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Alaska Legislature

Alaska Legislature gives Gov. Dunleavy sweeping powers to deal with coronavirus emergency

The Alaska Capitol in Juneau on March 6, 2020. (James Brooks / ADN)

JUNEAU — The Alaska Legislature almost unanimously early Sunday passed emergency legislation allowing the state to address the public health and economic problems created by the coronavirus pandemic.

Once signed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, the legislation will give his administration broad authority to spend money and enforce public health mandates. On the economic front, the bill temporarily pauses foreclosures, evictions, vehicle repossessions and utility shutoffs for Alaskans who can prove they have been economically harmed by the pandemic.

“This is not the time for Alaskan business owners to be taking advantage of those who are disadvantaged,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, D-Anchorage.

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The only votes cast against the proposal came from Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, and Sen. Mike Shower, R-Wasilla. Each said he believes it infringes upon the rights of individual Alaskans.

At its core, the bill extends the governor’s March 11 declaration of a state emergency through Nov. 15. The governor can cancel it earlier if circumstances warrant.

While the emergency is in effect, an extensive set of rules is in effect:

• A landlord can’t evict a tenant who can’t pay rent because of COVID-19. A tenant must swear a statement under oath to be eligible. The renter still has to pay the rent eventually, and landlords can still evict people for other reasons.

• The state can’t foreclose on a loan.

• Home foreclosures are paused.

• Auto, aircraft and boat foreclosures are paused.

• Utilities can’t cut off water, sewer, electricity, phone or internet service to people who can’t pay because of COVID-19. The debt doesn’t go away.

• Businesses can’t raise prices more than 10% when compared to “normal course of business” prices before March 11. Fuel increases are excepted.

• The Alaska Department of Elections can hold all elections by mail if the lieutenant governor deems it necessary to protect public health.

• Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer, has the ability to require businesses to abide by rules for cleanliness.

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