Dunleavy calls for action on constitutional amendments, crime bills

Gov. Mike Dunleavy talks to reporters at a press availability in the Governor’s Cabinet Room in the Capitol in Juneau on March 19. Dunleavy said Tuesday that he wants the Legislature to pass his proposed constitutional amendments and crime bills. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy said state lawmakers aren’t moving fast enough to pass his big priorities this session. That’s not just an idle threat — Dunleavy has constitutional powers he can use to force lawmakers into action.

He can veto the state budget and call special sessions if the Legislature doesn’t advance his three constitutional amendments and crime bills.

Dunleavy said the amendments he introduced would allow public votes on changes to taxes or permanent fund dividends. And he said the crime problem requires more action.

“If we’re not going to have any discussions on constitutional amendments allowing the people of Alaska to vote, and if we’re really not going to have a serious discussion on the crime issue, it makes it real tough to come up with a deal” on the budget, Dunleavy said.

Dunleavy said that the House of Representatives hasn’t cut spending enough in the budget proposal it’s debating.

“If all we’re going to have in the budget are … small reductions, then we really haven’t accomplished much this year,” he said.

Dunleavy didn’t rule out using his authority to issue line-item vetoes and to call the Legislature into special sessions to pressure lawmakers to pass more of his agenda.

“You’ll get a better idea of what we’re looking at when we get to see what they’re doing in terms of the work on the Senate side of things,” he said. “So we’re not going to put any tools off the table, and I’m not going to be afraid to use any of the tools that the (state) constitution has provided the executive.”

Dunleavy said that Alaskans are entitled to a full dividend under a 1982 state law. That would equal roughly $3,000.

The governor also said he has the ability to veto public school funding. That position differs from that of nonpartisan lawyers for the Legislature. They’ve said that unless the Legislature makes changes, a law passed last year establishes how much the state must fund schools next year.

Anchorage Republican Senate President Cathy Giessel said crime has been the top priority of the Senate majority since before the session began. She expects the governor’s crime bill package to advance in the Senate.

Rep. Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, talks to reporters outside the House chambers shortly after being elected speaker of the House in Juneau on Feb. 14, 2019.Rep. Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, talks to reporters outside the House chambers shortly after being elected speaker of the House in Juneau on Feb. 14, 2019. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)
“Interestingly, we’re not hearing about it so much from our constituents right now. We’re hearing mostly about the budget,” she said. “Knowing that these criminal justice reform bills are critical for public safety — the safety of families and businesses in the state — we are focused on them. At the same time, we also acknowledge … there will be added cost. And that cost is not necessarily included in the budget at this time.”

Dillingham independent House Speaker Bryce Edgmon said legislative leaders are focused on what it will take to end the session.

“Clearly, I think both sides are going to have to look at where they’re at,” Edgmon said. “And then my hope is that we can work towards an arrangement that both of us can support.”

Edgmon said lawmakers will talk with Dunleavy and his staff as soon as Wednesday about what it will take to agree on a budget.