100 Years of Alaska's Legislature
"From Territorial Days to Today"

1997 - 1998

Juneau, Alaska

20th State Legislature

Alaska Ferry Blockade in Prince Rupert


Defered Maintenance Cut by $1.3 Billion

Veto-proof majorities in both chambers allowed passage of a number of Republican-backed measures that had failed in earlier Legislatures. At least six vetoes by Democratic Governor Tony Knowles were overturned-only his veto of a bill to ease air quality restrictions on mobile drilling rigs survived. The majority also championed expansions to concealed weapons permits and put in place competency measures for pupils and teachers. The parties took a more unified approach to protecting the state's youth by increasing penalties for abuse, speeding up adoption procedures, and allowing participation in the federal State Children Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). This program, Alaska's version of which was eventually named Denali KidCare, expanded Medicaid coverage of economically disadvantaged children and pregnant women. Contentious legislation regarding a death penalty advisory vote, the opening of private prisons, and changes to overtime and minimum wages ultimately failed.

Average annual oil prices hit their lowest mark of the decade in 1998 at roughly $8.50 per barrel. In response to the associated budget strains, a controversial decision was made to keep $600 million that would typically have been deposited into the Permanent Fund in a separate account accessible for appropriation. A planned $1.5 billion in deferred maintenance projects was scaled down to $199 million in bond-funded work. Nonetheless, lawmakers struggled to control spending driven by formula programs and the ever-increasing cost of governance in the state. As a result, the approved operating budget included approximately $2.14 billion in state general funds.

The Legislature closed on a less-than-positive note after two successive special sessions on subsistence failed to bring a solution to the intractable issue. Despite an impending further expansion of federal control of hunting and fishing in the state, lawmakers and the Governor were unable to agree on terms that would be acceptable to all user groups while also bringing the state into conformity with federal law requiring a preference for subsistence users in fish and game management.

Beyond the Legislature

Canadian fisherman blockade an Alaska ferry in Prince Rupert, B.C., for three days in protest of the state's salmon fisheries management.

The U.S. Supreme Court rules that approximately 1.8 million acres owned by the Native Village of Venetie does not qualify under the legal definition of "Indian country."

The U.S. lands a spacecraft on the surface of Mars.

Sovereignty over Hong Kong transfers from the United Kingdom to China.

Osama bin Laden publishes a fatwa against the West and is placed on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Ten Most Wanted list after his role in bombing U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The Good Friday agreement brings an end to "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland after decades of violence over the nature of the country's relationship with the United Kingdom.

Gail Phillips

Mike Miller