End of 4th Special Session Update
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As you know, the legislature adjourned the fourth special session last Sunday evening in Juneau. I’m back in Anchorage, getting settled back in, and meeting with constituents for the time being. The bad news is we adjourned without any revenue measures addressing the $3.8 billion deficit, so the Governor has already scheduled the fifth special session to begin on July 11th until August 16th. It’s looking like the special session will be in Juneau, but if that changes I’ll let you know.
It's not clear that another special session will mean changes in votes or positions, and special sessions are very costly. I agree that our work to create a sustainable plan must continue. However, all work can be done through the committee process without being in session. Sessions are only necessary to vote on bills. I think the better option at this time would be for committees to continue working.
What many Alaskans don't know is how many options there are for creating sustainable plan. The PFD is not the only option and the potential need for using the Permanent Fund is dramatically reduced when other more fair options are considered. As I have stated in the past, the plan must be fair to all Alaskans. In our area we have many families living on the edge due to low wages, high rent, and high costs for food and medicine. When there is a package that has garnered enough support, then a special session can be as low cost as possible.
The fifth special session will only focus on:
Health Insurance Coverage for Surviving Families of Public Safety Officers & Firefighters and the PFD Bill
The House Finance Committee introduced a committee substitute for House Bill 4002, which recognizes the challenges for families with children who lose a parent on duty. HB 4002 guarantees 10 years of health coverage to the survivors of public safety officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty and coverage for children until they are adults. On the House Floor, HB 4002 passed unanimously. On the Senate Floor, HB 4002 was not heard before they gaveled out. Unfortunately, the Governor did not list this bill on his fifth special session call, therefore, there may be no legislative action happening this session. The families most recently affected by a death are being covered by the state at this time, but passing a bill would put in place a permanent solution for public safety employees killed in the line of duty.
The Senate did pass Senate Bill 128, a Permanent Fund restructuring bill that sets the dividend at $1,000 for the next three years. The bill then came to the House. As the House Finance Committee continued its review of SB 128, there was much discussion about whether there were enough “yes” votes to pass SB 128. Eventually, the House Finance Committee did not vote to send SB 128 to the House Floor.
During the fifth special session, I will remain committed to reaching an agreement on a responsible action plan that puts the interests of Alaskans first!
Hope you are getting out to enjoy our awesome Alaskan summer!