Frequently Asked Questions
The Alaska Legislature
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
Q:When and Where does the Legislature Meet?
- The Alaska State Legislature convenes on the third Tuesday in January. The regular legislative session runs for 90 days. However, it can be extended for 10 consecutive days by 2/3 vote of the legislative membership.
- The Alaska State Legislature meets at the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau, Alaska. The Alaska State Capitol and all its meeting rooms are open to the public.
Q: What is a Special Session?
- A Special Session is one that occurs following the regular legislative session. A Special Session may be called by the Governor or by a vote of two-thirds of the legislature. If called by the Governor, the Special Session is limited to the subjects designated by the Governor in the proclamation calling for a Special Session or reconsideration of bills that the Governor has vetoed after the regular session adjourned. A Special Session is limited to thirty days, however, there can be more than one called.
Q: How can I find out who my Representative or Senator is?
- To find out who represents your district click here. Choose “sorted by community” to retrieve a community based list of representatives and senators.
Q: How can I contact my Representative and Senator?
- You can contact your legislators by telephone, mail or electronic mail. To find their addresses, telephone numbers, and e-mail addresses click here. You can also arrange to meet your legislators in person at the State House or at various public functions in your district as well as at their interim offices, located within the Legislative Information Office in your region. In general, legislators are happy to hear from and meet their constituents, time permitting.
Q: How can I contact the Governor?
- You can contact the Governor electronically or by filling out a form linked here. You can also use this form to invite the Governor to attend an event in your community. Alternatively, you can send correspondence to the Governor by mailing it to P.O. Box 110001, Juneau, AK 99811-0001.
Q: What is an LIO?
- LIO stands for Legislative Information Office. There are 23 LIO’s throughout the State of Alaska (including Juneau State Capitol). The LIO’s distribute a wide range of data on legislative records, documents, schedules and events. In smaller Alaska communities, the LIOs also serve as resource centers for information for other state and federal executive and judicial offices. The primary purpose of an LIO is to facilitate communication between legislators and constituents. During session, the LIO provides Alaskans with up-to-the minute information on the status of bills, the particulars of committee work and floor sessions. The LIO also has hard copies of bills and you can testify via audio teleconferencing on bills being heard in committee. To locate the LIO closest to you, click here.
Q: How does legislation get proposed?
- Bills, and ultimately laws, come in the form of ideas from a variety of sources including legislators, a committee, the governor, constituents, lobbyists or professional groups, etc. However, only a legislator or a legislative committee can introduce an idea as a bill. The legislator or the committee proposing the piece of legislation (called the “Sponsor”) has the idea or proposal drafted into bill form by Legislative Affairs, Legal Services Division. The Governor may also introduce legislation through the Rules Committee.
Q: What does it mean to have a bill introduced?
- A bill is introduced when it is assigned a number and the Chief Clerk of the House or Secretary of the Senate reads the heading and title aloud in open session of the respective chamber. This is called the first reading. The bill is then referred by the presiding officer to one or more committees. Either the House or the Senate may, by a majority vote of the full membership, refer the bill to other standing or special committees.
Q: What is a Prefiled Bill?
- Pre-filed bills are bills that are filed with the executive director of the Legislative Affairs Agency prior to the beginning of session. Upon the sponsor’s approval, these bills are assigned a number and made available to the public prior to the first day of session. Each member is limited to 10 pre-filed bills per session. Pre-filed bills are submitted to each body for introduction and first reading on the first day of the legislative session. They are referred to committees before all other bills.
Q: How many bills can be filed during a legislative cycle?
- Legislative cycles run for two years. Each year is called a “session.” The regular session lasts 90 days. There is no limit on the number of bills that can be filed during any legislative cycle. However, only bills sponsored by a standing committee can be introduced after the thirty-fifth day of the second regular session.
Q: How many committees are there and what do they do?
- The House and Senate both have what are referred to as Standing Committees that review proposed legislation specific to their areas of expertise. Both chambers also have Special Committees, formed to address specific issues, for example Energy and Fisheries, as well as subcommittees. The most notable subcommittees are those of the House and Senate Finance Committees that review budget requests for specific areas of the state. The DPS Subcommittee reviews the Governor’s budget request for the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault which funds domestic violence and sexual assault program needs.
Q: What is the committee process?
- The bill sponsor requests a hearing before the first Committee of referral. On the day of the hearing, the Sponsor of the bill (or staff person) presents the bill to the committee outlining its key provisions and answering any questions the committee members may pose. Next, witnesses called by the Sponsor or the committee either present additional information or remain available for questions. Public testimony is then taken.
- After the close of public testimony, the committee brings the bill back before the committee for discussion, debate, and consideration of any proposed amendments. Once a bill has been fully vetted by the committee, the committee votes on whether to move the bill to the next committee of referral.
- If there is an objection to moving the bill, the roll is taken and each member orally announces their “yea” or “nay” vote. The votes are tallied and recorded. If a majority of the members vote to move the bill, the bill then moves out of the committee to the next committee of referral. If there is no next committee of referral, the bill is forwarded to the Rules Committee. If the bill does not garner the requisite votes to move it, the bill fails to move and remains in the committee. The Sponsor can later reschedule the bill if she/he finds that they now have enough support to move the bill.
Q: How far in advance are committees’ schedules announced?
- Committees must provide the Chief Clerk of the House or Secretary of the Senate written notice of the time, place, and subject matter of all committee meetings. All hearings must be publicly noticed for at least five days before the hearing; however, this can be waived by a majority vote of the house membership.
Q: What is the 24-hour rule?
- The 24-hour rule refers to the time in the session when the public notice for committee hearings is reduced to 24 hours. This occurs when the Senate and House form a conference committee to reconcile the differences in the operating budgets that passed the Senate and the House.
Q: What is the Calendar?
- The Calendar is a daily listing of issues which will be brought before each body for action. It lists bills to be considered on the floor of each chamber so that the member’s can prepare for the day’s floor session. Click here for House and Senate Calendars during session.
Q: What is the Journal?
- The Journal is the daily record of all actions taken by each body. Click here for the daily Journal.
Q: A bill in which I am interested is currently in committee, and I know they’ve made lots of changes to it. Can I see the changes they have made?
- After a bill is changed in committee, it is returned to the Legal Service Department to be revised by adding in the changes into a new draft of the bill. This new draft is called a CS and will appear on BASIS after it is adopted.
Q: What is a CS?
- A CS refers to a Committee Substitute. When a bill has a hearing before a committee and the bill is amended during the committee process, the bill emerges as a CS that reflects the changes the committee made to the bill.
Q: Why are some words in the bill CAPITALIZED, [in brackets], or underlined?
- When a bill proposes to change existing law, the changes are reflected using the above symbols. When words in the bill are CAPITALIZED and [in brackets] it is an indication that these words are being removed from the current law. When language is being added to current law, that new language is underlined. However, entire new sections that are being added to law do NOT appear underlined, but rather are indicated by “adding a new section” language prior to the new language being proposed. Similarly, if the proposed legislation repeals an entire part of existing law, that language will not be shown in [brackets], rather the bills last section will indicate the sections of current law being repealed.
Q: What is BASIS?
- BASIS refers to the Bill Action & Status Information Services. It is the primary source of information on the Alaska legislature and contains information on bills, committees, and much more. If you are not familiar with BASIS, you may want to read the tutorial provided by the Legislature as a PDF document. To explore BASIS, click here.
Q: When is BASIS updated?
- BASIS is updated as soon as new information becomes available. You can track bills through the Bill Tracking Management Facility (BTMF) by going to the Alaska State Legislature website and signing up for email alerts.
Q: How many years of Legislative Documents are available on BASIS?
- Archived information is available from 1993 to the present.
Q: How can I find more information about the Legislature and the legislative process?
- You can find more information at the Alaska State Legislature website.
Information on this page was taken from the Alaska State Legislature website and the Alaska’s Constitution: A Citizens Guide. The link downloads a PDF copy of this helpful publication.
This page is the sole responsibility of the ANDVSA Policy Program.