Juneau, Alaska (KINY) A state fiscal plan and work on developing policies for sexual harassment and bullying are on the table as the second session of the 30th Alaska legislature convenes today.
Most of the recent news from the legislature has been uncomplimentary. Rep. Dean Westlake resigned after he was accused by three women of inappropriate touching and behavior. His successor is expected to be named soon. In the meantime, legislators have vowed to rewrite an 18 year old policy that governs sexual and other harassment in the work place. Legislators will also be required to attend harassment and discrimination prevention training this month.
Republican Tammie Wilson claimed a Senator bullied and cursed her in Anchorage and nothing was done. She proposes a third party look into all claims of bullying and harassment in the legislature.
House speaker Bryce Edgmon said they want to be proactive in making changes that make the capital a safer work environment.
Westlake issued a statement when he resigned that apologized if his actions made anyone uncomfortable.
The Associated Press reports that there have been 22 investigations for allegations of sexual harassment in the legislature.
Other issues on the table are an estimated $2.5 billion budget shortfall. This year is also an election year with control of the Alaska house and the Governor's mansion up for grabs.
Senate President Pete Kelly talked about some of his goals for this session, "There is a fiscal challenge that still faces Alaska. Things have gotten a lot better in the last two years. the oil prices and production are up. That doesn't necessarily mean that we don't have to have a fiscal plan. I think the crisis mentality is off the table now. I think we can have a more intelligent discussion about the future of Alaska and funding for government."
The Senate majority has shown little to no support for the Governor's plan to impose a 1.5 percent payroll tax on Alaskans. The estimated $1.4 billion raised would be used strictly for infrastructure projects.
Each political party held fundraisers in Juneau on Monday night. Democrats met at the Juneau Douglas Museum, while the Republicans met at the Hangar Ballroom.
Democrat Zach Fansler, the Representative for District 38, talked on the importance of the fiscal plan. "The goal is to see action on a balanced fiscal plan. For me that includes making sure the plan has equity, it serves all Alaskans, and gets our economy back on track so we get people back to work and don't cut services that are valuable to people around the state."
The legislative session begins at 1 pm today.