Alaska legislators seek to change campaign contribution limits, permanent fund trustees

The Alaska House of Representatives meets for the first day of the Legislature's third special session this year in the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau on Aug. 16, 2021. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO and Alaska Public Media)
The Alaska House of Representatives meets for the Legislature’s third special session of 2021 in the Capitol. On Friday, the first batch of pre-filed bills for 2022 was released. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO and Alaska Public Media)

Bills to bring back political campaign contribution limits and change how Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation trustees are appointed were among the first batch of legislation filed ahead of the session. 

There were 43 bills and five constitutional amendments proposed by House members 15 bills and one amendment proposed by senators.

Anchorage Republican Sen. Roger Holland proposed Senate Bill 145, which would prevent legislators from receiving per diem payments if they fail to pass a budget by the 121st day of the regular session. 

“There’s incredible motivation, or there could be incredible motivation, for people not to finish the budget on time to collect per diem,” he said.

Per diems would resume after they pass the budget, but would not be paid retroactively to cover the time between the session end and the budget passing. 

Legislators passed a law in 2018 saying they couldn’t receive per diems until after they pass a budget. But lawmakers and the Legislature’s legal adviser interpreted it to mean that they could be paid per diems retroactively once they passed the budget. The law’s sponsor said that wasn’t the intent of the law

Legislators’ per diems could be reduced under a recent proposal by the State Officers Compensation Commission. 

Different bills would raise legal limits on campaign contributions to individual candidates. That previous limit of $500 was struck down by a judge for being too restrictive. Anchorage Reps. Andy Josephson, a Democrat, and Calvin Schrage, an independent, and Anchorage Democratic Sen. Bill Wielechowski proposed the bills.

Schrage said his bill would allow the Legislature and the public to affect what the new limits should be. The Alaska Public Office Commission staff has proposed limits that could go into effect this year.

“With the recent court ruling, it’s incredibly important that Alaskans have a chance to weigh in on those APOC limits and, you know, as legislators representing our constituents in Alaska, I think that we should address this issue,” he said. 

Another measure, House Bill 251, would create a new committee that would appoint the public members of the permanent fund board of trustees. The governor currently appoints all of the board members, but the bill would give legislative leaders a say. The bill also would expand the number of public members, from four to six, and increase the length of their terms from four years to six years. Josephson proposed the bill. 

Other bills include measures to protect the fund that pays for university scholarships and grants, as well as for medical education; increase the pay of state workers; and change the permanent fund dividend formula. 

Few pre-filed bills have become laws in recent years. The session is scheduled to begin on Jan. 18. 

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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