Alaska legislators seek to change campaign contribution limits, permanent fund trustees

A ochre and white concrete building in a greay cloudy day
The Alaska Capitol on Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (Nat Herz/Alaska Public Media)

Bills to bring back political campaign contribution limits and change how Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. trustees are appointed were among the first batch of legislation filed ahead of the session. 

In total, there were 43 bills and five constitutional amendments proposed by House members, plus 15 bills and one amendment proposed by senators.

Sen. Roger Holland, R-Anchorage, proposed Senate Bill 145, which would prevent legislators from receiving per diem payments if they fail to pass a budget by the 121st day of the regular session. 

“There’s incredible motivation, or there could be incredible motivation, for people not to finish the budget on time to collect per diem,” he said.

Per diems would resume after legislators pass the budget, but would not be paid retroactively to cover the time between the session end and the budget passing. 

Legislators passed a law in 2018 saying they couldn’t receive per diems until after they pass a budget. But lawmakers and the Legislature’s legal adviser interpreted it to mean that they could be paid per diems retroactively once they passed the budget. The law’s sponsor said that wasn’t the intent of the law

Legislators’ per diems could also be reduced under a recent proposal by the State Officers Compensation Commission. 

RELATED: Commission votes to increase Alaska legislators’ salaries but lower overall compensation

Different bills would raise legal limits on campaign contributions to individual candidates. That previous limit of $500 was struck down by a judge for being too restrictive. Anchorage Reps. Andy Josephson, a Democrat, and Calvin Schrage, an independent, and Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, proposed the bills.

Schrage said his bill would allow the Legislature and the public to affect what the new limits should be. The Alaska Public Office Commission staff has proposed limits that could go into effect this year.

“With the recent court ruling, it’s incredibly important that Alaskans have a chance to weigh in on those APOC limits and, you know, as legislators representing our constituents in Alaska, I think that we should address this issue,” he said. 

Another measure, House Bill 251, would create a new committee that would appoint the public members of the permanent fund board of trustees. The governor currently appoints all of the board members, but the bill would give legislative leaders a say. The bill also would expand the number of public members, from four to six, and increase the length of their terms from four years to six years. Josephson proposed the bill. 

Other bills include measures to protect the fund that pays for university scholarships and grants, as well as for medical education; increase the pay of state workers; and change the PFD formula. 

Few pre-filed bills have become laws in recent years. The legislative session is scheduled to begin on Jan. 18. 

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Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at akitchenman@alaskapublic.org.

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