What happened to the 90-day session? | Community Perspectives – Alaska News

What happened to the 90-day session? | Community Perspectives – Alaska News

News-Miner Community Perspective: 

More than 10 years ago, Alaskans voted to limit the legislative session to 90 days with the hope that the Legislature would finish its work on time and under budget. Since oil prices dropped in 2014, however, the Legislature has been unable to finish the state’s business in 90 days or even 120 days. We have endured extended session after extended session followed by special sessions. Is it time for Alaskans to amend our Cconstitution to establish an effective 90-day limit on legislative sessions?

At the time of statehood in 1959, the Alaska Constitution did not place any limit on the length of the legislative session. With a citizen Legislature, the framers of our constitution believed that the pressures of work and home would provide incentives for legislators to keep sessions short. Initially, the framers were right: The Legislature averaged 86 days in session from 1959 to 1970. When Alaska began receiving substantial oil revenue, however, the Legislature became unable to efficiently finish its work. From 1971 to 1985, the Legislature averaged 141 days in session. So in 1984, Alaskans amended Article II, § 8 of our constitution and limited the session to 120 days. The Legislature responded to the constitutional change and reduced the average length of session from 141 days to 130 days from 1986 to 2007.

With increasing concerns about the cost and length of legislative sessions, a voter initiative in 2006 shortened the session in Alaska statutes to 90 days. Since the voter initiative…

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