With 30 days left in session, senator lobbies to move possible special session to road system
There’s still 30 days left in the regular legislative session, but Sen. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, says he’s already preparing for a possible special session. And he wants lawmakers to agree to hold it in Anchorage, by passing a joint resolution (SCR16).
“It puts forward a strong message,” said Sen. Stoltze. “Let the legislature communicate what the appropriate place and the best public interest will be to meet should we have to have a special session.”
On Tuesday, Governor Walker told KTVA he wants taxes passed this year, even if it requires a special session. Commissioner of Revenue Randall Hoffbeck said Walker’s income tax bill isn’t getting much traction in the Legislature, and doesn’t think it will pass by the end of regular session.
Stoltze says his resolution is a reflection of the climate in the capitol.
“This is not trying to encourage a special session, but I think it’s reflecting the reality of a possibility of a special session,” said Stoltze.
Construction work to remodel the building is scheduled to begin in May — one of the reasons Stoltze says it would be better to take discussions to Anchorage.
“We don’t want a politically forced special session to drive up the construction costs of the rehabilitation, the structural and seismic rehabilitation that’s going on in the capitol building,” said Stoltze.
Juneau Senator Dennis Egan says the City and Borough of Juneau is prepared to accommodate legislators in facilities other than the capitol, should there be a special session.
“It’s no big deal, we could do it tomorrow,” said Egan.
Egan also cited the privately funded TV station that provides live coverage of legislative sessions — Gavel to Gavel Alaska — as a reason for staying.
“It’s not the issue of going home,” said Egan. “It’s the issue of convenience. We have all legislative staff here, and legislative affairs is here. Gavel to Gavel is based here.”
According to numbers provided by Legislative Research Services, the first special session of 2015, held in Juneau for 24 days, cost the state on average $18,467 a day. When the legislature moved to Anchorage immediately thereafter for a 22 day session, daily costs rose to $20,661.
The higher costs for Anchorage were in part because legislative per diem is linked to federal per diem, which pays more per day for being in Anchorage than in Juneau. During the first special session, many legislators did not claim per diem during an 11-day recess.
SCR16 is scheduled for a hearing in the Stoltze-led Senate State Affairs committee next Thursday.
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