In 2006, Alaska voters approved Ballot Measure 1, mandating the 90-day session for the Alaska Legislature. The first 90-day session was held in 2008. But in the 13 years since then the law passed, the Legislature has rarely met the conditions of statute enacted by popular vote.
Why? The Alaska Constitution says 121 days, and the Constitution trumps the statute. And although the 90-day session law was created by voters, there’s no way for voters to enforce it.
In 2011, there was a brief effort to end the 90-day rule. But now, it’s more of a speed bump on the way to a 121-day session.
House Joint Resolution 2, offered by Democrat Matt Claman this year, would put a limit into the state constitution, limiting the session to 90 days. On Feb. 20, that bill was referred to State Affairs Committee, then Judiciary, and then Finance. It’s still stuck in State Affairs.
Meanwhile, the talk around the Capitol this morning is whether the Legislature will vote to extend the 121 days they’ve been in Juneau. With vote of 2/3 of each house, they may do so in order to finish up their work.
But getting the Republican Minority to go along with that is going to be the challenge. The Democrat-led Majority will likely vote as a block to extend session so that the Democrats can water down the criminal justice reforms in conference committee.
The Majority has 25 votes to extend, with Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux likely voting with the Majority, even though she is technically not in it. The 15 Republicans that make up the Republican caucus will likely vote as a block not to extend. They’ve been betrayed by fellow Republicans who joined the Democrats, and they’ve been bullied by House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, so they are in no mood to do the Majority any favors, especially when it comes to weakening the rollback of SB 91 (a former criminal justice reform package).
That would leave the “sine die” adjournment at midnight Wednesday, with a slim to none chance that both bodies would find enough votes to extend.