Midnight Wednesday is quickly approaching, but things are in gridlock. The 120-day legislative session clock is about to expire, and the House and Senate have no agreement on the budget. I know it is frustrating for you to read this, and I’m guessing you cringe when you hear the news reports. I am not at all happy about it either. If it were up to me, we would be done – but of course it is not as there are 60 legislators.

What’s Next?

It’s doubtful there will be the votes to extend the session by ten days which is permitted under the constitution. It is more likely that the governor will call the legislature into a special session. That’s when another clock begins to tick. The government shut-down clock. If agreement isn’t reached to pass a balanced budget before the new fiscal year begins on July 1, only critical operations will continue (troopers, correctional officers, etc.) until one is.

Oh, the Rift

What’s the rift? In two words (well, a word and an acronym): the PFD. The Senate Majority wants a small PFD and ongoing access to the PFD for government spending without a spending cap. The House Majority wants a moderate PFD and a fiscal plan set in motion which includes a spending cap and settling the PFD once and for all.

The Senate Majority promised House leadership, as well as told the press, that it would not cook up a “turducken” by stuffing the capital budget into the operating budget. When it didn’t get the House to agree to its lower PFD, however, the Finance chefs headed to the kitchen and did it anyway. The House is tired of what they view as unfair play by the Senate, the seventh year to boot. Normally the operating budget begins in the House and is passed over to the Senate, while the capital budget begins in the Senate and passes over to the House. This year, however, the Senate never passed the capital budget to the House. The “turducken” bill doesn’t give the House a chance to vet and amend the capital budget as they see fit.

The “turducken” bill is expected to be taken up today in the Senate and will be sent to the House for an up/down vote, a take it or leave it vote. This approach does not allow the House the ability to make any changes to the capital budget. I objected to and voted against the adoption of the “turducken” committee substitute along with my Senate Minority members as it removes the check and balance of the House to the Senate as intended in the constitution. All Senate Majority members voted to adopt the “turducken” version, so it is the bill currently before the Senate.

Wish They Knew It Really Is All About the Children

Lots of bills are moving but probably the most significant bill last week in the Senate was the education bill SB52. I proposed amendment after amendment to direct school funds to improving student outcomes by directing the dollars specifically to teachers and classroom instruction, but despite the few brave souls (including both minority and majority members) who stood with me, the amendments failed.

Even though proficiency rates in all grades and all subjects hover around only 30% statewide, too many senators turned a blind eye to a golden opportunity. To address the funding but not address the system failure is an abdication of legislative constitutional duty according to the 2007 Moore v. State of Alaska ruling.

Anyone who just cares about the dollars and not the system, cares more about the overall adults in the district system than the students and the teachers tasked to help them. I’ve got news for anyone reading this: I’m all about the students and am not a lackey for the NEA. Teachers and families, I want you to know that I fought for you. Although I am heartsick there weren’t the votes to take the bull by the horns for the sake of our most precious resource, our children, I’m not giving up – and this song keeps running through my head: “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down.”

The views expressed here are those of the author.

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OPINION: Rift in Alaska Legislature signals likelihood of a special session

Shelley Hughes
Shelley Hughes serves as an Alaska state senator from Palmer.


  • Friend of Humanity says:

    Is Resident O’biden’s wife traveling to Bethel for other things besides encouraging high-speed internet? Are the gridlocks we are experiencing in our legislative sessions throwing wrenches in some globalist plans? I think it is just so odd for O’biden’s wife to be coming to Alaska just to talk about high speed internet. Is she there to threaten or pay off some Bethel reps (i.e. Hoffman) and the reps who are friends with them (i.e. Murkowski who has Hoffman relatives working for her, Peltola)?

  • Neil A DeWitt says:

    Senator Hughes, wrote a very good article in her news letter to her district people. Every Alaskan should read it. One side don’t wantbto hear what the truth is so they get the votes together so it doesn’t even get to be talked about. That’s what is going on in Juneau. It’s time if fir nothing else but to save money to MOVE THE CAPITAL to Anchorage or as voted on 3 times in last 39 years Willow. That way people can do their own bidding and see the crap going on during session. (nothing). Anyone notice we don’t hear about the parties, bowling or anything else like the page Boys. coming out of Juneau anylonger. Did that all stop after being exposed? The call girls won’t be happy if the capital moves. The biggest argument is in Juneau they know when a wife is coming in or something is going to happen well in advance. In Anchorage there’s no late night parties with the secretary or pages. A lot would change under the watchful eye of the public. We might actually get finished with a session on time. I’m not holding my breath waiting for tgat to happen. Well I guess it’s pay raise of 67%. People don’t care what elected officials are doing as long as we don’t see it. They should do tge same with their LGBTQ+ agenda, keep it out of site.

  • Proud Alaskan says:

    Send everyone home! pull the turducken out of the oven let it rest until next year.
    You get what you voted for, weak woke afraid republicans in sheep clothing. Who are eaten alive by democrats.

  • Proud Alaskan says:

    It’s the Law to a full PFD
    What don’t you understand?

  • Star Theodore says:

    My father, Karl Hein, gave his life bringing oil to Alaska. He was only 47 years old when he was killed at work on the North Slope. He left behind a 35 year old wife and 6 children from the age of 4 to 13.
    He turns over in his grave to see the residents of Alaska being ripped off by money hungry politicians. Do Alaska right, stop the steal of the PFD. It was NEVER set forth to fund the government.

  • DaveMaxwell says:

    As far as I’m concerned hughes is a fraud! And apparently irrelevant as far as influence and negotiation skills! She has been in the swamp for around ten years with very little achievements! The game she plays is lose and then report to the people that they are going to get screwed and somehow it’s their fault for not voting better! Understand that I am equally pissed at the other 59 as well but hughes represents me and I’m not bashful about letting her hear truth! If I were her I would stop wasting my time, that is paid for by taxes, including outrageous raises, I would spend my time being a thorn in dunleavy’s rear end and daily walk over to the gov mansion and demand dunleavy to repeal everything using his red pen aggressively! Then ms hughes report on that and shame the hell out of this shell of a man! Your wasting our time and money! Nothing to show but incompetent uselessness! This is the reality of things, and I don’t care if you don’t agree!

  • Shelia says:

    The problem seems to lie with those who control the finance committees in both the House and the Senate, especially the Senate. The problem isn’t the governor, it is in the make up of the legislature, which has no term limits. This allows certain legislators to acquire massive power and wield that power as they will or see fit. Until the legislature faces term limits the same as the executive branch, expect just what is happening. And there is nothing the governor can do except wait for his chance to red line the completed document. Politics is a game of negotiation. Power is in the hands of the long-time senators and representatives. Observe Rep. Bryce Edgmon and Senator Bert Stedman as two prime examples.

    • DaveMaxwell says:

      Shelia why don’t you wait to go into defensive mode for your uncle dunleavy until he has his opportunity to red line, and fails to do so! You and yours will be exposed when the fruit of your deception is seen!

  • Friend of Humanity says:

    Alaska Legislature needs to listen to President Trump. Check this video out!

  • Sensible Citizen says:

    The problem is that educational institutions have always been and continue to be vast wasters of taxpayer dollars. Program, program, program is all you ever hear from educators yet the product, student achievement, sinks further into the cesspool of the non-achievement abyss. NEA remains and has always been the best friend of the liberal wing and they’re afraid (gutless Juneau Democrats) of losing their votes. It’s pure politics and bedamned to the average citizen of Alaska. Very sad. The PFD belongs in the pocket of all Alaskans not in the unruly hands of the NEA membership.