Gov. Dunleavy's office restricts travel by state employees

    Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

    Juneau, Alaska (AP) - Gov. Mike Dunleavy has suspended out-of-state travel for state employees, with his chief of staff citing a need to control spending amid oil market volatility.

    Concerns with the new coronavirus have roiled markets along with a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia over oil. Alaska relies on oil revenue and earnings from its oil-wealth fund, the Alaska Permanent Fund, to help pay for government expenses.

    Dunleavy Chief of Staff Ben Stevens, in a memo dated Monday, said a hiring freeze also will be in effect but would not apply to positions essential for protecting the health and safety of Alaskans.

    The offices of Speaker Bryce Edgmon and Senate President Cathy Giessel also announced restrictions on out-of-state travel for lawmakers and staff and suggested against personal travel outside Alaska by members. Emails Monday said the action was intended “to protect our entire legislative family" and the functioning of the Legislature while it is underway in Juneau.

    Meanwhile, a legislative subcommittee was announced Tuesday to work on plans for how the Legislature would carry out its work amid virus concerns. Sen. Gary Stevens, chairman of the Legislative Council, established the subcommittee. He said he's concerned about ensuring lawmakers can vote on a budget and Dunleavy's appointees.

    As of Monday, the state had not had a confirmed case of COVID-19, according to officials.

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