The Alaska House majority voted to create a House Ways and Means Committee today, which is a special committee that could slow down progress in the House of Representatives’ bill-moving process. The House is already a month behind in its work for the 90-day session.
The vote was along majority lines, with Rep. Kelly Merrick of Eagle River falling in line with the proposal that ended up putting Rep. Ivy Spohnholz as the chair of this special committee. Spohnholz spoke forcefully in favor of creating the committee; she is a pro-income-tax Democrat.
It’s unclear what the committee’s full responsibility will be. A Ways and Means Committee can be whatever the makers want it to be. In the U.S. House, the Ways and Means Committee is the chief tax-writing committee.
Although 103 bills were read into the House today and referred to various committees, none of those committees was the Ways and Means Committee, because that vote to create the committee came later. In actuality, however, the Speaker can add the Ways and Means Committee to a list of committees to which bills can get referred at any time.
Years ago, the Republican caucus in the Alaska House had a Ways and Means Committee that had the focus of “missions and measures,” setting up mission statements for departments and measurements for whether departments were achieving their missions.
In 2007-2008, the special committee was created and chaired by Rep. Mike Hawker, with vice chair Rep. Anna Fairclough (now MacKinnon).
Among bills that were referred to it that year were HB 57, Amerada Hess oil royalty settlement money into the Permanent Fund; HB 68, a long-range fiscal plan; HB 395, repealing an estate tax on residents; and HJR 1, 5, and 35, having to do with transfers, revenue, and state debt.