State Legislature Gears Up For Overtime

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
This year’s legislative session will not end Sunday night, the voter-mandated 90 day deadline. It’s not yet clear how long beyond that date members will need to finish the work that’s still pending.

Speaker Mike Chenault, in a floor speech during Thursday session, said the House will not leave Juneau without having given proper attention to the capital projects budget, which is still in the formal possession of the Senate Finance committee. He said he would rather not have a budget at all than to accept a “take it or leave it” package from the Senate.

Chenault said his differences with the Senate over the budget come down to a view of public process and respect. He says legislators should research issues and listen to the public before they vote on issues.

Finance Co-Chair Bert Stedman, who is responsible for the Capital projects budget in the Senate, agrees there is no way the legislature can adjourn on Sunday. But he says it’s because of timing and rules. He says Chenault’s concerns don’t consider that the House already has access to the budget and has already been negotiating changes to it, all with the idea of putting an agreeable bill up for final votes without having to go through further amendments, conferences or negotiations.

Stedman says he’s been delaying Senate Committee action because he is waiting for final decisions from the House on a handful of issues, adding that Chenault’s comments and willingness to stay in session reflect “good public policy.”

Chenault said he would be willing to adjourn Sunday without a capital budget, but Stedman says the Senate would simply stay in session, using their Constitutional limit of a one hundred twenty day session rather than the statutory ninety day limit. Continuing the session instead of adjourning will keep active all the legislation that is still pending in both the House and Senate, although there has been no discussion yet of whether members would take action on anything other than the budget.

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