Alaska lawmakers propose new batch of bills ahead of legislative session

Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, speaks during a Senate floor session in March. Stevens has sponsored Senate Bill 136, which would allow tribes to operate public schools through education compacts with the state. The bill was publicly released on Friday. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

A new bill would allow tribes to operate public schools through education compacts with the state.

It was among 32 measures filed ahead of Alaska’s upcoming legislative session publicly released on Friday.

Kodiak Republican Sen. Gary Stevens, the sponsor of Senate Bill 136 on tribal compact schools, said he expects to work on it during the session.

“This bill as written is just a start,” Stevens said. “And I hope to bring together, you know, educational professionals and tribal leaders to see if there is a way to do this that benefits the students.”

Under the bill, the schools would have to follow most state education laws. But there would be differences: While they would be open to any student, once they reached capacity, they could prioritize enrollment of tribal members. They could also give employment preference to tribal members.

Sen. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Another proposal is Senate Joint Resolution 12, a constitutional amendment to lower the bar for overriding budget vetoes by governors.

Fairbanks Republican Sen. Click Bishop is the sponsor of the amendment. It would lower the share of the Legislature needed for an override to two-thirds from three-quarters.

“That’s a high bar to clear, and I’d like to give the voters an opportunity to see if they think it’s time for a change,” Bishop said.

House State Affairs Committee co-chair Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, questions representatives of the Dunleavy administration at a joint meeting with the Health and Social Services Committee in Juneau on April 2, 2019. The committees were examining procurement procedures that led to a controversial contract to manage the Alaska Psychiatric Institute.
Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

The Legislature didn’t have enough votes to override Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetoes in July. But it passed a second version of the budget that reversed nearly all of his vetoes. And Dunleavy allowed nearly half of the reversals to stand.

Another proposed constitutional amendment, House Joint Resolution 22, would eliminate a requirement that the state pay back money it draws from a piggy bank it’s used to balance the budget, known as the Constitutional Budget Reserve. It’s sponsored by Sitka Democratic Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins.

A bill sponsored by Anchorage Democratic Rep. Geran Tarr would reduce the maximum time allowed to test rape kits from one year to six months. Anchorage Democratic Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson sponsored the Senate version.

Other bills would increase the taxes paid by oil and gas companies; add sexual orientation and gender identity as categories protected against hate crimes; and limit the state’s ability to send prisoners out of state.

Andrew Kitchenman

State Government Reporter, Alaska Public Media & KTOO

State government plays an outsized role in the life of Alaskans. As the state continues to go through the painful process of deciding what its priorities are, I bring Alaskans to the scene of a government in transition.

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