The Alaska State Capitol on Thursday, April 6, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

The Alaska State Capitol on Thursday, April 6, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Anchorage Republicans seek to move Legislature from Juneau

A pair of Anchorage Republicans have announced their intentions to begin raising money for a 2020 ballot initiative that seeks to move the Alaska Legislature out of Juneau.

A Saturday filing with the Alaska Public Offices Commission names Dave Bronson and Julie Tisdale as the key figures behind “Equal Access Alaska,” a group whose mission is to put a Legislature-move measure on the 2020 general election ballot.

Neither Bronson nor Tisdale responded to emails and calls from the Empire on Monday.

The stated purpose of Equal Access Alaska is “to support efforts to provide more government access to Alaskans.” Bronson told KTVA-TV’s Liz Raines that the group intends to advocate moving legislative sessions out of Juneau.

He did not say whether the Legislature would convene in Anchorage.

Alaskans have been asked to vote on capital-move or Legislature-move proposals 10 times since Alaska became a state.

Alaskans voted in 1974 to move the capital to a new purpose-built city, and in 1976, voters picked Willow as the site of that 100 square-mile capital district.

A 1978 measure required that Alaskans be presented with the total costs of the move, and by 1982, when those costs were assessed at $2.8 billion, voters had soured on the idea.

The 1982 vote failed, and the capital has remained in Juneau since.

The last significant capital-move vote was in 2002, when voters were asked if they wanted to move legislative sessions to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

Mark Chryson, who still lives in the Mat-Su, was one of the backers of that proposal. He’s unaffiliated with the new movement, but he still thinks it’s a good idea and may have a better chance than it did 15 years ago.

“For all practical purposes, the capital is already at Anchorage,” Chryson said, referring to the number of state offices that have been transferred out of Juneau since the 2002 vote failed.

The principal argument behind the 2002 ballot measure was that it would save money, and Chryson feels a move would still accomplish that goal.

“We’re going to be saving money up the ying-yang by keeping it out of Juneau,” he said.

The precise nature of the move would likely determine those savings. Previous studies by the Alaska Legislature have found that the cost of flying Legislative staff from Juneau to Anchorage outweighs the savings to be gained by keeping most legislators close to home.

Rep. Chris Birch, R-Anchorage, suggested earlier this year that if lawmakers turned down their per-diem expense payments, they could offset the cost of flying staffers to Anchorage.

That idea was not accepted, and the fourth special session continues in Juneau.

Win Gruening is secretary of the Alaska Committee, which is devoted to promoting Juneau as Alaska’s capital city.

“A legislative move is just a capital move under a different name, and I think most people realize that,” he said by phone. “We’re not going to get better legislators by moving the Legislature.”

Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com.


• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.


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