Senate follows House’s lead, adjourns special session

Lawmakers have officially ended the fifth special session of the 29th Alaska Legislature.

At 11:45 a.m. Monday, Senate President Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, dropped the gavel on the Senate’s session, following in the path of the House, which gaveled out on Friday. Under Article II, Section 10 of the Alaska Constitution, if the Senate had not gaveled out, it would have forced the House to return to Juneau for additional work.

With the House unable to make progress on a fix to the state’s $3 billion budget deficit, that action had been considered unlikely.

“It is disappointing … to stand ready to work and have our friends in the other body not be able to move forward,” said Sen. Anna MacKinnon, R-Anchorage.

MacKinnon’s remarks followed those of Senate Minority Leader Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage: “To say I’m disappointed feels inadequate.”

During the 29th Legislature second regular session and the two special sessions that followed — 157 working days in total — the Senate took the lead on most of the substantive bills passed by lawmakers this year.

Medicaid reform, criminal justice reform, the state budget, reform of the Power-Cost Equalization program, reform of community revenue sharing and a new military code of justice came from the Senate before advancing to a divided House of Representatives.

In their valedictory addresses Monday, senators said they accomplished much, even if they didn’t fix the state budget. Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, called that missing action a “cornerstone” piece of legislation.

Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, declined to deliver remarks he prepared for the end of the session, but in a copy of the speech he provided to the Empire, he says he wishes “we’d have stayed to figure out how to pay for the stuff in the budget — long term. There was room to work on what the (Permanent Fund Dividend) amount should be. There was room to work on what the budget should be.”

According to Gov. Bill Walker, the Legislature’s inability to pass a budget-balancing bill leaves Alaska, as of July 1, with 36 months of savings.

Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com.

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