Rep. Kito prefiles bill to revert to 120-day legislative session

Rep. Sam Kito lll addresses the Alaska House of Representatives on April 7, 2014. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)
Rep. Sam Kito lll addresses the Alaska House of Representatives on April 7, 2014. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Rep. Sam Kito III wants to repeal the ballot measure that tried to cut the Alaska Legislature’s annual session to down from 120 days to 90.

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Here’s the Juneau Democrat’s pitch:

“My issue with the 90-day session is while we’re trying to be efficient with state funding, I think we are losing opportunities to have adequate time to consider legislation or to consider impacts to the budget. And I think we can, in 120 days, accomplish a lot of work and potentially decrease the need for as many special sessions as we’ve been having recently,” he said. “So I do think it will not increase costs and I’m getting some work done to look at that, and I do think it will make … our state government process work more efficiently.”

Kito said it would increase staff and per diem costs, but thinks that may be offset by savings from holding fewer special sessions and other efficiencies. An official cost estimate is in the works.

So far, Kito says he’s gotten mixed feedback from his colleagues.

Well, I want to have the discussion. There may be some challenges, especially with the fiscal discussion happening at the same time in getting the bill passed in a single session. But there are many pieces of legislation that take more than a single session to pass,” he said. “It’s important for me I think, given fiscal climate, to start having this discussion, and for me to be able to demonstrate it actually can result in more efficient legislation or more efficient process.”

Kito’s House Bill 223 is the fourth legislative attempt to change the 90-day session since 2006 when Alaska voters narrowly passed the ballot measure.

In 2011, three Republican lawmakers sponsored separate legislation to extend the session. Then-Senate President Gary Stevens’SB 18 made it the furthest. It tried to add 30 days to the second session of the legislature’s two-year cycle. The Senate passed it 12-5, but it died in the House Finance Committee along with Rep. Paul Seatons’ HB71, a straight repeal. As a co-chairman of the House Finance Committee, Bill Stoltze was the gatekeeper that kept the bills from advancing. Stoltze is now in the Senate.

The legislature’s lawyers have said it is unlikely breaking the 90-day statute has any legal consequence because it’s still trumped by the 120-day rule in the constitution. Lawmakers have tried to respect voters’ intent, but have also run over the 90-day limit and held frequent special sessions for extra time.