program for Cook Inlet’s east side setnet fishery on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Bjorkman bill would pay bonuses to nationally certified teachers

The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development estimates that the bonus program would apply to about 215 of Alaska’s estimated 7,315 teachers — about 3%

Alaska senators meet with members of the media to discuss education legislation after a press conference by Gov. Mike Dunleavy on the topic on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
Dunleavy threatens veto of education bill if more of his priorities aren’t added

It is not certain there would be the 40 votes necessary to override a veto by the governor

A map displays a wide-ranging special weather statement, published Tuesday by the National Weather Service, covering Southcentral Alaska. (Map courtesy of National Weather Service)
Strong winds, low wind chills forecast through Friday

Wind chills over night may reach as low as -20 to -40 degrees in much of Southcentral

Snow falls atop the Central Peninsula Diabetes Center in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024. The office opened in October, but a grand opening was held this week. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Central Peninsula Hospital adds Diabetes Center

The center has been seeing patients since October and held a grand opening Monday

Gary Hollier pulls a sockeye salmon from a set gillnet at a test site for selective harvest setnet gear in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Findings from pilot setnet fishery study inconclusive

The study sought to see whether shorter nets could selectively catch sockeye salmon while allowing king salmon to pass below

Most Read