Second special session convenes in Juneau on July 8

Representative Louise Stutes and Senator Gary Stevens listen to public comments during a town hall in Cordova on Friday, April 12, 2019. (Photo by Emily Mesner/The Cordova Times)

In response to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s plan to hold the second special session of the Legislature in Wasilla, the Legislature just said no.

House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, and Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, announced on June 24 that legislators will convene the latest special session in Juneau on July 8, with most of their meetings to be held in Anchorage.

The two legislators said that while funding the 2019 Permanent Fund dividend is critical to Alaskans, the long-term issues about sustainability and future of the Permanent Fund also needs to be addressed.

“Unfortunately, the governor’s special session proclamation restricts discussion solely to the amount of this year’s PFD,” they said.

Edgmon and Giessel said Dunleavy’s proclamation also failed to include the fiscal year 2020 capital budget. “If the capital budget is not finalized in July, Alaska’s private sector industries could be devastated by forfeiting nearly $1 billion in federal highway and aviation projects because required state matching dollars were not provided,” they said.

Edgmon and Giessel said they felt the Legislature should call itself into session, that they intend to hold floor sessions in Juneau, the seat of government established in the Alaska Constitution, and hold most committee hearings in the Anchorage Legislative Information Office.

“This approach would save hundreds of thousands of dollars and provide in-person access to Alaskans on the road system, while also utilizing facilities designed for legislative proceedings and providing Alaskans who are unable to attend in person the ability to participate and follow along as lawmakers consider these crucial issues,” they said.

“The majority of legislators in both bodies consider it our right to determine the location and venue best equipped to conduct business on the governor’s special session call, while providing the most access to as many Alaskans as possible,” they said.

They also urged Dunleavy to add the capital budget and long-term issues related to the future of the PFD to his call for the capital budget.

Dunleavy issued his own statement, citing Alaska Statute 24.05.100, saying the governor is clearly empowered to call a special session in the location of the governor’s choosing.

According to the Alaska Constitution “special sessions may be called by the governor or by vote of two-thirds of the legislators.”

Edgmon and Giessel said in their joint statement that “although we are one vote short of the 40-vote threshold to call ourselves into our own special session agenda, the majority of legislators in both bodies considers it our right to determine the location and venue best equipped to conduct business on the governor’s special session call, while providing the most access to as many Alaskans possible.”