Special session's first week closes with no solutions
The first week of the special session ended with lawmakers looking back at a failed attempt to override Dunleavy’s vetoes, leaving lawmakers who are concerned with the cuts looking possibly at an appropriations bill for a place to try again.
Juneau: ‘We’re not done’
Lawmakers in Juneau have adjourned until Wednesday, but respective finance committees are planning hearings while searching for ways to restore funding lost in Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s $444 million in budget vetoes.
“The message to the general public amore than anything is that the veto override clearly failed,” said House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham. “That shouldn’t come as a surprise to Alaskans, although it’s a certainly major disappointment to anyone who was pushing for the overrides to occurs. We’re not done. There’s other avenues and we’re conversing with the governor regularly.”
Senate President Cathy Giessel reiterated what she and Edgmon told lawmakers attending a Thursday floor session: They aren’t giving up.
“The Senate has certainly heard the outcry of citizens,” she said Friday. “We’ve got some urgent needs that need to be addressed. Right now our Senate finance team is working to address those budget reductions that have been made and looking at how we might backfill the loss of funding.”
Wasilla: ‘We are willing to work with our colleagues’
More than 100 people filed into the gym at the Wasilla Middle School for the fifth day of the special session.
Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, said she and the other lawmakers have been in “earnest and heartfelt conversations every minute we are not sitting at these desks.”
Costello was one of 18 lawmakers present on the floor, including Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, who had been in Juneau for the veto override vote.
Costello said the legislators in Wasilla are concerned about the capital budget and the deadline to get a federal match for $1 billion for highway and aviation projects.
“I believe that it’s really important that the legislature take this seriously and we get our deadlines met. It is really important for all of us to be in the same location,” Costello said. “We are willing to work with our colleagues on that. We were disappointed they didn’t come. I know many of them left Juneau last night and I’m not sure why they’re not here.”
Still no agreement
Lawmakers still can’t agree on where to hold the sessions. A majority of lawmakers reported to Juneau, where, thanks to a quorum, they can hold hearings and floor sessions.
As many as 22 lawmakers reported this week to Wasilla Middle School where Dunleavy had originally called the special session.
However, without quorum or presiding officers, those appearing at the middle school could not hold any formal committee hearings or floor session, though they remain steadfast that any actions taken outside Wasilla violate the law.
Lawmakers needed 45 votes to override Dunleavy but only 38 appeared on Wednesday. Of those, 37 supported the override.
Edgmon said there was thought given to going to Wasilla and continue the override debate, but it would have taken 45 votes to rescind the original vote. He said that was not likely to happen.
“That in itself would have been a calamity and very expensive,” he said.
Lawmakers could have executed a procedure known as placing a call on those not attending. This could mean an extreme measure of dispatching Alaska State Troopers.
Edgmon said that would not be prudent.
“There is no certainty that it would have been enough to get legislators back to Juneau,” he said. “It possibly could have required state troopers to be engaged and it’s summer time, state troopers are doing many important things at the moment. In the end that would have been more of a distraction to the core efforts of overriding the governor’s vetoes.”
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