Dunleavy to call Legislature into special session over budget, PFD, crime, education, more

 Gov. Dunleavy announces his intention to call a special session. (KTUU)
Gov. Dunleavy announces his intention to call a special session. (KTUU) (KTUU)
Published: May. 15, 2019 at 6:05 PM AKDT
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Gov. Mike Dunleavy says he will call Alaska lawmakers into special session Wednesday evening, tasking them with completing legislation on criminal reform, the operating budget-- including a full PFD-- a mental health budget, capital budget and an educational appropriation to fulfill the FY2020 budget.

Dunleavy made his announcement at 5:30 p.m. on the last day of the 121-day constitutionally allowed Legislative session, though voters have demanded a 90-day session in the past.

Dunleavy has not yet issued his formal proclamation with a start date and location for the special session. He said there is still work that can be completed before Wednesday’s midnight deadline, and items could be removed from the formal call for a special session if they're addressed in the hours left to go.

“A lot of us are disappointed. We had 121 days to get their work done, and although there were some significant efforts-- for example the senate had a full PFD in their package-- they also haven’t completed the work on the operating budget and the criminal reform,” Dunleavy said.

He said the issues have largely “balled up” in the House.

House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I - Dillingham, responded with a statement Wednesday evening, saying the major decisions on the table should not be rushed.

“The Legislature is considering proposals that will determine whether the Permanent Fund actually remains permanent. We are vetting a massive overhaul of our criminal justice system. The proposed budget could fundamentally change Alaska’s economy. The decisions we face are simply too important to rush. We have worked hard to achieve meaningful compromise, and we are committed to continuing our work to get these monumental decisions right for Alaska,” Edgmon wrote.

House Minority leader Rep. Lance Pruitt, R - Anchorage, says his colleagues should have seen this coming.

"I think that the House had an opportunity to do their job, and they decided they were going to goof around and here we are," Pruitt said. "For two months now, the House Majority has been failing to listen to the concerns of the governor," he continued.

Senate President Cathy Giessel, R - Anchorage, says the Senate looks forward to the work.

“The Senate passed an operating budget with significant cuts, fully-funded the PFD, and toughened the state’s criminal code by repealing and replacing Senate Bill 91. We are committed to working with our colleagues in the House, and the governor, in seeing these critical policy changes through to the end. We will not rest until the people of Alaska have safe neighborhoods, a healthy economy and the Permanent Fund is protected for future generations,” Giessel wrote.

Senate Democrats released a statement shortly after the governor's announcement saying the caucus is doing its part to resolve the remaining issues facing lawmakers.

"We are disappointed that the Governor is issuing this call before we have completed our work. It is the responsibility of the Legislative leadership in the House and the Senate to pass a budget, address crime and safety, and resolve the Dividend, " read the statement.

Dunleavy said he hoped a focused call to action would focus legislators' priorities.

“We’re hoping with this focus that the people of Alaska can get these crucial items taken care of this year so that we have an operating budget, we have a safer state, we are following laws on the PFD, and we make sure that the education community, including parents, teachers, students and others, have certainty in funding,” Dunleavy said.

The governor said he’d release a full proclamation on the call later in the afternoon or evening Wednesday.

While the location hasn’t yet been set, Dunleavy mentioned the Mat-Su Borough as a possible location for a special session, though he said the logistics and cost were being analyzed.

“There is a lot of interest to have this up in the Mat-Su Valley, and we are seriously considering that,” Dunleavy said. “Obviously we can always have it here in Juneau, but you know, a change in venue may end up with different results.”

Pruitt expressed support for the idea of holding a special session in the Valley, saying some lawmakers need a "dose of reality" from "the Juneau bubble."

"They stay in this building, they talk to each other, they think they're really smart and they look really good and then they go back into the public and the public will tell them they're as ugly and dumb as they were before," he said.

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