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No special session yet on supplemental PFD, Gov. Dunleavy says

  • Author: James Brooks
  • Updated: September 28, 2019
  • Published September 27, 2019

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks at a press conference on September 26, 2019. Dunleavy issued a new administrative order requiring all unionized public employees to “opt in” to their union if they want to continue being a part of the union. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy said Friday that he is withholding any decision on another legislative special session until a vacant Alaska Senate seat is filled.

On the same day, Dunleavy appointed Rep. Josh Revak, R-Anchorage, to the vacancy, but it is not yet clear whether Republican senators will confirm that pick. The governor’s first option, Rep. Laddie Shaw, R-Anchorage, failed to garner the approval he needed.

The uncertainty over Senate District M has transferred itself to broader uncertainty over the Legislature’s course for the remainder of the year.

Dunleavy continues to support a Permanent Fund dividend paid using the traditional formula in state law, but lawmakers this year chose a lower PFD amount, announced Friday as $1,606 per eligible Alaskan.

“I and many others view this as a partial payment, not a full PFD, and we will continue to fight for a complete statutory dividend going into this fall,” the governor said in an August speech.

“I anticipate a special session this fall to complete this process. I’ll introduce legislation to provide for a full statutory PFD through a payment from the earnings reserve account,” the governor said in August.

No special session has been called, however, and “certainly, the days are ticking off the calendar,” the governor said to reporters Friday.

“I don’t have a self-imposed deadline as to if we don’t have a special session by a certain date, we’re not going to have one,” the governor said.

Nothing prevents the governor from calling a special session with the seat still vacant, but he said he wants that district to be represented during the session.

“We want to have representation from that district,” he said. “We want to have a full contingent of 20 senators available.”

If Revak’s Senate appointment is confirmed, that would open a vacancy in the House. Asked if he would call a special session while that House seat remains vacant, the governor said only, “We’re going to have to move quickly.”

State law requires that the governor give lawmakers 30 days’ notice before starting a special session, and all special sessions last 30 days unless manually adjourned in less time. Friday was the last day the governor could have called a special session and still have its full 30-day length fit into the calendar before Thanksgiving.

According to legislative records, Alaska has never had a special session overlap either the Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays: In 2017, 2015, 2007, 2006 and 1973, special sessions took place partially or wholly in November, but all were either deliberately scheduled to end before Thanksgiving or adjourned early.

A special session has begun in November only once (2006), and the Legislature has never been in session in December.