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May 17, 2024

LEGISLATURE ADJOURNS: UA Appreciates Legislative Support on Priority Issues

The 33rd State Legislature officially adjourned on May 16, just a short time after the constitutionally mandated 121-day deadline. With the UA’s operating and capital budget largely settled, our remaining priorities were placed in House Bill 148 (HB148). UA’s Government Relations team was up late into the night as things came down to the wire, but in the end, the bill passed the Senate floor and was concurred with in the House before the session deadline expired.  

Last Minute Changes and Delays to HB148 Created High Drama in the Last 72 Hours of Session

HB148, carried by Representative Justin Ruffridge (R-Soldotna), is a critical bill for UA. By the last day of the session (May 15), HB148 included language that:

  • expanded the scope of the Alaska Performance Scholarship program, which will help with in-state enrollment, 

  • extended the sunset on the Education Tax Credit program, continuing a program that incentivizes third parties to donate to UA for educational purposes, and 

  • preserved UA’s funding allocation for the Technical Vocation and Education Program (TVEP), which supports education and training in important workforce areas like construction, heavy-duty equipment operations and maintenance, maritime navigation, and many others.

Senator Click Bishop (R-Fairbanks) worked with Senator Donnie Olson (D-Golovin) to amend the bill in Senate Finance on May 14 to add the provisions that preserved UA’s TVEP funding allocation. The bill passed out of the committee, but wasn’t heard on the Senate Floor until mid-day on May 15. 

The Senate debated several other bills throughout May 14 and 15, pushing HB148 further down the calendar. Late that afternoon, Senator Forrest Dunbar (D-Anchorage) insisted that the Senate hear HB148 so the House could concur before the end of session that night. The Senate finally heard HB148, passed it 20-0, and sent it back to the House.

The UA Government Relations Team assisted Representative Ruffridge’s office throughout the evening to ensure the House took up and concurred with the Senate changes. House Floor debates have been notoriously long this year, so there was real concern that the bill would inadvertently slip through the cracks and not be passed before session ended. Around 10:06 p.m., the House concurred on HB148.

The House remained in session after that, debating other matters past midnight until they adjourned sine die. Many other bills didn’t get passed before the end of session and will have to be put forward again next year to be considered.

Intrigue for Other UA-Focused Bills

  • Senate Bill 13 (SB13) from Senator Rob Myers (R-North Pole) is the UA textbook transparency bill. Initially, it appeared that the bill might be used as a vehicle for other policies and legislation. However, it eventually went to the floor and passed on May 15, unchanged from its original language.    

  • House Bill 120, by Representative Frank Tomaszewski (R-Fairbanks), is related to hunting, trapping, and fishing licenses for certain nonresident postsecondary students. On May 14, HB120 was amended on the Senate floor amendment related to include language on “adoption and foster care for animals,” and appeared to be headed toward passage. The House initially concurred with the Senate changes on May 15, but later reversed course and asked the Senate to rescind the amendment. The Senate did not, so the bill died.

Closing Thoughts

The legislative session moves very quickly during the final days, with many parallel moving parts and very tight timeframes. We’re very pleased that both bodies passed our key priorities in HB148 before the end of the session.

Many thanks to the students, staff, faculty, and alumni who helped raise a voice and advocated for this year. This truly could not have been done without you!

For more information, contact Director of State Relations for the University of Alaska System Chad Hutchison, cell 907-378-3946, email You can also follow the University of Alaska Government Relations on our Twitter page.

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