Alaska State Legislature

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Alaska State Legislature

Seal of Alaska.jpg
General Information
Type:   State legislature
Term limits:   None
2015 session start:   January 21, 2014
Website:   Official Legislature Page
Senate President:   Kevin Meyer (R)
House Speaker:  Mike Chenault (R)
Majority Leader:   John B. Coghill (R) (Senate),
Charisse Millett (R) (House)
Minority Leader:   Berta Gardner (D) (Senate),
Chris Tuck (D) (House)
Members:  20 (Senate), 40 (House)
Length of term:   4 years (Senate), 2 years (House)
Authority:   Art II, Alaska Constitution
Salary:   $50,400/year + per diem
Last Election:  November 6, 2012
10 seats (Senate)
40 seats (House)
Next election:  November 4, 2014
Redistricting:  Alaska Redistricting Board
Meeting place:
Alaska capitol.jpg
The Alaska State Legislature is the legislative branch of the government of Alaska. It is a bicameral institution, consisting of the lower Alaska House of Representatives, with 40 members, and the upper house Alaska State Senate, with 20 members. With a total of 60 lawmakers, the Alaska Legislature is the smallest bicameral state legislature in the United States, due to factors including the geographic size of the state, and the state's small population.

The Alaska Legislature meets in the State Capitol building in Juneau.[1]

As of May 2015, Alaska is one of 23 Republican state government trifectas.

See also: Alaska House of Representatives, Alaska State Senate, Alaska Governor


Section 8 of Article II of the Alaska Constitution contains provisions relating to the timing and length of sessions. However, the provisions related to the convening date of the Legislature have been changed by law, and the provisions limiting the length of legislative sessions have been changed by the Alaska 90-Day Legislative Session Amendment. This amendment was passed in a 2006 ballot initiative, and it limits the regular sessions of the Legislature to ninety days.

Section 9 of Article II allows for special sessions to be called by the Governor of Alaska or by a two-thirds vote of the legislators. Special sessions are limited to 30 days.


See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions

In 2014, the Legislature was in session from January 21 to April 20.

Major issues

Major issues in the 2014 legislative session included education, the state budget, high energy prices and a natural gas pipeline.[2]


See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the Legislature was in session from January 15 to April 14.

Major issues

Major issues during the 2013 legislative session included oil tax reform, state agency performance reviews and a budget for fiscal year 2014.[3][4]


See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the Legislature was in regular session from January 17 to April 15. It was in special session from April 15 to April 30.[5]

Major issues

Legislators took up Governor Sean Parnell's (R) suggestion to decrease the oil tax in order to increase economic growth. They also considered a ban on texting while driving, education funding, the state's unfunded pension liability, and whether to extend the legislative session from 90 to 120 days.[6]


See also: Dates of 2011 state legislative sessions

In 2011, the Legislature was in session from January 18 to April 17. Lawmakers remained in Juneau from April 18 to May 14 to resolve ongoing disagreements over the state's operating budget; the final compromise included money for a new in-state natural gas pipeline and a $20 million payout to the state's schools.[7]

A second special session was held from June 27 to 28 to discuss reauthorization of the state's Coastal Management Program, which was set to expire June 30. Measures to reauthorize the program failed during the regular session.[8] The program ended on schedule after the House failed to pass a Senate proposal to save it.[9]


See also: Dates of 2010 state legislative sessions

In 2010, the Legislature was in session from January 19th to April 18th.

Role in state budget

See also: Alaska state budget

The state operates on an annual budget cycle, with the fiscal year beginning July 1 and ending June 30. The sequence of key events in the budget process is as follows:[10][11]

  1. Budget instructions are sent to state agencies in July.
  2. Agencies submit their budget requests to the governor in October.
  3. Agency budget hearings are held from September through November.
  4. The governor submits his or her proposed budget to the state legislature by December 15.
  5. The legislature adopts a budget by a simple majority in April.

The governor is required by statute to submit a balanced budget. Likewise, the legislature is required by statute to pass a balanced budget.[11]

Alaska is one of 44 states in which the governor has line item veto authority.[11][12]


For the fiscal year 2010, Alaska faced a $1.3 billion budget gap.[13] Alaska’s estimated fiscal year 2011 shortfall was reportedly $677 million.[14] The steep decline in oil prices, the state’s dominant source of revenue, ended their historical annual surplus requiring dipping into its special reserve fund of approximately $8 billion.[15]

The tight economic climate in 2010 also prompted the Legislative Finance Division to complete the Budget Clarification Project, which involved rolling $750 million in "other funds" in to the General Operating Fund in an effort to promote transparency and prevent unnecessary earmark spending.[16] As a result of the project, the Division discovered several State departments had been routinely siphoning money from the Alaska State Permanent Fund to pay for departmental expenses.[17]

Cost-benefit analyses

See also: Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative Cost-Benefit Study
Map showing results of the Pew-MacArthur cost-benefit study.

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative released a report in July 2013 indicating that cost-benefit analysis in policymaking led to more effective uses of public funds. Looking at data from 2008 through 2011, the study's authors found that some states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis, while others were facing challenges and lagging behind the rest of the nation. The challenges states faced included a lack of time, money and technical skills needed to conduct comprehensive cost-benefit analyses. Alaska was one of 29 states with mixed results regarding the frequency and effectiveness in its use of cost-benefit analysis.[18]

Ethics and transparency

Following the Money report

See also: "Following the Money" report, 2014

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer-focused nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., released its annual report on state transparency websites in April 2014. The report, entitled "Following the Money," measured how transparent and accountable state websites are with regard to state government spending.[19] According to the report, Alaska received a grade of F and a numerical score of 43, indicating that Alaska was "failing" in terms of transparency regarding state spending.[19]

Open States Transparency

See also: Open States' Legislative Data Report Card

The Sunlight Foundation released an "Open Legislative Data Report Card" in March 2013. Alaska was given a grade of B in the report. The report card evaluated how adequate, complete and accessible legislative data was to the general public. A total of 10 states received an A: Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.[20]

Non-professional Legislature

Unlike other state legislatures with longer sessions, the comparatively short Alaska session allows many lawmakers to retain outside employment, especially in the state's many seasonal industries, such as fishing and tourism. In this, the Alaska Legislature retains some of the volunteer nature that characterized most state legislatures until the middle of the 20th century. This has led to recurring but minor controversy around the potential for conflict of interest inherent in legislators' outside employment.



In keeping with the section above, many lawmakers retain employment outside of the legislature. However, Alaska's Constitution requires that legislators be paid a salary from the state and allows for a per diem and other allowances. Legislators receive a salary of $50,400 dollars as recommended by the State Officers Compensation Commission. In addition to the salary, presiding officers (the Senate President and Speaker of the House) receive another $500.[21]

The per diem rate is $238 or $253/day, tied to federal rate, varying with time of year. Legislators who live in the Juneau area receive 75% of federal rate.. An annual allowance is appropriated for secretarial services, postage, and stationery. Moving expenses are covered by the state.[22]

When sworn in

See also: When state legislators assume office after a general election

The terms of Alaska legislators begin on the 4th Monday of the January following a November election.


See also: Alaska State Senate elections, 2010, Partisan composition of state senates

The Alaska Senate is the upper house in the Alaska Legislature. The Senate consists of 20 members. Each member represents an average of 35,512 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[23] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 31,347.[24] Senators serve four-year terms, without term limits. Half of the Alaska Senate is up for re-election every two years. With just 20 Senators, the Alaska Senate is the smallest legislative chamber in the United States.

Like other upper houses of state and territorial legislatures and the federal U.S. Senate, the Senate can confirm or reject gubernatorial appointments to the state cabinet, commissions and boards.

Party As of May 2015
     Democratic Party 6
     Republican Party 14
Total 20

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Alaska State Senate from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the Alaska State Senate.PNG

House of Representatives

See also: Alaska House of Representatives elections, 2010

The Alaska House of Representatives is the lower house in the Alaska Legislature. The House is composed of 40 members. Each member represents an average of 17,756 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[25] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 15,673.[26] Members serve two-year terms without term limits. With 40 Representatives, the Alaskan House is the smallest state legislative lower house in the United States.

Party As of May 2015
     Democratic Party 16
     Republican Party 23
     Independent 1
Total 40

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Alaska State House of Representatives from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the Alaska State House.PNG


Partisan balance 1992-2013

Who Runs the States Project
See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States and Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Alaska
Partisan breakdown of the Alaska legislature from 1992-2013

Alaska Senate: From 1992-2013, the Republican Party was the majority in the Alaska State Senate for 15 years while the Democrats were the majority for six years. The final three years of the study depicted a shift in the Alaska senate with the first two years being Democrat and the final year (2013) becoming a Republican trifecta.

Across the country, there were 541 Democratic and 517 Republican state senates from 1992 to 2013.

Alaska House of Representatives: From 1992-2013, the Republican Party was the majority in the Alaska State House of Representatives for 19 years while the Democrats were the majority for three years. The Alaska State House is one of nine state Houses that was Republican for more than 80 percent of the years between 1992-2013. In the final year of the study (2013), the Alaska House became a Republican trifecta.

Across the country, there were 577 Democratic and 483 Republican State Houses of Representatives from 1992 to 2013.

Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states had divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Office of the Governor of Alaska, the Alaska State Senate and the Alaska House of Representatives from 1992-2013. Partisan composition of Alaska state government(1992-2013).PNG

SQLI and partisanship

The chart below depicts the partisanship of the Alaska state government and the state's SQLI ranking for the years studied. For the SQLI, the states were ranked from 1-50, with 1 being the best and 50 the worst. The only trifecta in Alaska, a Republican trifecta, occurred between the years 2003 and 2006, as well as 2013. The state never had a Democratic trifecta between 1992 and 2012. Between 1995-2002 and 2007-2012, Alaska had divided government. Alaska never placed in the top-10 or bottom-10 in the SQLI ranking. Alaska’s highest SQLI ranking (16th) occurred during divided government, in 2002, while its lowest ranking (37th) occurred in 2011, also under divided government.

  • SQLI average with Democratic trifecta: N/A
  • SQLI average with Republican trifecta: 32
  • SQLI average with divided government: 23.27
Chart displaying the partisanship of Alaska government from 1992-2013 and the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI).

Joint legislative committees

The Alaska State Legislature has the following joint standing committees and joint select committee:

External links


  1. Session dates for Alaska legislature, 2010
  2., "Alaska lawmakers prepare for first legislative session of 2014," accessed January 22, 2014
  3. Anchorage Daily News, "Oil taxes the top agenda for next legislature," January 13, 2013
  4., "Alaska Legislative Session Adjourns," April 15, 2013
  5. StateScape, Session schedules, accessed April 30, 2012
  6. Anchorage Daily News, "Lingering issues to test Legislature," January 16, 2012
  7. Juneau Empire, "Operating budget agreement helps clear way to end of session," May 4, 2011
  8., Session Updates, accessed June 28, 2011
  9. Anchorage Daily News, "House votes down bill to save coastal management program," June 28, 2011
  10. National Conference of State Legislatures, "State Experiences with Annual and Biennial Budgeting," updated April 2011
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 National Association of State Budget Officers, "Budget Processes in the States, Summer 2008," accessed February 21, 2014
  12. NCSL, "Gubernatorial Veto Authority with Respect to Major Budget Bill(s)," accessed March 2, 2014
  13. Center on Budget & Policy Priorities, "New Fiscal Year Brings No Relief From Unprecedented State Budget Problems," September 3, 2009
  14. Center on Budget & Policy Priorities, "New Fiscal Year Brings No Relief From Unprecedented State Budget Problems," September 3, 2009
  15. Alaska Journal of Commerce, “Parnell says he'll tackle state budget planning with care,” September 18, 2009
  16. Alaska Watchdog, "State rolls millions in to general fund," July 15, 2010
  17. Alaska Watchdog, "State takes millions from Permanent Fund," July 16, 2010
  18. Pew Charitable Trusts, "States’ Use of Cost-Benefit Analysis," July 29, 2013
  19. 19.0 19.1 U.S. Public Interest Research Group, "Following the Money 2014 Report," accessed April 15, 2014
  20. Sunlight Foundation, "Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information," accessed June 16, 2013
  21. State Officers Compensation Commission, "Findings and Recommendations" January 10, 2009
  22., "2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table," accessed March 18, 2013
  23. U.S. Census Bureau, "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed January 6, 2014
  24. U.S. Census Bureau, "States Ranked by Population: 2000," April 2, 2001
  25. U.S. Census Bureau, "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed January 6, 2014
  26. U.S. Census Bureau, "States Ranked by Population: 2000," April 2, 2001