Some legislators are in Fairbanks. Others are in Anchorage. A handful are in Juneau.
It’s hard to negotiate when no one is in the room.
The first Alaska Legislature knew this. Back in 1959, one of the laws approved in that first state Legislature set the rules for how the Legislature or the governor could call a special session.
No thought was given to location. The assumption was that in order to work well together, lawmakers would be best off in the capital, in Juneau.
That assumption didn’t change for more than 20 years. In 1982, Rep. Terry Martin, a Republican from Anchorage, sponsored House Bill 184, which allowed the Legislature to hold a special session at any place in the state. If the governor called the special session, he (or she) decided its location. If the Legislature called the special session, a poll of both houses would decide its location, but only if lawmakers wanted it outside the capital.
In 1982, the year House Bill 184 passed, capital move furor reached its climax. Voters were asked that fall whether they wanted to spend $2.8 billion to move the capital from Juneau to Willow. The vote failed, with 53 percent of Alaskans against.
Now, it appears that House Bill 184 was a mistake as much as the idea of a capital move was. Instead of focusing on the state’s budget, lawmakers won’t even get in the same room together.
This newspaper has indicated its willingness to compromise. We have long opposed any movement of capitol operations elsewhere, but we won’t complain about legislative special session work in Anchorage, if lawmakers complete their budget work in Juneau first.
Lawmakers can talk dollars and cents all they want, but in Juneau, we think about the people behind those numbers. The budget approved by the Legislature at the end of its regular session calls for the loss of 382 full-time jobs, 50 part-time jobs and 68 temporary jobs across the state. Many of those people live in Juneau.
These are Alaskans whose lives will be irrevocably changed by the Legislature, and their future is in limbo while lawmakers quibble over location.
When the state is facing a multibillion-dollar fiscal gap and the threat of a government shutdown, location doesn’t matter. Get your work done.
— Juneau Empire,