Alaska AG: Special session in Juneau violates statute, would be invalid
Should lawmakers hold a scheduled special session in Juneau rather than Wasilla, where Gov. Mike Dunleavy ordered, it would not be considered valid, Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson said on Wednesday.
On Monday, leading lawmakers announced they would hold a special session in Juneau and Anchorage rather than Wasilla Middle School, Dunleavy’s choice.
“If they hold a meeting in Juneau, it’s not a session,” Clarkson said. “It’s not a valid session as far as the law is concerned.”
Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, said on Tuesday the constitution gives them the authority under separation of powers, to determine the location.
Clarkson said the Department of Law reviewed minutes from the Alaska constitutional convention, searching for special session venue references.
“We found nothing,” he said. “The constitution is silent on that subject. Although they designate Juneau as the capital, they ascribed no significance to that designation with respect to where the Legislature will hold special sessions or even regular sessions.”
Clarkson based his argument, in part, on a 1982 law, stating a “special session can be held at any location in the state.”
Clarkson spoke to reporters Wednesday afternoon, responding to a five-path memo issued late Tuesday from the Division of Legal Services Director Megan Wallace.
Wallace drew three conclusions:
• The constitution is silent as to the location of a special session called by the governor;
• The Legislature must meet in the capital unless it is impossible to do so;
• The location of a special session is a matter that can be decided only by the legislature.
Wallace also addressed the 1982 statute, saying, “the legislature did not contemplate a scenario, like here, where the governor would designate a location in a special session proclamation absent an agreement with the legislature.”
Lawmakers could call themselves back into a special session and pre-empt the governor’s call, but that takes two-thirds backing — or 40 votes — to accomplish that. Giessel and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, said they are one vote short.
Clarkson said the governor cannot sue the Legislature, but a private lawsuit challenging the Legislature’s move can happen. He said Dunleavy could join the suits.
Clarkson said Dunleavy could still seek a court order compelling absent lawmakers to go to Wasilla; if they don’t obey the order, he would have the right to send state troopers to round up members of the House and Senate and transport them.
Last week, the Legislative Affairs Agency estimated a Wasilla special session cost $1.3 million, about $300,000 more than the most expensive session to date. The agency also issued two reports listing concerns ranging from security to logistics to appropriate space for hearings.
The special session is limited to Dunleavy's wishes for the lawmakers to approve a $3,000 Permanent Fund dividend under the Alaska statute.
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