Alaska Legislature meets deadline, passing budget and some bills that resemble ‘turduckens’

Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, watches because the Alaska Senate votes Thursday, May 19, 2022, on the Alaska state funds. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

The Alaska Legislature handed a funds late Wednesday night time that features a $3,200 payout to Alaskans within the type of Permanent Fund Dividends and vitality aid funds.

That’s a compromise, after the state Senate had earlier sought $5,500 funds. House members argued that will draw an excessive amount of from state financial savings.

The funds continues to be one of many largest in state historical past, and it’s only one piece of laws that handed in a flurry of exercise proper on the finish of the legislative session. All of it, after all, should nonetheless survive Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s veto pen to turn into regulation.

Alaska Beacon reporter James Brooks was up late following the Legislature’s frantic scramble to go payments earlier than the deadline.

In some instances, he says, that meant payments had been amended into different payments to get them handed. Brooks compares that to a “turducken,” a three-bird roast that includes stuffing a hen right into a duck and stuffing that right into a turkey.


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The following transcript has been calmly edited for readability.

James Brooks: For instance, there was a invoice that concerned altering signature necessities on car titles. Well, one other invoice bought shoved inside it that requires just one license plate as an alternative of two. So you’ll solely want your rear license plate as an alternative of a rear and entrance license plate.

Casey Grove: So sort of a mad sprint to the end. And all on the final second, it will get shoved collectively and handed to make it throughout the end line. Of course, the largest factor that we’ve been watching is the funds, which incorporates the Permanent Fund dividend for this 12 months and an vitality aid cost. What occurred with that? And I assume, additionally, how shut did we get to a $5,500 cost this 12 months?

JB: Right, $5,500 appeared prefer it was a chance as late as Saturday. But on that day, the home turned down the Senate proposal that contained the $5,500. That left the House with one model of the funds, the Senate with one other model of the funds, and compelled them to barter a compromise. What that compromise group got here up with was $3,850 — a $2,600 PFD and a few $1,200 vitality rebate. But that’s not what ended up occurring, as a result of that compromise was depending on among the vitality aid cash getting paid out of financial savings. And the House fell one vote in need of spending from financial savings with a purpose to pay for that. So the top result’s about $3,200. By any measure, it’s one of many largest payouts in state historical past, even when adjusted for inflation. But for lots of legislators, it was a disappointment as a result of it might have been greater and was mentioned as being greater.

CG: What was the reasoning for the parents within the House that voted towards spending from the Constitutional Budget Reserve, that financial savings account you talked about? What did they are saying about their votes towards that?

JB: It’s considerations concerning the future. For the previous few years, whereas oil costs have been low, the state has blazed by means of virtually $16 billion in financial savings. And so the state financial savings accounts are at a very low ebb proper now. The state’s anticipating some huge cash from excessive oil costs, and thus excessive oil taxes, brought on by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But it’s not sure at this level. And so there have been a good variety of legislators who’re anxious concerning the thought of spending from financial savings. And their concern is ensuring that there’s sufficient cash and financial savings to cowl unexpected circumstances, even when it comes at the price of the short-term payout.

CG: Now, for the parents that voted for a better payout, what was the reasoning there? I imply, that’s tied to those excessive vitality costs that we’re seeing proper now, proper?

JB: Exactly. We’re beginning to see the annual gas barges arrive in distant villages, and gasoline costs at, say, $16 a gallon. And it’s mirrored throughout the state, not simply in these villages. Costs of meals are going up. Costs of gas are going up. And legislators actually needed to answer that. And to some extent they’ve, however not as a lot as different legislators needed.

CG: Well, like we stated, it was sort of a mad sprint to the end, and the funds was only one a part of that. What else bought handed final night time by the Legislature?

JB: One of the large accomplishments that did go was an omnibus schooling invoice focused to creating positive that each Alaska scholar can learn by the third grade. The thought is that by spending extra effort and cash on early schooling, you enhance outcomes for youths afterward. Otherwise, there was a reasonably important revision of the state’s sexual assault legal guidelines, to make it reliant on consent, not simply violence or the specter of violence. There’s a invoice limiting little one marriages within the state. Right now, present regulation says anyone as younger as 14 can get married with the approval of a choose. The invoice raises that age to 16 and says that in the event you’re a 16- or 17-year-old, you continue to want a choose’s approval, and you’ll solely get married to anyone who’s inside three years of your personal age.

CG: There had been some issues that didn’t go, and I assume a type of was a marketing campaign finance invoice. Tell me about that.

JB: Yeah, earlier this 12 months a federal choose, really a collection of them, dominated that the boundaries on how a lot you may donate to a politician had been unlawful and threw them out. The Legislature wanted to impose new limits, if there’s going to be any sort of restriction on how a lot anyone can donate to a candidate. In the final hours of the Legislature, that invoice failed. So proper now, and going into this fall’s election, there’s no restrict on how a lot cash somebody can donate to a candidate. It stays to be seen how a lot impact that can have on this 12 months’s election, however I believe it will likely be important. And linked to that, the governor and Republican legislators, plus some Democrats, needed to have extra safety measures in place for elections sooner or later. That invoice additionally didn’t go. That was a type of turduckens. They had been making an attempt to merge marketing campaign finance and election safety, however each payments died.

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