SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Voting in Anchorage During Special Session Likely Illegal


May 20, 2015
Wednesday PM

(SitNews) Juneau, Alaska - Governor Bill Walker's press secretary Grace Jang, clarified today in a news release that the Governor has not given the legislature “permission” to hold special session outside of Juneau, as some media outlets have reported.

Jang, stressed that the governor's special session call is for Juneau. She said, "His number one priority right now is that legislators finish their work to pass a fully funded budget."

"However, he is concerned that any official action the legislature takes outside the capital city could result in a court challenge," said Jang. "That is a risk of which the legislature has been advised by its own legal counsel."

Governor Walker issued a special session proclamation on April 27th to take up the issues of Medicaid expansion, a fully funded budget, and Erin’s Law. That proclamation stated the session was to occur in Juneau.

On Monday, May 18th, the House and Senate majorities notified legislators that the Legislature would convene this week in Anchorage for floor sessions at the Anchorage Legislative Information Office on Thursday. It was announced the Senate will gavel in at 11:00 a.m. and the House at 1:00 p.m. May 21.

Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) requested a legal opinion from the non-partisan Legislative Legal Services regarding the constitutionality of holding floor sessions in Anchorage when the Governor's proclamation declared Juneau as the session location. An opinion from Legislative Legal Services offers that if voting were to occur in Anchorage when the proclamation specifically called for convening in Juneau, the action would likely violate Alaska's Constitution.

“It is my advice that a court faced with this situation, absent an agreement between the legislature and governor, would find that the legislature may not meet in floor sessions in Anchorage during a special session called by the governor in Juneau,” said Director of Legal Services Doug Gardner. Director Gardner concluded, "So, the legislature must meet in Juneau under the Governor's current proclamation of April 27, 2015, to comply with the Constitution."

Director Gardner noted that even attempting to simply adjourn the session sine die in Anchorage was potentially illegal.

“Our legislative attorney is advising us that the upcoming floor sessions likely violate the constitution," said Senator Wielechowski. "Moreover, any action taken by the legislature during these floor sessions may be challenged in court and expose the state to undue liability and significant legal fees. I would strongly urge the Majorities to either obtain the Governor's agreement to conduct the session in Anchorage or to reconsider their actions.”



Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews



Legal Memo pdf - 05/18/15

04/28/15 - Legal Special Session Location _Special_Session_Location.pdf


Source of News:

Office of Gov. Bill Walker

Alaska Senate Democrats

The Alaska House Majority


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