The Legislature is entering the final week of this year’s session under the ninety-day deadline.
However, a lot of major issues still haven’t been finished, and lawmakers are starting to discuss the ease with which they could simply continue the session beyond Sunday night’s ninety-day statutory limit without needing to take any formal action or vote.
That limit went into effect in 2008. However, the Constitutional limit of 121 days was not changed – and that is the final limiting factor.
However, members are concerned that the shorter session length was established by voters – and failing to meet the mandate could have an election backlash.
The alternatives to extending their time at the capitol is to let the governor call a special session over a shorter list of bills that are important to him. The other is simply to focus the expectations and consider no more than those bills that are essential.
The issues still on the table are both major budgets – operating expenses and capital projects. There is also the oil and gas tax rewrite that has become a dominant factor for this year and last.
Members also want to settle the dispute between legislators and the administration over how local school districts will get more money for next year. The governor insists that he doesn’t want an increase in formulas, but legislators say a formula is the only way to avoid arguing over the same issue again next year – and into the future.
Another top priority for many members is a bill taking the next step in providing an in-state gas line from the North Slope to SouthCentral. It took all of last year’s session and most of this year’s to get the measure to the Senate, where it has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.
If lawmakers continue the session, all the existing legislation will continue and remain in play.