JUNEAU — Alaska lawmakers have gone into an extended session to deal with the budget, taxes and criminal justice reform, but some bills seem destined to die.
A marathon final weekend of the regular 90-day session saw lawmakers vote to reform Medicaid, reduce penalties for texting while driving — a move proponents say will make it more enforceable— and the debut of a revamped military code of justice.
While lawmakers have yet to gavel out for the session, it’s unlikely these bills will be taken up:
Sen. Anna MacKinnon’s bill to eliminate daylight saving time popped up in a House State Affairs committee after more than a year at the door.
The bill would have shifted all of Alaska to one time zone, triggering an exemption from daylight savings time. It passed out of the Senate last year but stalled under criticism that it could hurt businesses by putting them out of sync with the rest of the nation.
A bill that would allow Alaskans whose criminal convictions are overturned to apply for Permanent Fund Dividend checks foregone while incarcerated was inspired by a group of indigenous men whose felony convictions for the 1997 death of a Fairbanks teenager were tossed out. The Fairbanks Four agreed not to sue as a condition of the deal.
In most cases, Alaskans who are jailed aren’t eligible to apply for the checks. Members of the Fairbanks Four would be eligible for 18 years’ worth of dividends, or just over $27,000 each.
Republican North Pole Sen. John Coghill has long sought to limit abortions in the state. Among his efforts was a 2014 law defining medically necessary abortion later declared unconstitutional.
He debuted a bill that would have barred an abortion if a doctor determines that the fetus could survive outside of the womb. That fetus would be added to the state’s Child in Need of Aid laws, allowing it to be surrendered to the doctor or hospital employees if the woman is unwilling or unable to care for it.
In 2015, Gov. Bill Walker forced the state to expand Medicaid by accepting additional federal funds post-session after lawmakers tabled the expansion and inserted legislative intent language in the budget specifically barring the expansion. Walker pressed on, citing a legal option calling the legislative language unenforceable.
Anchorage Republican Mike Hawker proposed a bill that limits the governor’s ability to federal funding for a budget item outside of the legislative session. It also extends the amount of time the Governor must wait before spending money accepted in that manner, giving the legislature the chance to reconvene and appropriate the money.
Fairbanks Republican. Sen. Pete Kelly pushed a bill through the Senate that strips the ability of the University of Alaska Board of Regents to designate broad concealed weapon-free zones on its campuses, allowing them to be carried in classrooms and dorms.
The measure drew national attention. Some Alaskans said they feared that gun-free zones were targets for killers, while others said they would not feel safe if they knew their classmates and teachers were carrying concealed weapons.
HB 236, SB 120
A Catholic bishop told lawmakers that the church had reversed a 75-year-old policy of allowing people of other faiths to get married in one of its landmark chapels after same-sex marriage became legal. His argument is that the church opens itself up to lawsuits when it limits who it will provide services for. These bills would have exempted clergy from civil or criminal liability for refusing to perform marriages or provide services for same-sex couples. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Alaska since late 2014.