- JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - 2:40 p.m.
Multi-year work to reinforce and renovate the aging state Capitol is scheduled to begin again around month's end. Pam Varni, executive director of the Legislative Affairs Agency, says if there's a special session, her agency would work with the contractor on noise issues and work around session times. Varni said the contractor is scheduled to start bringing equipment on April 30 or May 1. She also said by email that many legislators' cars are scheduled to be on Tuesday's cross-Gulf ferry. Gov. Bill Walker hinted at a special session if legislators don't act on Medicaid expansion before they adjourn. He said he'd be inclined to have a special session right after the regular session if one is held but would want to discuss that with legislative leaders.
The Alaska Senate has passed legislation to levy a nearly 1-cent-per-gallon surcharge on refined fuels distributed in the state to help fund an account used for the cleanup of contaminated sites, non-emergency spill response and other activities. Friday's vote was 13-7. Similar legislation, with a 1-cent surcharge, previously narrowly passed the House. The House will have to decide whether to agree with the Senate changes. Current funding includes a 4-cent surcharge on each taxable barrel of oil produced in Alaska and fines, settlements or penalties recovered from those financially responsible for spills. But the state Department of Environmental Conservation says declining oil production has impacted the account. The proposed capital budget package includes $800,000 to help cover a shortfall this year. The surcharge is intended to help cover future costs.
Lawmakers are vetting the governor's nominee for the state board of education.The House Education Committee questioned John Harmon on education issues during a Friday hearing. Members forwarded his name for consideration in a joint session of the Legislature, which is planned for Sunday. Harmon is the principal of Anchorage's Lumen Christi High School, a private catholic school. Gov. Bill Walker appointed him to the board after his prior appointee withdrew from consideration. Harmon said he is generally not a fan of federal mandates, and opposed curriculum pushed by the National Catholic Educational Association at Lumen Christi. Harmon also said he sees the value of assessing student progress, but does not support mandating certain tests. The National Education Association-Alaska has opposed Harmon's nomination.
Gov. Bill Walker says he has revoked his proclamation calling the House and Senate into a joint session to consider his appointments Friday. The House and Senate planned to buck that proclamation, anyway; the Senate voted Thursday to accept the House's invitation to take up the confirmation of Walker's appointments on Sunday. Walker said the cancellation of joint session originally scheduled for Friday, combined with a February legal memo requested by the Senate president's office on what happens if the Legislature doesn't meet to take up appointments, prompted him to issue the proclamation. This, despite leadership telling him they would consider the nominations. Walker said the House speaker and Senate president gave him their word Friday that each of his nominees would get a vote. He says he trusts them.