What’s not to understand?
The asinine fight over where the Legislature should meet for a special session called by Gov. Mike Dunleavy is not the first time the Legislature and a governor have tangled over the question.
Dunleavy called for the special session to determine this year’s Permanent Fund dividend to meet in Wasilla and 22 lawmakers did just that. The rest decided they would meet in Juneau. The state law and constitution seemingly are clear that they all should have met in Wasilla.
Back in 2015, then-Gov. Bill Walker called a special session on the budget in Juneau, but lawmakers wanted to move it to Anchorage, citing expense and ongoing Capitol construction work.
The Legislature’s top attorney at the time, Doug Gardner, told lawmakers he believed a court would rule legislators could not legally convene Walker’s special session outside Juneau without his agreement.
For his part, the Associated Press reported, Walker, anxious to get a budget passed, said he would not take steps to block lawmakers, but he “said legislators do not have his permission. Even if they did, he said he’s not convinced they could act outside Juneau. Until the current special session expires, the location is Juneau, he said.”
Lawmakers then, as now, could have gaveled out of the special session and called another at any location they chose. They did not.
Fast-forward to 2017.
Then-Rep. Chris Birch, R-Anchorage, asked Walker to call a budget special session in October of that year in Anchorage rather than Juneau to save money and increase public participation.
“Well, the Capitol’s in Juneau,” Walker told Alaska Public Media at the time. “Gavel to Gavel is in Juneau. Alaskans all over the state are able to participate through the Gavel to Gavel process and be able to observe what goes on, ” Walker said. “So yes, it would be more convenient to have it in Anchorage. That’s not where the Capitol is. And if the Legislature would like to convene and move it to Anchorage, I won’t oppose that.”
In past years, it seems clear that if a governor called a special session at a specific location, that is where the special session should be held. If legislators want to meet elsewhere, they should gather the 40 votes necessary to call themselves into special session and meet there.
History is clear. So is the law.
If a governor calls for a session outside Juneau, it says, he “shall designate the location in the proclamation.” If the Legislature – with the 40 votes required by the constitution – calls a special session someplace other than Juneau, “the presiding officers shall agree to and designate the location in the poll conducted of the members of both houses.”
We are left to wonder what the 38 members of the Legislature who chose to ignore Dunleavy’s special call location in Wasilla and meet in Juneau do not understand.