The Alaska House of Representatives approved a bill Tuesday ratifying Gov. Mike Dunleavy's plan to distribute more than $1.25 billion in federal funding to municipalities, nonprofits, small businesses and other areas of need around the state.
The bill, funded through Congress' CARES Act, includes more than $568 million in individual distributions for municipalities. The Fairbanks North Star Borough and the cities of Fairbanks and North Pole are set to receive a total of $44.4 million.
Other funding areas include $100 million for fisheries, $45 million for K-12 schools affected by the pandemic, $5 million in financial aid for University of Alaska students, $29 million for the Alaska Marine Highway System and other rural transportation needs, $290 million for small business relief grants and $10 million to the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. to address homelessness around the state.
The House approved the bill 38-1, with Wasilla Republican Rep. David Eastman voting against the bill, and adjourned the session promptly after.
Given that the House passed its version of the bill approving the CARES Act funding and adjourned indefinitely, a procedure known as sine die, the Senate will now be required to vote on the House bill rather than passing its own.
The Senate is expected to pass the bill in a scheduled floor session Wednesday morning.
As senators discussed the millions that will soon be distributed to those feeling financial pains due to COVID-19, most lawmakers wore masks with the exception of a few, including Eagle River Republican Sen. Lora Reinbold and Palmer Republican Sen. Shelley Hughes. Reinbold was the only legislator to refuse to undergo health screening prior to entering the Capitol building, calling the health measures "over the top" in a recent Facebook post.
The Senate symbolically passed its own version of the bill Tuesday after the House adjourned, signifying a plan to approve the House's bill Wednesday. Reinbold was the only senator to vote against the bill.
Lawmakers were forced to gather once again in Juneau after having been in recess for a month and a half due in part to a lawsuit filed by Juneau resident Eric Forrer last week alleging that the federal spending plan put forward by Dunleavy earlier this month must be approved by more than just the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee. The committee approved most of the funding last week, and Forrer filed his lawsuit in the days following.
With the House adjourning Tuesday morning, the regular legislative session will end Wednesday following the Senate vote on the bill. The Legislature's constitutional time limit for its regular session is Wednesday.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.