Alaska Senate adjourns session after passing crime bill

 Capitol Building in Juneau, Alaska
Capitol Building in Juneau, Alaska (KTUU)
Published: Nov. 10, 2017 at 4:49 PM AKST
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This year's fourth special session is done.

Or is it?

The Senate on Friday voted 11-to-8 to adopt the House's version of the criminal justice reform bill, S.B. 54, a move that avoided continuing negotiations in a conference committee.

Not long after that vote, the Republican-led body adjourned sine die, signaling an unwillingness both to work on the governor's proposal to cut into the $2.5 billion budget gap with a 1.5 percent tax on workers, and a desire to be done with the contentious talks of rolling back a new justice policy that attempts to reserve lengthy jail terms for instances when they are proven to reduce crime.

That means the session is done a couple weeks before the 30-day limit runs out -- unless members of the House decline to adjourn sine die on Monday.

If the House insists, the Senate will have to return to Juneau yet again.

House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, (D-Dillingham), indicated in a news release that his caucus would like the Senate to work at least on one issue related to S.B. 54.

One amendment that the House adopted during a heated, lengthy floor debate made changes to the sentencing range for first-time class C felonies that some lawmakers worry could lead to a constitutional challenge that could invalidate countless convictions.

“They allowed a constitutionally flawed bill to be sent to the governor, and they worsened the ongoing recession and fiscal crisis by refusing to even consider a new revenue proposal," Edgmon wrote in a news release. “We can force the Senate back to Juneau but apparently we, and the Governor, can’t actually make them work.”

This story has been updated to accurately reflect the Senate vote to adopt House changes to S.B. 54.