State lawmakers wrapped up their four-month session last night. Here’s what they did.

Lawmakers leave the House chamber after adjourning sine die in the early morning hours of Thursday, May 16, 2024. (Eric Stone/Alaska Public Media)

After 121 days in Juneau, state lawmakers have concluded their work. That’s after passing dozens of bills and finalizing the state’s operating budget for the fiscal year that begins this July.

The budget, if signed into law by the governor, would provide Alaskans a payment of roughly $1,655 this fall, including a $1,360 Permanent Fund dividend and an energy relief check of $295.

Lawmakers also passed bills that they say would address a number of pressing issues, from high energy costs and declining natural gas production to uncertainty in the homeschool system brought about by a recent court ruling. Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, said he’s proud of what he and his colleagues in the bipartisan majority caucus accomplished.

“It’s been a pretty successful two years, I believe, in so many ways, whether it’s in the budget issues that our committees have been working on, whether it’s in energy or in education, all of those areas we’ve worked forward, and I think we’ve made some great successes,” Stevens said.

Several high-profile bills did not make it across the finish line, including royalty cuts for natural gas producers in Cook Inlet and a controversial elections bill that saw a late push for passage. 

House Speaker Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, said she expects lawmakers to continue to work on royalty relief proposals before the next legislative session, or possibly in a special session. Like Stevens, Tilton said legislators took great strides on a wide array of issues over their four months in Juneau.

“I think it was a great session. There was a lot of things that were taken care of,” Tilton said. “We’ve taken some starts in energy, we were able to take care of the correspondence folks and we had a great crime bill that we passed, so I think it was a great session. We got a lot done for the people of Alaska.”

House Minority Leader Calvin Schrage, I-Anchorage, said he was glad to see some of the minority coalition’s priorities included in the state budget. But he said several things — among them, a fiscal plan, a pension plan for public-sector workers and a long-term increase in education funding — were missed opportunities.

“Those were all things that Alaskans were really clamoring for, and it’s disappointing to see that we weren’t able to take action,” Schrage said.

The Senate adjourned shortly before midnight. The House, however, continued past the midnight deadline in an effort to pass additional bills before gaveling out at 1:22 a.m. 

Here’s some of what the Legislature passed to the governor’s desk.


Correspondence schools

Lawmakers approved a measure that would address the result of a recent court ruling that found two statutes underpinning Alaska’s homeschool system violate a section of the Alaska Constitution barring the use of state funds for private or religious education. It’s a temporary fix aimed at ensuring homeschooling under the state’s correspondence school programs can continue despite the court decision, said Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski.

“It gives some certainty and surety that our Alaskan families, Mr. President, that value their freedom and their educational choice, can use those homeschool allotment monies as they have for a decade,” he said.

The two laws ruled unconstitutional outlined individual learning plans for homeschool students and cash payments to homeschool families, known as allotments, used to purchase curriculum and other materials — but Anchorage Superior Court Judge Adolf Zeman ruled that the laws unconstitutionally allowed families to use their allotments to pay for private school classes. The state has appealed the ruling to the Alaska Supreme Court.

The language approved by the House and Senate would require the Department of Education and Early Development to monitor and report to the Legislature how allotments are spent. That requirement would expire with the rest of the temporary bill in July 2025.

“It’s providing an accountability measure that this is in place until the court case is resolved,” said Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer. “Hopefully, by next summer, we’ll have some more clear answers.”

The homeschool language was added as an amendment to House Bill 202, which would require schools to carry opioid overdose reversal drugs like naloxone.

School funding

Lawmakers approved $175 million in additional one-time funding above the traditional formula for public schools. That’s roughly equivalent to a $680 increase in the base student allocation, which provides the basic state funding for Alaska’s public schools. Gov. Mike Dunleavy has said he does not plan to reduce the amount with a line-item veto.

At the beginning of the session, lawmakers from both parties in the House and Senate said they would prefer an ongoing increase in school funding through the base student allocation, rather than another round of one-time funding. But after Dunleavy vetoed a compromise bill that would have boosted the base figure by $680, and the Legislature failed to override it, lawmakers settled on a one-time boost.

That’s left districts around the state unsure of how much money they’d receive, leading some to lay off teachers and cut school programs. Citing the funding uncertainty, Ketchikan’s school district notified more than 50 teachers and administrators they’d be laid off on Wednesday, the Ketchikan Daily News reported, though as many as 30 could be given their jobs back if the one-time boost is not vetoed.

House Bill 230: Teacher pay

One bill that passed the House and Senate would lift a cap on the number of years of out-of-state experience used to calculate teacher salaries. It would also allow districts to provide $5,000 yearly bonuses if they complete a certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

“I think we would come out ahead by retaining the more qualified teachers,” Rep. Mike Prax, R-North Pole said of House Bill 230.

Energy bills

With gas producers in Cook Inlet warning that production is dwindling, energy — both from fossil fuels and renewable energy — was a key policy priority for members in both bodies this session. And in the end, the Legislature passed several proposals aimed at lowering costs, expanding gas supplies and boosting renewable energy.

House Bill 50: Carbon Storage

House Bill 50 would authorize the storage of carbon dioxide deep underground in what’s known as “pore space,” including things like depleted oil and gas reservoirs, salty aquifers and unmineable coal seams. 

Backers, including Gov. Mike Dunleavy, have pitched it as a source of state revenue. The state would charge a minimum royalty of $2.50 for each ton of carbon dioxide injected underground, plus $20 per acre of land leased from the Department of Natural Resources. The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission would be tasked with coming up with regulations.

“Carbon capture, utilization and storage is an expanding industry that companies are beginning to commit billions of dollars to invest in,” Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, said. “HB 50 will allow Alaska to take part in that.” 

Part of the reason for the investment Stedman mentioned is the Inflation Reduction Act’s inclusion of significant tax credits for geologic carbon storage.

That carbon could come from abroad and be stored in depleted gas fields in Cook Inlet — the Biden administration is studying whether Japanese carbon emissions could be liquefied and shipped to Alaska. But that’s likely a ways off.

It could also come from within Alaska. Maybe from a regional power plant on the Railbelt, or perhaps from operations on the North Slope, which comprise 62% of the state’s total carbon emissions, according to Nicholas Fulford, a consultant with GaffneyCline who evaluated the proposal for the Legislature. 

That could mean using carbon dioxide injection to squeeze more oil out of existing wells, a practice known as “enhanced oil recovery” incentivized by the Inflation Reduction Act. Decarbonizing North Slope production could also make Alaska oil more competitive on the global market, the state Department of Natural Resources said.

But as the bill worked its way through the Legislature, lawmakers added several other proposals to it. One would create a reserve-based lending program for Cook Inlet oil and gas within the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority. That’d allow AIDEA to loan money to gas producers struggling to find investors. 

Another provision would allow the Regulatory Commission of Alaska to regulate the price of natural gas storage in an effort to expand storage capacity and keep costs down.

House Bill 307: Integrated Transmission Systems

House Bill 307 was another priority for Gov. Dunleavy. The bill reduces the cost of moving power along the Railbelt, provides property and income tax breaks for new power plants and sets up a new Railbelt Transmission Organization tasked with governing the backbone of the Railbelt grid. It’d be led by the five utilities that contributed to the Bradley Lake hydroelectric project in Homer and housed within the Alaska Energy Authority.

“After moving through the legislative process, the bill that stands before you today is something that still achieves the governor’s policy goals,” Sen. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, said. “We all want affordable and cheap energy.”

But the Senate stripped out an earlier provision added in the House that would prevent utilities from incorporating the cost of building a liquefied natural gas import terminal into their rates. That led to pushback from Kenai Peninsula legislators, who said they feared large-scale LNG imports — which utilities have discussed as a response to falling gas production — could make Cook Inlet drilling uneconomic. 

But will it be enough to keep energy prices down? Tilton, the House speaker, said residents shouldn’t expect immediate relief, but she said she’s optimistic.

“I’m not sure they’re going to see a reduction in their energy rates right away. But I think that over time, there will be a reduction,” Tilton said. “I know that that is our goal, to be able to provide low-cost energy throughout the state.”

Sen. Bill Wielechoski, D-Anchorage, said the gas storage provisions should help ensure supplies stay healthy enough for cold winter days in the short term. He said the reserve-based lending program could prove helpful in the next year or two. And he said the renewable energy initiatives, including bills authorizing community solar projects and a fund dedicated to supporting renewable energy projects, could also keep costs down.

“The Railbelt is going green, and that’s out of necessity,” he said.

Crime bill

Lawmakers also approved House Bill 66, a sprawling crime bill touching on many elements of the justice system. The bill, originally introduced by the governor, would allow sellers and manufacturers of fentanyl, methamphetamine and other drugs listed on the state’s Schedule IIA to be charged with murder if someone dies from taking their drugs. The administration pitched it as a response to a sharp increase in overdose deaths.

Other provisions would expand involuntary civil commitments to include people who are found incompetent to stand trial on violent felonies if they have a violent history and pose a risk to the public, allow police officers to present hearsay to grand juries and close a loophole in an earlier bill that allowed some sex offenders to avoid registering after moving to Alaska.

“I think these are all positive steps to improve public safety and make wise use of our public safety resources,” said Sen. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage.

The fentanyl bill was a priority for the Republican-led House majority caucus. Rep. Craig Johnson, R-Anchorage, spoke in support on the House floor. The crime bill package also renames “child pornography” to “child sexual abuse material” in state law, also backed by the House majority.

“We spend a lot of time in this body — iPads for prisoners, upgraded food — basically coddling criminals. This is the first bill that I’ve seen in my tenure that actually protects victims. This is one that people can reach out and feel safer about. There are things in here that will save lives,” Johnson said.

But some lawmakers said they had reservations. Sen. Forrest Dunbar, D-Anchorage, said he wasn’t convinced upgrading drug penalties would make a difference.

“It upsets me that, rather than do something genuine that we know could work, like treatment, like mental health, those kinds of approaches, we are taking this thing we’ve been trying now for decades of ratcheting up these drug charges when it has failed to produce the results we want,” Dunbar said. He voted for the bill, saying other provisions were worth supporting.

The ACLU of Alaska said the bill threatened Alaskans’ constitutional rights and would likely be ineffective at addressing the opioid crisis.

Sen. Löki Tobin, D- Anchorage, was the lone Senate vote against the crime bill. She expressed similar concerns to Dunbar, saying she did not expect prison time to meaningfully help people addicted to drugs.

“That was not a hard vote for me,” she said.

The bills passed by the House and Senate now head to the governor’s desk. Once they’re checked for errors and officially transmitted to him, Dunleavy will have 20 days, excluding Sundays, to sign, veto, or allow them to become law without his signature.

Eric Stone covers state government, tracking the Alaska Legislature, state policy and its impact on all Alaskans. Reach him at

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