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

2019 - 2020

Juneau, Alaska

31st State Legislature

Budget Battles Put on Hold for Global Pandemic


A Tale of Two Very Different Years.

The first year was consumed by contentious issues carried over from prior legislatures; and the second interrupted by an historic and calamitous global shutdown.

In 2019, strong disagreements among members, and between the Legislature and Governor Dunleavy, about the amount of Permanent Fund Dividends was a primary driver of difficult budget negotiations, which also included contentious debate on forward-funding for K-12 education, the Marine Highway System, and other issues. The House and Senate were also unable to reach an accord on an omnibus crime bill intended to repeal and replace the 2016 criminal justice reform measure, SB 91, which had been blamed by some legislators and portions of the public for subsequent increases in certain crime rates. The regular session ended with these issues unresolved, ultimately resulting in two special sessions, and delaying the approval of an operating budget until the end of July.

In January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported the appearance in humans of a novel Coronavirus in China. The first case of what became known as Covid-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on January 20th, the day before the second regular session began. By early March, global infections and deaths due to the virus exceeded 100,000 and 4,000, respectively. On March 13th, a federal emergency was declared, spurring states to implement closures of public facilities and broader measures that shut down public commerce to prevent spreading the virus. The first case in Alaska was reported on March 20th.

The Legislature voted to recess on March 29th and did not officially reconvene until gathering for two days, May 28-29, primarily to approve a handful of critical measures, such as the operating budget. As a result, the 67 bills approved by the 31st Alaska Legislature were the fewest, by a wide margin, of any full legislature since statehood.

Beyond the Legislature

In late-2019, the U.S. House of Representatives, led by the Democratic party majority, impeached President Donald Trump on a party-line vote based on allegations of abusing the power of his office by pressuring Ukrainian President Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, for their business dealings in the country. The Senate ultimately voted to acquit President Trump.

In a year marked by protests in many countries against authoritarian rule, those in Hong Kong against what many citizens viewed as overreach by the Chinese mainland government were notable in their size and duration.

The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was heavily damaged by an April 2019 fire. Two NASA astronauts conducted the first all-woman spacewalk, replacing a power controller on the International Space Station, in October 2019.

With the signing of the Abraham Accords in 2020, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco became the first majority Arabic-speaking countries to recognize the nation of Israel, in exchange for a pledge that Israel would not annex territory in the Palestinian West Bank.

Joe Biden was elected 46th President of the United States.

Bryce Edgmon

Cathy Giessel