Alaska legislators are again on track to ignore the 90-day session law imposed by voters

the Alaska State Capitol
The Alaska State Capitol is seen on Monday, Feb. 13, 2023. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

Leading Alaska state legislators said this week that they intend to wrap up the 2023 legislative session in mid-May, closer to the Alaska Constitution’s 121-day limit than the 90-day limit approved by voters in a 2006 ballot measure.

”I think there’s no doubt in my mind that we will be here through the 121,” said Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak. 

“We’re halfway through 121 days, we’ve got a lot to do on all the big issues … so no, we’re not going to be getting out in 90 days,” he said.

“It is not our intention to stay here in Juneau any longer than we have to, and definitely with a goal of being done by the 120 days,” said Speaker of the House Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla.

House Finance Committee co-chair DeLena Johnson, R-Palmer, said the committee’s draft of the state operating budget will be published early next week, with amendments on that draft debated the following week.

That would put the state budget on the floor of the House in the first or second week of April and on the floor of the Senate by the end of April or the start of May. The session’s 121st day falls in mid-May.

Seventeen years ago, Alaska voters narrowly approved a ballot measure setting a 90-day limit for legislative sessions. Only four times since then have lawmakers finished their work in 90 days or fewer, and in one of those four years, they immediately went into a special session. In all other years since then, the regular session has lasted longer than 90 days.

Court rulings have upheld the ability of the Legislature to work to the constitutional limit, saying that guideline takes precedence over the one imposed by the ballot measure.

Sen. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, has proposed a constitutional amendment this year that would require the Legislature to abide by the 90-day limit. 

It’s the fifth time Claman has proposed that amendment. The idea has received only one committee hearing, in 2017. The latest version has no cosponsors.

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