Tick tock: House of Representatives hits snooze button, as important legislation slumbers - Must Read Alaska
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Saturday, October 16, 2021
HomePoliticsTick tock: House of Representatives hits snooze button, as important legislation slumbers

Tick tock: House of Representatives hits snooze button, as important legislation slumbers

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The clock is ticking on the Alaska House of Representatives, led by a fragile Democrat-led coalition and topped by Speaker Louise Stutes. The House has a long list of appropriation items it has not deliberated and passed.

Although it blew by its 90 day deadline, there appears to be no urgency in the House. Even Saturday’s House Finance Committee meeting was cancelled, in spite of the fact that HB 69 and HB 71 — the Operating budget and the Mental Health budget — were on the schedule.

As the Legislature closes in on 100 days this week, the only truly major legislation that has passed the House is HB 76, the disaster declaration continuation, and HB 169, an education bill that was passed only because the legislative body has not been able to finish the Operating Budget.

Much remains to be done in the next 24 days: The Operating Budget and reverse sweep (including $1 billion for Power Cost Equalization and the American Recovery Act funds), the Supplemental Budget, the Capital Budget, the Mental Health Budget, and the Permanent Fund dividend. The House hasn’t passed the HJR 6, the governor’s spending limit bill, nor his efforts to put the Permanent Fund dividend formula into the Alaska Constitution..

Part of the slowdown was due to the creation of a special committee that Rep. Ivy Spohnholz could chair: The Ways and Means Committee. HB 141, HB 165, HJR 1, and HJR 6 were all referred to this committee.

Another part of the slowdown is because the Legislature is waiting for federal guidance on the American Recovery Plan (ARP) dollars, guidance that is not expected until May 10.

Meanwhile, House members are raking in per diem for every day they are in Juneau. Legislators earn a $50,400 annual salary, and also $302 daily per-diem, or $36,542 if they stay in Juneau the entire 121 days allowed by the Alaska Constitution. The total recompense is just under $87,000 for all but the three legislators who live in Juneau, who are not entitled to the per diem portion.

There are deadlines approaching of consequence: On April 30, the SNAP deadline (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) passes, and if the Legislature doesn’t act, Alaska will lose over $8.5 million in additional benefits that go to low-income Alaskans for their basic food needs. This is a disaster that could be avoided if the House could get its work done.

Other deadlines include the 121-day constitutional deadline, after which the Legislature could call itself into special session.

And then there’s the end of the fiscal year, which is just eight weeks away. Without action on appropriations, the government shuts down July 1.

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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

  • They’re too busy playing beer pong. What did we do to deserve this bunch? How about a law that if they fail to meet deadline that they sacrifice all salary and per diem? They certainly don’t deserve it. What happened to decent legislators? Carl Moses, where are you?

  • And they continue to get elected. We are the ones to blame for not replacing them at the polls. Of course we that we had done that didn’t we???

  • They wasted time – first with leadership and coalition issues, then with beer pong and leg wrestling and face-diaper security. They will never vote for restrictions for themselves of course, but they should be required by law to get certain things done, and if they go overtime, with no additional remuneration. Govt shut down? – this might be a good thing, at least then we’d find out what part of govt was “essential” so we could eliminate the rest… Legislators – GET TO WORK.

  • Does any of this come as a surprise to anyone that has been paying even the slightest attention..?? Power in Juneau has been placed in the hands of power merchants who care nothing about the State or its citizens; even among themselves they fail to agree on anything being driven by personal power needs..!! Special interest groups doing the work behind them…the power hunger by three women in the House early on has doomed the entire session to failure…

  • With over $1 Billion in direct federal aid to the State unleashed to an historically irresponsible Legislature this year there is no hope whatsoever for a sustainable solution to our annual State budget deficit.

    Pie will continue to fall from the sky, the pigs will fly, and you all will get a big fat “dividend”.

    The Alaska Constitutionally established Budget Reserve Fund means nothing – apparently.

    Borrow from it at will – don’t worry though because you don’t need to pay it back until you decide you feel like paying it back.

    All to create the illusion that you deserve a “dividend”.

    Hell, let’s just take all the federal aid and have a “double dividend” this year! Why Not?

    There are so many good things we could do paying off our State debts with that federal aid. But I have little hope that it could be possible.

    Maybe we should leg-wrestle over it. Ill pay for the pizza this time.

  • These Representatives should not receive any per diem if they go past the 120 day mark. I guarantee they will get the work done if they knew no pay was in the future for failing to get the people’s work done.

  • It is beyond me why our state government is not run like a business and instead like a charity. While the conservatives “negotiate” (and lose their place in line every time), the far left do not negotiate and eat the conservatives lunch every time. If those in our legislature (as a group of conservatives) were less interested in virtue signaling and would grow a spine, take on the far left, put them in their place, our state would thrive and not just surviv. With the legislature operating the way it does, we will not survive as a conservative state. Do your job conservatives and speak up for what is right, regardless if it hurts someone’s feelings. They will grow up at some point!

  • Dominion Voting machines, mail in ballots, ballot harvesting & incompetent/corrupt judges are why these bums keep getting elected. Until we demand election integrity with no ifs, ands, & buts, we will continue to be cursed with lowlifes, slackers & grifters in government.

  • Three Republicans elected to the House double-crossed their constituents to allow the Democrats to take control. That marginalized the rest of the House Republicans. It also defeated the administration plan to have by now paid the first to two PFDs this calendar year, and it likely defeated having anything but a tiny PFD later this year. Those three got positions of power but have no apparent plan to use that power for their constituents nor for all Alaskans. On the other hand two of them got to leg-wrestle with lobbyists at a beer party in the Capitol annex, reportedly in their panties (but we don’t really know because the third one is sitting on the video), and one of those two has a brand of condom named for her. Truly an Alaska story.

  • Frankly, I no longer care at all about this hell hole and those ran it into the ground. Even the birds hate it here now.

  • Give us back our PFD, then go into permanent recess and play as much Beer Pong and have as many hot tub parties as you want.

    With rare exception, these are the Z listers. You wouldn’t let them park you car or wash your dog, but by kissing enough rear ends and saying whatever they need to say, they get to rule over us. It’s actually stomach turning, when you really think about it.

  • The house of incompetence, the Rino republicans all need to be fired, Kodiak and eagle River can do better.

  • Somewhere, It needs to be stated, if you can’t get anything done by the first 90 days, you loose your Diem and MUST have the PFD determined by that date or you loose your additional travel expenses. AND must be moved to Anchorage. WHY must the PFD be the LAST? Why can’t they pull the PFD out and THEN decide what to do with the rest of the budget on their own time.

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