Alaska Speaker of the House asks Gov. Dunleavy to cancel special session during COVID-19 surge

A white woman with a black mask
State Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, leaves the House floor after being sworn in during the first day of the 32nd Legislative Session on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021 in Juneau, Alaska. Stutes was elected House speaker on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. (Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

Alaska House Speaker Louise Stutes urged Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Friday to cancel the special session scheduled to start on Monday, citing the COVID-19 surge.

“I think that we should be doing everything possible to help prevent the spread of COVID, and gathering all of the legislators and their staff — so you’re talking, you know, 150, 200 people — together in the Capitol needlessly just doesn’t make sense,” Stutes said.

She pointed out that Alaska is leading the nation and is among the leaders worldwide in the spread of the virus recently.

In response to a question about Stutes’ position, a Dunleavy spokesperson said the governor is not cancelling the special session. 

Stutes said she spoke with the governor about her concern last weekend and hadn’t heard back from his office in recent days. She said the House majority caucus decided to put their position on the record in the form of a letter from her to Dunleavy.

“Why — when the governor has asked his departments to work from home — why would he bring 57 legislators to Juneau?” she said.

She wrote in the letter to the governor that there isn’t a consensus on the items that Dunleavy has made the focus of the session, which include enshrining the permanent fund dividend in the state constitution, lowering the limit on state spending and raising taxes or other revenue.

She said a special session is not necessary for the Legislature to continue its work on a long-term plan for the state budget. She said committees can continue to meet ahead of the regular session in January, and that the Legislature could call itself into a special session if it reaches agreement on the issues.

Stutes also said a fourth special session would be incredibly costly.

This is a developing story and will be updated when more information becomes available.

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

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