Rep. Les Gara Responds to Questions About Per Diem, Leave
Lawmakers respond to questions about the rules governing per diem pay for attending the special legislative session in Juneau.
Rep. Les Gara, Anchorage-D
Prior to knowing there was going to be a special session, I had trips planned and asked for excused absences under the Legislature's excused absence rules. When it became clear we were going to have a special session, and that I would possibly miss hearings or votes if I went on those trips, I cancelled them. I have not missed a vote, or a meeting on any committee I am on.
I have been at work for every hearing of a committee I am on (the House Finance Committee; The Operating Budget Conference Committee); and at every House Floor Session, and on the House Floor for every vote that has occurred, and done as much work as I can to try to suggest a compromise to complete this special session, and pass the much-debated capital budget, which is still delaying work here.
I have also been part of the Operating Budget Conference Committee, and have attended every one of those meetings. We have completed the operating budget. In addition, I have worked hard to try to offer ideas to legislative leaders to break the impasse that is causing this special session. I have been very public about that, and you can find my writings on those subjects at akdemocrats.org under my tab, or you can call our office at 465-2647.
There have only been two instances I have been out of Juneau in the past 20 days of special session - they were on days I did not miss a hearing, vote, or work.
The House Finance Committee called a hearing in Anchorage two Fridays ago. I objected to traveling from Juneau for that hearing. I and my Democratic caucus members took the position that it should be in Juneau, and that we should have remained here doing our work, and that a traveling hearing on issues we could resolve in Juneau, with witnesses who had been in Juneau for much of the session and could have been here for this hearing, would slow down progress on ending this special session.
But since Committee Co-Chair Bill Stolze moved the committee to Anchorage for that day, our minority leader chose to send one Democratic minority member to the hearing to make sure the facts stayed accurate, and that our position on the matters was reflected fairly. So, I went to Anchorage for legislative business that Friday for that Finance Committee Hearing at the Anchorage legislative building, and flew back to Juneau for work the next morning.
The bottom line is that I cancelled my excused absence requests upon learning we would be in special session.
I have not collected any per diem this session for time I've should have been in Juneau working - and have missed no days of work.
Finally, this weekend no committee meetings were scheduled for any of the committees I am on, and there were neither House Floor sessions, nor any votes that were taken. So upon confirming no meetings were being held, I spent part of Saturday, and part of Sunday out of Juneau. I am in Juneau today, as we had our first Floor session since Friday.