Alaska Voices: The Legislature isn’t above the law

The Legislature is failing in its job … again.

  • Wednesday, July 3, 2019 11:28pm
  • Opinion

As a plebe who is growing weary of the asinine arguments back and forth regarding the special session, I am more disturbed by the inclination of our Legislature to ignore the law and to deny the People a timely resolution of two important tasks. Both PFD amount and the capital budget remain unfinished after the last special session. The Legislature did not finish the People’s business. Any delay is on the Legislature, not the governor.

The governor has stated that he will add the capital budget to the issues to be resolved, if the Legislature can agree on the PFD amount.

The capital budget resolution means jobs, and the PFD amount is important to people.

If the Legislature was truly diligent and committed, it would have completed any outstanding business last special session. It did not. Now, some in the Legislature are making a mountain out of a pebble. The interpretation of a plainly stated statute passed in 1982 as HB 185 and signed into law by then Gov. Jay Hammond, who was an attorney.

One would think, that if the statute were so confusing as to the governor’s authority to designate the location of the special session, then such confusion would have been dealt with prior to passing HB 185. There was a Legislative Legal Services then, and all draft bills go to them for review and edit before being introduced as a bill.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s call for a special session in Wasilla has met with surprising resistance from the Legislature. Both Senate President Cathy Giessel (R) and House Speaker Bryce Egdmon (I) have opposed the session’s location. The governor called for the session by proclamation to be held in Wasilla at Wasilla Middle School. Hardly an expensive and inaccessible location.

AS 24.05.100 gives statutory authority for calling a special session. The statute is not quoted in a single news story.

Allegations that the governor’s authority to designate a location may be unconstitutional have been made in a memo by Megan Wallace, the current Legislative Legal Director.

Wallace’s opinion expressed in her memo to the Legislature does not carry the weight of law. Wallace’s opinion is mere conjecture at this point.

Without a court order striking down the statute or the Legislature and governor acting to rescind, the statute remains in effect. That’s the way our system of law works. Otherwise, our rule of law is at the whim of despots.

AS 24.05.100 plainly states that the governor has the authority to call a special session to be held wherever he chooses. The Legislature has the authority to do the same, provided there is a two-thirds majority who agree to the session and the location. At present, as admitted by both Giessel and Edgmon, there is not a two-thirds majority in the Legislature to convene either a special session nor a location.

The governor’s authority to call a special session to a location of his choosing is found under AS 24.05.100(a)(1, 2) which state in part:

(a) The legislature may hold a special session not exceeding 30 calendar days in length.

(1) The governor may call the legislature into special session by issuing a proclamation. At a special session called by the governor, legislation is limited to the subjects designated by the governor in the proclamation … issued at least 30 days in advance of the convening date …

(b) A special session may be held at any location in the state.

The Legislature can call itself into special session, but to do so requires a two-thirds majority by a poll of the members of both houses. By their own admission, that majority does not exist. AS 24.05.100(a)(2) states in part:

(2) The Legislature may call itself into special session if two-thirds of the membership responds in the affirmative to a poll conducted by the presiding officer of each house.

Without a court challenge and injunction to negate the governor’s choice of location, AS 24.05.100 trumps opinion.

The Legislature is acting as if it were above the law.

Under our rule of law, none are above the law. AS 24.05.100 says the governor may designate the location, he did so. It is the Legislature’s duty to honor the statute as written.

If there is to be a legal challenge, do so, but get the People’s business done first.

The Legislature is failing in its job … again; and holding the People of this state hostage over matters that should have been dealt with during the regular session.

Larry Wood is a 65-year Alaskan living on Lazy Mountain near Palmer.

• Larry Wood is a 65 year Alaskan living on Lazy Mt. near Palmer.

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