The legislative leadership’s high-handed decision to ignore Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s special session call in Wasilla on the Permanent Fund dividend to meet instead in Juneau and Anchorage underscores a special kind of brassy political cowardice.
While House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, and Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, announced the change – they admitted they are one vote shy of the required 40 votes to pull it off.
Aside from simply ignoring the law – again – they may be breaking it. You have to wonder what they are thinking when they pick and choose which laws they will follow.
Article II, Section 9 of the Alaska Constitution is clear, “Special sessions may be called by the governor or by vote of two-thirds of the legislators.”
So is state law implementing that section of the constitution. Alaska statute 24.05.100(b) says:
“A special session may be held at any location in the state. If a special session called under (a)(1) of this section is to be convened at a location other than at the capital, the governor shall designate the location in the proclamation. If a special session called under (a)(2) of this section is to be convened at a location other than at the capital, the presiding officers shall agree to and designate the location in the poll conducted of the members of both houses.”
What could be clearer? It’s the governor or 40 votes.
Edgmon told the Anchorage Daily News: “The Legislature is exercising its right to the location.” From where we sit, there is no such right.
“The Senate president and speaker of the House admit they lack the votes to change the venue or call a special session of their own, yet they are committed to thwarting the law and the voice of the Alaskan people,” Dunleavy said in a prepared statement on his official website. “This is all part of why Alaskans have lost trust in their lawmakers. How can we with a straight face expect people to follow the law when the legislative leadership ignores, breaks, and skirts the law at every turn?”
The fight over the Permanent Fund dividend has roiled this Legislature since Day One. The House could not even choose its leadership for a month, snarling the chambers’ work. The question of the budget and the dividend’s size was left unanswered in the 121-day regular session and Dunleavy called a special session in Juneau. The budget finally was finished, but still no dividend amount. The Wasilla special session is to address that.
Some lawmakers want to ignore a 1982 law that specifies how the dividend is calculated, as has been done for the past three years. They want a dividend of about $1,600, or as little as $900. Lawmakers last year passed Senate Bill 26, which, they say, allows them to do that because the measure reduced the dividend to a political whim. But they did not repeal the 1982 law, and it remains in effect. The traditional calculation would amount to about $3,000 for each Alaskan. That is the way Dunleavy and many Alaskans want the $65 billion fund’s dividend to be calculated.
The fight comes down to more money for government and less for Alaskans.
And that is why those lawmakers are desperate enough to break the law to dodge meeting in Wasilla. They do not want to face the very people whose dividends’ they are intent on taking for government.
The governor should let those lawmakers know in no uncertain terms that he will send troopers to haul them in handcuffs to Wasilla if they do not show up as his call requires.
As for the rest of us, somebody should be getting together a recall – breaking the law is grounds – or, if we must wait until the next regular election, voters should throw the bums out.