Gov. Dunleavy officially calls special session in Juneau
Gov. Mike Dunleavy has ended one impasse between lawmakers by amending the special session proclamation, now ordering lawmakers to meet in Juneau. Dunleavy also expanded the call, adding a capital budget alongside a Permanent Fund dividend bill.
“In my daily discussions with legislators – those both in Wasilla and in Juneau – many have acknowledged that real progress needs to be made on the capital budget and that work cannot be completed until the legislature is meeting in one location,” the governor said in a statement. “With sensitivity to the time that remains to capture federal funds, the Legislature will be able to quickly consider the capital budget, the PFD, and conclude this work for the people of Alaska before the end of July.”
Lawmakers passed a capital budget to fund road and construction projects while leveraging federal funds, but there weren't enough votes to agree on the fund sources. House and Senate finance committee leaders have long said the state needs a fully funded capital budget by July 31 in order to be eligible for federal funds, and have placed a premium on completing that work.
“We look forward to continuing the dialogue with the governor, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House, and the House Minority Leader to address this year’s dividend, fund a capital budget that brings in more than one billion federal dollars for roads and infrastructure, and seek a path to restore services that have been subjected to vetoes,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, in a statement.
On June 13, Dunleavy called the Legislature back into special session but ordered them to meet at Wasilla Middle School.
Presiding officers Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, however, believed it should be held in Juneau. A majority of lawmakers reported to Juneau on July 8 while as many as 22 members reported to the middle school.
Edgmon and Giessel have long said the venue choice rests with the Legislature, saying it falls under a separation of powers argument. They remained steadfast on the location, holding hearings and floor sessions all last week.
They also believed Alaskans would have greater access to the proceedings in Juneau through livestreams. Edgmon stressed how Alaskans were able to watch two days of veto override debate on public television, something that could not have happened at the middle school.
“Alaskans deserve an end to the political turmoil that is disrupting daily life for so many people across our state and causing uncertainty in our economy and communities,” Edgmon said in a joint statement with Giessel. “The only way we will get through this is if we set aside our disagreements and come together. This is a significant and encouraging step in that direction.”
There were not enough representatives and senators who reported to the middle school to achieve quorum which meant they could not conduct official business. Still, as many as a few hundred people from the public traveled to the middle school to meet with House Republicans and a handful of senators.
“It will take a lot of compromise among all 60 legislators and the governor to breach the current impasse,” said House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, in a statement. “I appreciate the compromise from the governor and other legislators to change the call of the session, and I’m confident we can move forward on an agreement that meets the deadlines in front of us.”
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