The Alaska Senate today voted, 11-6, for a resolution supporting the short-term exercise of health powers by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, in order to protect Alaskans from the COVID-19 pandemic and urged the reopening of Alaska’s economy.
Senate Resolution 2 backs a new, narrowly defined public health declaration, not to exceed 30-days, and calls attention to the social and economic harm of the pandemic on Alaskans.
“A short-term declaration will provide assurance to the Alaskans most adversely affected by the virus – the elderly, families with children, those with health complications, small business owners, and the unemployed – that this government will not compound the harm they’ve already suffered by jeopardizing critical aid. We’re not going to kick them while they’re down,” said Senate President Peter Micciche.
“The Senate is working overtime to give Governor Dunleavy and his team the tools they need to maintain our nation-leading public health response, secure federal funding and deliver much-needed assistance to negatively impacted Alaskans. As we turn the chapter on this pandemic, I am confident we can protect the public while encouraging an end to unnecessary government mandates and the reopening of our schools.”
Alaska has been a nationally recognized success story during the pandemic, ranking near the bottom of all U.S. states in COVID-19 deaths per capita and leading the nation in vaccination rates.
“The administration has used the words ‘monitor’ and ‘manage’ to describe their handling of the present situation,” said Senate Majority Leader Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer. “This tells me we are moving from a state of emergency to a state of recovery – which also means we are headed back to the Alaska we know. Rather than any additional declarations, I look forward to adjusting the particular statutes needed to give the administration the specific tools to allow us to transition from this recovery phase to a state of normalcy.”
Voting against the resolution was Sens. Elvi Gray-Jackson, Scott Kawasaki, Jesse Kiehl, Donny Olson, Lora Reinbold, and Bill Wielechowski.
SB 56, introduced by the governor, has no possibility of passing before midnight on Feb. 15 and has many provisions that give lawmakers pause. But federal funding could be jeopardized, and regulations may not be able to be suspended in order to meet the emergency.
The resolution basically asks the governor to just declare a new emergency for 30 days, and that would give the Legislature time to either deal with the provisions in SB 56 that need to be changed to satisfy critics of the “never-ending” emergency, or pass piecemeal legislation that address different aspects of the emergency.