Alaska Legislator Update: Senator John Coghill
While the legislative session is in recess due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are talking with legislators from our Interior Delegation about the legislative session. In this edition, we spoke to Senator John Coghill.
“We’re recessed until the last week in May. The reason we did that is people were concerned that people in Juneau would be affected by this COVID-19. So we tried to get a budget as fast as we could and pass out emergency powers to the governor that were important. Once we passed the budget, then the question is ‘what do we need to be here for? We’ll wait and see if there’s something else that needs some kind of legislative action',” said Coghill.
He said the next big item they are working on is receipt authority for the federal funding.
“I originally was very concerned that we needed to follow the law, but as we looked at our budget, what we put in that, and what we have allowed under the emergency powers, and what the governor generally has as emergency powers anyway, it fit. Some are concerned about that, I was as well, but I’ve been satisfied,” said Coghill.
He said the emergency powers given to the governor are good until November, so he thinks there is a limited need for the legislature to reconvene.
“I think the governor is doing as much as he can to keep us safe, but get the economy rolling back out. We’re not the only state in this, we’re actually not the only country in this, but the governor has actually done a pretty good job of balancing getting us safe and then getting us back to work. We still have a long ways to go, but I am willing to work with the governor to get this money out,” said Coghill.
While he has been back in Fairbanks, Coghil said he has been answering many questions about how to get unemployment benefits, how to help the hospital, and about the university. After he traveled back from Juneau, he had to quarantine for two weeks, and said he started some home projects.
“I built a cabin probably thirty five years ago and I decided I would start sanding it, and it’s turned into quite a little project... but we’re at the end of that project, so I’ve been doing stuff at home,” said Coghill.
Coghill says one of the biggest issues the legislature is facing is how to help businesses and individuals. He says the Permanent Fund Dividend discussion is brought up when trying to determine how they want to help the community.
“Given that we have the unemployment and some of the federal money coming in, that is one of the reasons why I believe it is very important that we get this money out now. That gets us through the end of May, June and July. Once August hits us, it’s going to be important to watch how our economy is beginning to ramp up,” said Coghill.
Coghill thinks it will be more important to have the PFD in the fall, when it normally is distributed. He is concerned about businesses that are being impacted by the economic downturn.
“I’d say legislators have done everything they can, the governor is doing a good job. At this point, tough as it is -- and it is tough -- the good news is [that] COVID has not hit us as hard as we had anticipated, [so] let’s just keep it that way,” said Coghill.