Senate Finance Committee would extend Alaska disaster declaration to Dec. 31 - Must Read Alaska
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Senate Finance Committee would extend Alaska disaster declaration to Dec. 31

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A Senate Finance Committee committee substitute for House Bill 76 would have the expired disaster declaration extended to Dec. 31, 2021.

Offered by Finance Co-Chair Sen. Click Bishop’s office, the new version of HB 76 also strips out a House-inserted prohibition against using federal disaster relief money for elective abortions.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy was on record Feb. 14 saying he doesn’t need or want the Covid disaster to be extended, but he does want certain aspects of the legislation passed in separate bills — things that enable telehealth, or cutting red tape for procurement.

The current version of HB 76 also gives new powers to the commissioner of Health and Social Services. The bill says the governor cannot extend the disaster declaration unless the HSS commissioner certifies that there is neither an outbreak of Covid nor an imminent threat of an outbreak of Covid-19.

How many cases classify as an outbreak? Two.

Epidemiologists define an outbreak of the new coronavirus as “two or more laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 cases among workers at a facility with the onset of illness within a 14-day period, who are not epidemiologically linked, do not share a household, and are not a close contact of each other outside of the workplace during standard care investigation or contact tracing.”

With this language, the disaster declaration would effectively be taken out of the governor’s hands, and also out of the hands of the commissioner of HSS, since it’s unlikely that there will be that few cases of Covid-19 in a 14-day period during the coming year.

In addition, according to the new version of the bill, any federal Covid-19 relief money could not go through the “RPL process.” That’s when the governor uses the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee to approve appropriation changes as conditions require. This aspect of the bill means that for any type of change in spending the federal funds — big or small — the only way the governor can redirect funds is if the governor calls the Legislature back into special session (at a cost of $125,000 per day).

The practical effect is that the Legislature would be in rolling special sessions in Juneau all the way through Dec. 31.

Although the committee substitute for HB 76 presumes all members of the Senate Finance majority understand what is being offered, it’s possible that they don’t fully grasp that they could be in Juneau for much of the rest of the year because with $2 billion coming from the federal government, there are likely to be adjustments that need to be made. Amendments were due at 5 pm Monday.

As for removing the abortion prohibition language, that particular prohibition was the only amendment approved by the House of Representatives that was offered by a Republican — Rep. DeLena from Palmer. Her amendment passed at great cost to her as a legislator; it angered minority Democrats such as Rules Chair Bryce Edgmon, who threatened that she’d never get another piece of legislation through his Rules Committee.

The bill, should it pass into law, would be retroactive back to Feb. 14. The governor would have to sign it or veto it; a veto would almost certainly mean the legislative session would be further delayed.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • This over-step by the House Finance Committee is an attack on the U.S. Constitution.

    The HFC does not have the authority to entertain or pass legislation that goes against the U.S. and Alaska Constitution.

    Tearing down the separation of the three branches of government that provides the checks and balances is the bedrock of the United States of America.

    All the entirety of the Legislative Body can do is pass authorization language and appropriations.

    The House Finance Committees range of power is even less. Either they reject outright the funding request before them, pass it outright, or make modifications and move it to another committee, or be really lame and do not even place the funding request on the agenda for consideration.

    Those are their options.

    What is NOT and option is what they wrongfully have done here – which is including language that transfers the Administration Branch’s authority upon themselves as the Legislative Branch.

    The Legislative Branch or a committee thereof violates the Constitution by trying to administer through legislation.

    Individual Alaska Citizens through a Statewide Election are the only authority that can make constitutional changes.

    The legislative body is bypassing the individual rights of Alaska citizens for their “party-above-people” politics.

    This is beyond unacceptable, it is grossly indifferent or as egregious as negligence in carrying out the duties and honoring the oath of office they agreed to.

  • ” So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.”

    Some may consider that the unjust steward was forging a reduction in how much the debtors originally owed … but that wouldn’t seem to be the case as the amount owed was usually officially recorded. It’s more likely that it was a fraudulent receipt for payment on the debits.

    And so it is with many of our legislators … they use our money to pad their futures … usually (except for occasional carelessness) without committing any overt acts which could land them in prison.

  • Just like school teachers, state government will be very reluctant to get off the Covid gravy train!

  • Yes more Free money.
    Stop the craziness who’s going to pay this money back.
    Are you Listening that’s You and the rest of us.
    Stop this madness, Wear your double mask while your sitting in your home Alone and thinking about this crazy idea STOP

  • Face it, people. The “government” has decided that it is more important to control your activities so they can pig out on all the “free” money pouring out of Washington. And all that “free” money is going to collapse our economy in the next 2 years, so get ready to live on canned beans because that is all you will be able to afford, while the union, government people eat steaks. This “disaster” is man made and economic, not biological.

  • The best thing that’s happened to communists in decades.

  • A revelation. In Alaska we just have government. Not representative government anymore. Also, we have hoopla.

  • Like a biological dad not protecting and caring for the woman and a child he was given, these legislators will be answering to a higher authority one day, and reminded they were given power and a platform, and asked why did they not care for the little babies and children?

  • These adult employers of the public servants will make this the last opportunity to reject the Constitution.

  • What Dunleavy and his treasonous cronies are afraid of is Alaskans will find out they are doing everything illegally and one Senator is standing up for Alaskans and no one knows it.

    They are re writing the state constitution without Alaskans being aware of it. They are trying to strip the Balance of Powers and take the power from the legislative branch and give it to the executive branch.
    And when you read the bill they are trying to introduce it will give the executive branch all the power and it will shut the state down till Dec. 22.

  • It will be nice to see the legislators who want to rule Alaska rather than defend the beautiful Constitution returned to their private status while others of the people, by the people and for the people of Alaska not a party are there instead.

  • Dunleavy is a liar he is running the show acting as though he is the good guy when in fact he and senate president are in this along with everyone except Sen. Reinbold!!! This is about 2.2 Billion.

    And it is amazing that Suzanne Downing appears to be working for them taking Sen. Reinbolds statements out of context makes me wonder if we have a knot in the wood pile playing sides for PPE money to fund the media???

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