House-Senate conference releases operating budget
JUNEAU (AP) — A tentative agreement on the state operating budget was reached Thursday, moving Alaska legislators one step closer toward adjourning the extended session.
A conference committee reached agreement on the last budget items in dispute between the state House and Senate.
Those included providing an additional $10 million for the University of Alaska system beyond what Gov. Bill Walker had proposed. The university funding was in the middle of what the House and Senate had earlier proposed.
The committee also agreed to provide funding for additional prosecutors and law enforcement positions and to fund 20 new positions to address a backlog of public assistance applications.
The bill will now go to the House and Senate for final consideration.
The operating budget is one of the last major items remaining in the extended legislative session, which lawmakers hope to end soon. Senate President Pete Kelly said lawmakers are aiming to complete their work Saturday.
Other remaining issues include the capital budget and a bill to allow for bonding to pay off the state's remaining oil and gas obligations.
A version of the capital budget has already passed the Senate and was being worked on in the House.
The bonding bill, which previously passed the House, is scheduled for the Senate floor on Friday.
The Senate on Thursday passed legislation rolling several crime bills — including several of Walker's priority bills — into one big package.
Provisions sought by Walker include allowing the attorney general to schedule new drugs as controlled substance by emergency regulation if the attorney general deems that necessary to protect public safety. The bill also would allow judges to consider out-of-state convictions when making pre-trial release decisions.
The additional crime bills were grafted onto a bill that previously passed the House. That means that House will have to decide whether to approve it as is.
Legislators worked past the 90-day, voter-approved session deadline in mid-April. The constitution permits regular sessions of 121 days. That limit would be hit Wednesday.