Special session: myths vs.
By Sen. Kim Elton
June 15, 2007
The most damaging misstatements are made by those who believe
the misstatements actually are true. So it is as we listen to
those rationalizing the June 26th special session of the legislature
It's cheaper," say some.
"It's more convenient," say others. "And the
skies are not cloudy all day," say still others.
Let's not spend a lot of time
disabusing 'em about these notions. We'll simply observe:
Cost--the professionals who actually make sure the gears mesh
and the special session machine runs say a special session in
Juneau has a start-up cost of $50,000 and ongoing costs of $25,000/day.
Anchorage start-up costs are estimated to be $85,000 and run
$46,000/day. A two-page memo from the Legislative Affairs Agency
director June 1 outlined the cost rationales following a canvas
of the staff who run the floors, preserve the historical debate
and voting records, give legal advice, and do the data processing.
Convenience--sure, it is more
convenient for legislators who live in the Anchorage bowl and
the handful of folks who may show up to watch. It is far less
convenient for those who track events on Gavel-to-Gavel because
the big, unblinking eye of this public service network will
be absent. It's also less convenient for non-Anchorage solons
because there is no office space where visitors can find you,
or phone for constituents to easily give you a call, or regular
computer to receive an email. Meet in Juneau and we all have
offices and phones. Meet in Anchorage and good luck tracking
your non-Anchorage legislator down.
Cloudy skies--well, you got me on this one. The odds makers
As misguided as some of the reasons for a special session in
Anchorage are, there is a legal basis for meeting outside Juneau.
AS 24.05.100(b) does make clear the right to have a special
session away from the Capitol. That provision of law says a
"special session may be held at any location in the state."
Further along in this section of the statute is an important
qualifier, a requirement that the presiding officers of each
body "shall agree to and designate the location in the
poll conducted of both houses."
An aside here: the poll of the house members by its presiding
officer was not conducted after an agreement with the senate
presiding officer regarding location--he simply polled his members
about a special session "on a date and at a location yet
to be determined." He also did not confer with the senate
presiding officer on a location, he simply asked the senate
presiding officer to poll her members after he polled his members
without designating a specific location.
Despite this breach of a statutory recipe, some legal beagles
suggest courts could rule the procedural violation as either
"non-justiciable" (that's not my word, I don't talk
that way) or potentially could find that the house presiding
officer's non-specific location notice provided a heads-up that
the session would be elsewhere, so he was in "substantial
compliance". Courts traditionally give the legislature
a ton of deference in matters involving the conduct of its business.
I'd just note that many Alaskans, charged with a violation of
state statutes, might not get the same latitudes the legislature
gets, but . . .
It's clear AS 24.05.100(b)
provides the legal foundation for the legislature to meet outside
the capital. It's not clear the presiding officer of the house
followed the law. It's not clear how a court would rule on his
So, if the June 26th Anchorage
special session is equivalent to a shakedown cruise for a bad
idea, the ship of state is already bouncing off the bottom--and
we won't even untie from the dock for another 10 days.
Sen. Kim Elton
Member of the Alaska State Senate (D)
Received June 15, 2007 - Published
June 15, 2007
Note: Comments published
on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.
E-mail your letters
& opinions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Your full name, city and state are required for publication.
Stories In The News