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Longer Alaska legislative session goes to full Senate for vote

Chris SteinThe Christian Science Monitor

JUNEAU -- The state Senate Finance Committee on Monday approved a bill to extend the legislative session, a proposal the sponsor says would save the state money because lawmakers would hold fewer interim committee meetings.

The measure to extend the second half of the two-year session from 90 days to 120 days would also restore power to the legislative branch by keeping members in session longer, said Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, who sponsored the bill.

The Legislative Affairs Agency released an estimate earlier this month that the extra 30 days in the session would cost $863,000 because of extra per diem costs and services for legislators during the session.

However, Tim Lamkin, legislative aide to Stevens, said the bill would cost the state less because committee meetings during the interim, and associated travel expenses, end up costing as much or more than the longer session.

The Legislature formerly held 120-day sessions each year. Voters in 2006 passed a ballot measure to shorten the sessions.

According to a survey by the Session Evaluation Task Force, 20 of the 31 House members supported returning the session to its prior length. Members were surveyed online and could submit answers anonymously.

The bill awaits a vote on the Senate floor. A similar measure in the House awaits consideration by the Finance Committee.