Lawmakers crafting plan to end session soon if coronavirus comes to Juneau

Alaska State Capitol main entrance, Jan. 23, 2017. (Photo by Skip Gray/KTOO)

Lawmakers are considering ending the session soon if the coronavirus arrives in Juneau.

The Legislative Council formed an emergency response preparedness subcommittee Tuesday that would develop a plan for an early adjournment of the session.

Kodiak Republican Sen. Gary Stevens, the council chair, said the plan could include the possibility of closing the Capitol to the public, or allowing lawmakers to vote by phone.

“The goal is to be prepared to respond should the coronavirus arrive here in Alaska and in Juneau particularly,” Stevens said.

Stevens said there are a limited number of votes that must occur before adjournment.

“We’ve got to pass a budget. That’s the one requirement in the constitution,” he said. “And the second requirement is — or not necessarily a requirement, but a responsibility — is to make sure that we confirm the governor’s appointments or not.”

Stevens said the emergency response preparedness subcommittee plans to hold its first meeting Wednesday in private. He said future meetings will be public.

The subcommittee members include the leaders of both the House and Senate.

The session is 90 days under a 2006 voter-passed initiative, and up to 121 days under the state constitution. Tuesday is day 50. The emergency preparedness response subcommittee could recommend ending the session before the 90 days are up.

The subcommittee members are Stevens; Senate President Cathy Giessel, an Anchorage Republican; House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, a Dillingham independent; rules chairs Sen. John Coghill, a North Pole Republican, and Rep. Chuck Kopp, an Anchorage Republican; and minority leaders Sen. Tom Begich, an Anchorage Democrat; and Rep. Lance Pruitt, an Anchorage Republican.


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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