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By RASHAH MCCHESNEY
Associated Press 

Final weeks of the legislature see much work still needed

Lawmakers still hashing out details on spending during ongoing budget crunch

 


The Alaska Legislature is entering what is scheduled to be its last two weeks, with major bills yet to be resolved as lawmakers face a multibillion-dollar budget deficit.

The House and Senate finance committees plan to meet two, sometimes three times a day, during the upcoming week. As time winds down, here are a few things to watch for:

BUDGET

The Senate Finance Committee plans to take up the capital budget midweek. The budget, once eagerly anticipated by legislators as a way to get funding for infrastructure projects back home, has been pared back significantly the last two years as the state struggles with a massive deficit.

The committee is planning to hold meetings Wednesday and Thursday.

The Legislature also still needs to finalize the state operating budget. House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, said negotiators to hash out differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget likely will be chosen Monday or Tuesday.

DAYLIGHT SAVING

The House State Affairs Committee is dusting off a bill that would eliminate daylight saving time. The bill passed the Senate last year but stalled in the House.

It would exempt the state from observing daylight saving time and ask the federal transportation department to change the time zone in Alaska to the Pacific standard time zone.

Now, the state is four hours behind the East Coast. Sen. Anna MacKinnon, R-Eagle River, raised concerns that exempting the state could increase the time displacement from financial markets.

The committee is scheduled to hear the bill Thursday.

CRIME BILL

The Senate Finance Committee plans to keep working this week on a sweeping crime bill meant to overhaul the state criminal justice system.

The prison population has grown so quickly that Alaska could surpass its prison-bed capacity by 2017, according to a report by a state criminal justice commission. Rather than spending several hundred million dollars to build a new prison, Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, is pushing a bill that would implement broad reforms suggested by the commission.

 

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