With a day left in the Alaska legislative session, here’s what lawmakers are focused on

JUNEAU — With a day remaining until Alaska’s regular legislative session must end, lawmakers on Tuesday debated energy, education, elections, and crime legislation.

With the state budget all but settled, the fate of key legislation was expected to be determined in the final 24 hours of the session. The operating budget advanced on Tuesday to a final vote scheduled on the last day of the regular session. Legislative leaders agreed on Tuesday to pay a combined Permanent Fund dividend and energy relief check of roughly $1,650 per eligible Alaskan this year.

A flurry of other bills passed on Tuesday between the House and Senate. Lobbyists, legislative aides and Dunleavy administration officials crowded the Capitol hallways, working to ensure that their priorities passed before the legislative session ends.

[Alaska Legislature set to approve a $1,650 combined PFD and energy relief payment]

Here is where things stood on the major policy items as of Tuesday evening:


On Tuesday afternoon, the House passed a bill that would create an integrated energy transmission system along the Railbelt — legislation that was a priority for Gov. Mike Dunleavy and one of two key provisions that lawmakers said was meant to ensure consistent energy supply in the region amid an expected decline in Cook Inlet natural gas production.

House Bill 307 passed the House in a 36-4 vote, and heads next to the Senate, which has indicated it would support the measure.


The bill is part of an agreement between the chambers on key energy legislation, under which the House and Senate have agreed to pass the transmission bill alongside a bill that would create a state framework for storing carbon dioxide deep underground. The Senate passed that measure, House Bill 50, on an 18-2 vote on Wednesday evening, sending it to the House for final approval.

“This bill is about bringing new revenue and new opportunities to Alaska,” said Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, when presenting the bill before the final Senate vote.

But it’s unclear how much revenue carbon sequestration would generate for the state. A provision was added to the measure to prevent oil and gas producers from deducting carbon sequestration expenses from their oil tax obligations.

As House Bill 50 has advanced through the legislative process, it has picked up several measures intended to address the looming Cook Inlet gas shortfall.

One provision would allow the Alaska Industrial and Export Authority, or AIDEA, to issue loans based on natural gas reserves leased by producers. The loans are intended to incentivize smaller gas producers, such as BlueCrest, to develop proven reserves.

Supporters say that could be a key piece in developing more gas in Cook Inlet. Rep. Will Stapp, a Fairbanks Republican, was skeptical and said the state would essentially be taking all the risk.

“It’s our oil and gas,” he said. “So we’re going to allow a company to use our oil and gas to take out a loan from us.”

Meanwhile, the transmission bill would stop regional electric utilities from charging each other certain fees for using their infrastructure, known as wheeling rates. Rep. George Rauscher, a Sutton Republican who chairs the House Energy Committee, said the bill would ensure “all stakeholders contribute their fair share” and “encourage competition” that will ultimately lead to lower energy costs for Alaska consumers.

Rep. Alyse Galvin, an Anchorage independent, said the bill presented “a unique opportunity” to send a message to the separate utilities “to play in the same sandbox, together.”

The Railbelt’s regional electric utilities have been split on the measure. Homer Electric Association opposed the proposal, leading three Kenai Peninsula lawmakers — Republicans Rep. Ben Carpenter of Nikiski, Rep. Justin Ruffridge of Soldotna and Rep. Sarah Vance of Homer — to vote against it.

Vance and Ruffridge said the bill could incentivize a move toward renewable energy production, rather than a focus on increasing natural gas production. Carpenter called the policy a “socialist concept.”

Conservative lawmakers from other parts of the state spoke in favor of it.

“Twenty years ago, we were having the same conversation. It’s time to take action. It’s time to move on,” said Anchorage Republican Rep. Craig Johnson.


More than a month after an Anchorage Superior Court judge ruled correspondence schools serving nearly 23,000 Alaskans were violating the state constitution by spending public funds at private and religious schools, lawmakers have yet to adopt legislation providing a path forward to ensure the schools can continue operating.

A bill proposed by Ruffridge would instruct the state board of education, whose members are appointed by Dunleavy, to enact temporary regulations that would expire next year, allowing the Legislature to amend its response to the court ruling in case the state supreme court overturns Zeman’s decision.

House Bill 400 was adopted by the House Finance Committee on Monday, but lawmakers had not scheduled it for a floor vote as of 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Ruffridge said Tuesday the legislation could pass before the legislative session concludes.

Sen. Löki Tobin, an Anchorage Democrat who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said the Senate was waiting on the House to act on Ruffridge’s bill. A competing proposal she had authored — which would have instructed the board of education to write permanent, more prescriptive regulations rather than temporary ones, had stalled in the Senate.


“The feeling in the building is we want to provide stability. I would like to provide certainty. But at this point, if stability is what I’m offered, stability is what I’m going to give our homeschool families,” said Tobin.

Despite the delay in scheduling the education legislation for a final vote, Tobin said she is “confident” that lawmakers “want to figure out a solution.”

Ever since Dunleavy vetoed an education bill earlier this year that would have permanently increased school funding by around $175 million per year, some lawmakers have pushed for the provision to pass again in another bill.

This year’s budget includes a one-time $175 million education funding boost, but not the permanent increase, which could be added to education-related legislation on the House or Senate floor — something Minority Leader Calvin Schrage, an Anchorage independent, has said he would support doing.

“That would still be my goal,” Schrage said on Tuesday.

But Tobin said the Senate would not propose adding the permanent funding increase to existing legislation to get it across the finish line, “especially after what happened with (Senate Bill 140),” she said, referring to the bill that Dunleavy vetoed.

The bipartisan Senate majority on Tuesday made a last-minute, longshot attempt to enact one of their top legislative priorities: reestablishing a public sector pension for state employees and teachers.

Anchorage Republican Sen. Cathy Giessel introduced the entire 52-page pension bill as an amendment to an education bill intended to get more out-of-state and retired teachers working in Alaska. The amendment was added to the bill after extended debate, but it was then removed following a long break without explanation.


Another provision was added instead to the education bill that was proposed by Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski. It would pay teachers with a national certification a $5,000 bonus. The education bill advanced unanimously to the House on Tuesday evening.


The Senate debated a tough-on-crime bill on Tuesday that has broad support in the Legislature.

House Bill 66 was introduced last year by Dunleavy to impose longer prison sentences on drug offenses as a way to address the state’s fentanyl crisis. Supporters have said that could act as a deterrent on traffickers bringing fentanyl to Alaska. But opponents have said longer sentences will incarcerate more drug users for longer.

Anchorage Democratic Sen. Matt Claman combined several provisions from other bills to ensure support for the bill in the House and Senate. The omnibus crime bill now has longer prison sentences for stalking and the imposition of “some additional jail time” for repeated violations of conditions of release from prison — among other changes.

The ACLU of Alaska has opposed key elements in the bills. The civil rights law firm raised constitutional concerns about extending involuntary commitment periods in the Alaska Psychiatric Institute to a maximum of two years.

The omnibus crime bill would also expand what evidence is admissible in grand jury proceedings. Under the bill, the law enforcement officer involved in a criminal investigation could testify in felony cases to help secure an indictment.

Wasilla Republican Sen. David Wilson tried to limit that change to crimes like murder and sexual assault, but he was overruled. He has said the crime bill is overly focused on prosecutions, and that several provisions would disproportionately impact low-income Alaskans and minorities.

“I want criminals to be held accountable. But at the same time, I want them to have due process, because we don’t always get it right,” Wilson said in an interview on Sunday.

A provision added to the bill would require the Department of Law to study why Alaska Natives and Black Alaskans are disproportionately incarcerated in Alaska.

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, the crime bill had been rolled to the bottom of the Senate’s calendar, waiting for a final vote to advance it to the House.


The Senate Finance Committee advanced on Thursday an elections omnibus bill that would enable the state to cull voter rolls, allow voters to fix errors in absentee ballots once they are submitted, require a legal disclaimer on election ads that include artificial intelligence generated images of candidates, instruct the Division of Elections to protect voter information from cybersecurity attacks; and allow the state’s campaign finance regulator to track candidates’ use of campaign funds for legal fees.

The committee advanced the bill from the committee despite opposition from the sponsor of the underlying bill, Homer Republican Vance. When the bill passed the House, it included only provisions to remove inactive voters from Alaska’s voter rolls. Vance told the Senate Finance Committee that the expanded version of the bill would not have her support, making it unclear if the bill could pass the House — even if the Senate took its final vote on it.


The provisions in the election bill have mostly been vetted by both the House and Senate. Both in 2022 and in 2023, lawmakers came close to adopting election bills that included some similar provisions but ultimately failed to get the bills across the finish line.

The Senate was scheduled to vote on the bill Tuesday night, setting up the potential for the House to vote on the measure on Wednesday.

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Iris Samuels

Iris Samuels is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News focusing on state politics. She previously covered Montana for The AP and Report for America and wrote for the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact her at

Sean Maguire

Sean Maguire is a politics and general assignment reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Juneau. He previously reported from Juneau for Alaska's News Source. Contact him at