Working Overtime

The Alaska Legislature is heading into the 132nd day of the 2015 session with a few tasks left to complete, including passing a budget before the government shuts down. But how can they still be in session when Alaska voters in 2006 limited the session to 90 days?

It turns out there are a lot of ways for the Legislature to keep working beyond that 90-day deadline.

The first is that the voter-approved initiative did not amend the state constitution, which still mandates a 120-day session. So the Legislature is constitutionally allowed to remain in session for those extra 30 days. They also have the ability to extend that 120-day session by 10 additional days.

After that, the Legislature and the governor are allowed to call for special sessions up to 30 days long. Sometimes, they meet for two special sessions.

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Since the 90-day limit took effect in 2008, the regular session has broken it three times — in 2009, 2014 and 2015. And when the Legislature has managed to finish on time, there have been complaints that the shorter session made for worse governance.

Outside of the regular session, special sessions have been called in five of the eight years since the 90-day limit took effect, meaning the Legislature has only finished all its business in 90 days twice in the last eight years.

There are 19 days left in this year’s second special session.

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