Time flies when you’re having fun — or when you’re in Juneau for the legislative session.
The Legislature is 20 days into its 90-day session, which means there’s 70 days to go until the scheduled adjournment on April 19. While a little over two months may sound like a lot of time, the Legislature has some 140 bills on its docket — 97 introduced in the House, 43 in the Senate — as well as 24 joint resolutions, six concurrent resolutions and seven resolutions.
While this is just the first session of the 29th Legislature and items not addressed this year will still be in play next year, that remains a daunting to-do list, particularly with the fiscal realities facing Alaska and the need to focus on ways to pay for government.
Indeed, there are a number of important pieces of legislation up for debate this session. Besides the budget, there’s work to do on the natural gas pipeline and other energy issues, education, public safety, not to mention laws governing the marijuana industry that is soon to sprout. Those are things that should be high on legislators’ to-do list this session.
Then there are number of pieces of legislation that would seem to be in the “just for show” category. For example, this week the legislative schedule included hearing on a resolution to recognize School Choice Week in Alaska, and a bill to mandate that the high school curriculum include “a history of American constitutionalism” (high school students in Alaska already are required to take three years of social studies, which in the Kenai Peninsula School District includes U.S. history and government classes).
What’s more, there are a number of new versions of bills that did not pass muster during the previous Legislature. For example, a measure to make court records confidential for cases in which a person is acquitted or charges are dismissed. Former Gov. Sean Parnell vetoed a similar bill last year.
Perhaps, if there’s time at the end of the session, lawmakers can take up some of these issues. But it would seem that there’s more pressing things to be focused on in the Capitol at the moment.
And for Kenai Peninsula residents who want to keep tabs on what’s going on in Juneau, you can find plenty of information online at http://w3.legis.state.ak.us, including a list of bills and hearing schedules. There’s also plenty of information available at the Legislative Information Office, 145 Main Street Loop No. 217, Kenai.
There’s lots to do in the next 70 days. Let’s make sure we have our priorities in place.