Pat Forgey

Six members of the Republican-led House majority caucus have rebelled against a plan proposed by their leader to use the Alaska Permanent Fund to balance the state’s budget, and say they would vote against it.

Four Republicans and two Democrats sent House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, a letter urging him to negotiate with the House Democratic minority on a budget deal instead of pursuing an alternative plan that wouldn't require the minority’s approval.

Chenault is currently mired in three-way budget negotiations between his own caucus, the Republican majority in the Senate, and the Democratic minority in the House...

Nathaniel Herz,Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Legislators are deadlocked in the current special session like they were at the end of the regular session, apparently no closer to getting the super-majority vote needed to access the $10 billion in the Constitutional Budget Reserve and balance next year’s budget using that rainy day account.

With the Legislature hoping to spend a little more than $5 billion next year with only $2 billion in revenue, it needs $3 billion to balance the budget. But Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature have been unable to agree on a final budget. Their chief negotiators, House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, and Minority Leader Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, have been blaming each other for the lack of progress...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Top legislators are acknowledging doubts about the legality of moving the special legislative session to Anchorage, but say they are still committed to the move.

And they say they hope Gov. Bill Walker, who called the Legislature into session in Juneau, will be more interested in getting a budget deal than where that deal takes place.

Both Senate President Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, and House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, said Tuesday that they haven't reviewed an opinion by the Legislature’s legal counsel, Doug Gardner, that said a court would likely find an Anchorage meeting improper without Walker's consent.

“That could be a concern, if the governor objects,” Meyer said. “We’re hoping the governor will accept and let us meet in Anchorage.”...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- First, Rep. Sam Kito, D-Juneau, delivered a speech Tuesday on the nearly deserted floor of the House of Representatives, touting Juneau as a site for legislative meetings and urging action on the budget.

Then he threw the session into turmoil.

Or at least as much turmoil as so few representatives can manage. Tuesday’s session was one of the “technical” variety -- normally a quick gavel-in, gavel-out. Technical sessions are called to maintain the constitutional requirement of meeting every three days, but no other work is accomplished.

Kito, who represents the downtown area around the Capitol, used the Tuesday meeting of the House of Representatives to deliver his speech on the special session’s inactivity and its location...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- The Alaska Legislature has announced that it will move its sessions to Anchorage, in defiance of Gov. Bill Walker's special session call for the meetings in the capital.

Members of the Juneau legislative delegation are questioning the legality of the move, as well as the reasons behind it. At a press conference in Anchorage Monday, Walker questioned the move as well.

"As long as I'm governor the capital of the state will be Juneau, and that's where they need to do the state's business," Walker said...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Sealaska Heritage Institute dedicated its gleaming new Walter Soboleff Center on Friday, bringing to life a $20 million dream that it took a decade to complete.

The new cultural center will do something unusual in the world of art and museums -- it will feature the story of Alaska's Native people being told by Alaska Natives themselves.

"This building is much more than a physical facility," said Rosita Worl, president of Sealaska Heritage. "It symbolizes the effort of Native people to ensure our cultural survival, but at the same time selectively embrace the benefits of our modern society."...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- For Alaska's budget stalemate to be resolved, Gov. Bill Walker is going to have to first act on the operating budget bill legislators have sent him, said Senate President Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage.

Only then can lawmakers begin work on a budget, he said. Meyer made his comments to reporters after a minutes-long "technical" session of the Senate on Friday in which the few senators present ran through an agenda with nothing on it and then adjourned.

That left the Senate in technical compliance with the constitutional requirement that it meet every three days to stay in the special session Walker called to address the state budget and other issues...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- While legislators remain deadlocked on budget negotiations, debate continues on another topic of Gov. Bill Walker's special session call: Medicaid expansion.

Republican legislative leaders appear unwilling to back down on the issue of expansion -- one of Walker's campaign promises -- as demonstrated by legislative action and inaction this week.

The action comes in the House of Representatives, where after a week of contentious hearings, the Republican-led Finance Committee announced Thursday it would not be moving forward with the expansion proposal.

In those meetings, the committee discussed how accepting $140 million in federal dollars to expand Medicaid to 20,000 to 40,000 Alaskans could be bad for the state...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- The Alaska Legislature returned from its recess Tuesday, but only a handful of legislators were there and they quickly gaveled out and left the Capitol.

It was, they said, a "technical" session that kept them in compliance with the constitutional requirement that they meet every three days while in session.

At the House and Senate sessions, six representatives and three senators were in attendance, mostly from Southeast.

Gov. Bill Walker wants them to pass a budget that addresses the state's $3 billion budget gap and has called them into special session to do so...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Though a new television cop show in the works is set in Alaska's largest city -- and even features the working title "Anchorage" -- film industry insiders in the state say it's nearly certain the series won't be shot in its namesake locale.

Calling the city of Anchorage "one of the most dangerous cities in America," studio IM Global Television has brought on executive producers with experience in Alaska to develop the show, which is based on the work of a longtime sergeant with the Anchorage Police Department's Vice unit.

Despite the strong ties to the Last Frontier, those in the film industry here aren't optimistic the show will actually be produced in the state...

Pat Forgey