Special session isn’t over, but lawmakers are headed home
A special session is underway in Juneau, but most lawmakers weren’t actually in the Capitol building Tuesday.
Moving boxes lined the halls, as building maintenance staff worked to get supplies shipped out. That’s because many legislators and their staff are already back in their home districts this week. They’re waiting to have their computers and other office supplies sent so they can work from there.
According to the Legislative Affairs Agency, a special session in Juneau costs the state around $30,000 per day — but final numbers will depend upon the length and scope of work.
The agency’s records indicate that a special session this time last year cost $22,437 per day in state funds. A special session in July of last year tallied $29,351 a day.
In a written statement Tuesday, House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham) said he’s letting lawmakers to go home to save the state money.
“We are allowing lawmakers to return home to their districts so they can engage with constituents and inform our actions on the important issues under consideration during the Special Session. Letting lawmakers go home also save the state money since lawmakers will not be collecting per diem in their home districts,” Edgmon wrote.
Freshman representative DeLena Johnson (R-Palmer) told KTVA she was preparing to leave for her home district Tuesday night to reconnect with constituents.
“I don’t see an end in sight right now because even though we’re not really in the midst of actually doing our conference committees yet, I don’t see a lot of movement on either side,” said Johnson. “I think it actually will be less expensive for the state and for everyone if I just wait until we actually get called back where we’re working here in Juneau and then I’ll get a hotel room.”
Johnson is paying for a residence in Juneau through the end of the month, but says she won’t collect per diem while at home.
Those who are still in the building this week have found themselves wearing a new hat, as tourists trickle in. Rep. Jason Grenn (I-Anchorage) stopped in the halls Tuesday to help orient visitors.
Lawmakers who go home may save the state money, but it’s money the state wouldn’t be spending had the legislature finished its work on time.
Both House and Senate leadership declined to speak with KTVA on camera Tuesday. In his written statement, Edgmon said the House is urging the Senate to quickly appoint their conference committee for the oil and gas tax credit reform measure, which he calls a key piece to any larger fiscal plan.
“So far the Senate has shown no willingness to take up a new revenue measure as called for by the Governor. We can’t negotiate with the Senate just part of a fiscal plan because the different elements interact and balance one another. We need the Senate to act on a new revenue measure soon so we have the full picture in front of us and make progress on negotiations,” Edgmon wrote.
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