Lawmakers reject Wasilla as site for special session

Lawmakers reject Wasilla as site for special session

Lawmakers considers it their right to determine the location.

  • By MARK THIESSEN Associated Press
  • Wednesday, June 26, 2019 4:25pm
  • NewsState News

ANCHORAGE (AP) — Alaska lawmakers have rejected Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s location of his hometown of Wasilla for a special session that starts next month.

The Alaska Legislature will instead convene in Juneau on July 8 and then hold a majority of its meetings in Anchorage, House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, an independent from Dillingham, and Senate President Cathy Giessel, an Anchorage Republican, said in a joint statement.

“The majority of legislators in both bodies considers it our right to determine the location and venue best equipped to conduct business on the governor’s special session call, while providing the most access to as many Alaskans possible,” the statement said.

“Instead of convening in Wasilla, legislative leadership is attempting to retreat back to Juneau,” Dunleavy said in a statement, adding that state law gives a governor the authority to set the location for a special session. “This move to negate the special session in Wasilla has no legal basis.”

When asked what happens if lawmakers actually convene in Juneau instead of Wasilla, Dunleavy’s spokesman Matt Shuckerow said, “We’re going to wait and see what happens. We hope that they think better of this and choose to come meet in Wasilla.”

Dunleavy had called the session for Wasilla, home to his conservative base. Dunleavy said a change of location for the second special session this year would be good for lawmakers, who have not completed their work in five months in Juneau.

Lawmakers from the region, the Matanuska-Sustina Borough, or the Mat-Su Valley as it’s known, touted the fact that unlike Juneau, Wasilla is on the state’s road system. Juneau is accessible by only plane or boats, but a majority of the state’s residents could drive to Wasilla.

“The fact that legislative leadership plans to run away from the Mat-Su Valley back to their hiding places in Juneau is extremely illuminating,” said House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, an Anchorage Republican. “The legislative leadership has already tried to have these conversations on the budget, PFD (Permanent Fund Dividend), and education in the dark back rooms of far-away Alaska; they haven’t found answers. Now, we should be having these conversations in full view of the public.”

However, some lawmakers saw the Wasilla location as a means of intimidation or cited security or logistical concerns at his preferred site, Wasilla Middle School.

The sole topic for the special session is to determine the amount of this year’s oil fund check to residents, a politically divisive issue that has been simmering for years and is nearing a boiling point. The checks have been smaller for the past three years as political leaders struggling with a budget deficit strayed from a formula in state law for calculating them.

If the law is followed as Dunleavy wants, this year’s check will be about $3,000. The House, controlled by a bipartisan majority composed largely of Democrats, rejected a full payout during the first special session of the year, in Juneau, while the Republican-led Senate was more closely divided in not advancing a full payout.

Edgmon cited security concerns about the Wasilla location, earlier saying he received threatening phone calls and “angry, vitriolic” emails from people upset with lawmakers not approving the higher amount. He said many emails have come from the Matanuska-Susitna region.

Edgmon and Giessel said funding the check was important, but the agenda for the special session should have also addressed long-term stability of the program. They also faulted the call for the session not including the capital budget, which needs to be finalized by the end of July.

They said Alaska private sector businesses could be hurt if Alaska has to forfeit nearly $1 billion in federal highway and aviation projects because matching dollars would not be available if the capital budget isn’t approved.

The Legislature fell one short of the 40 needed to call itself into session and set its own agenda. However, Edgmon and Giessel urged the governor to expand the call of the session to include both of those items.

A 30-day special legislative session in Wasilla could cost $1.3 million, according to estimates released last week by the Legislative Affairs Agency. It estimates a 30-day special session in Juneau that includes House and Senate Finance committee meetings in Anchorage could cost around $855,000.


This is an Associated Press report by Mark Thiessen.


More in News

Coast Guardsmen and state employees load the Together Tree bound for the Alaska Governor’s Mansion on a truck on Nov. 29, 2021 after the Coast Guard Cutter Elderberry transported the tree from Wrangell. (USCG photo / Petty Officer 2nd Class Lexie Preston)
Governor’s mansion tree arrives in Juneau

No weather or floating lines could stay these Coast Guardsmen about their task.

The Kenai Community Library health section is seen on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. The Kenai City Council voted during its Oct. 20 meeting to postpone the legislation approving grant funds after members of the community raised concerns about what books would be purchased with the money, as well as the agency awarding the grant. The council will reconsider the legislation on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai council to consider library grant again

The council earlier voted to postpone the legislation after concerns were raised about what books would be purchased.

EPA logo
Alaska Native group to receive EPA funds for clean water projects

The agency is handing out $4.3 million to participating tribal organizations nationwide.

fund
Study: PFD increases spending on kids among low-income families

New study looks at PFD spending by parents

Image via the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation
Nikiski soil treatment facility moves ahead

The facility, located at 52520 Kenai Spur Highway, has drawn ire from community residents.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Bycatch becomes hot issue

Dunleavy forms bycatch task force.

Rep. Chris Kurka, R-Wasilla, leaves the chambers of the Alaska House of Representatives on Friday, March 19, 2021, after an hour of delays concerning the wording on his mask. On Monday, Kurka announced he was running for governor in 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Wasilla rep announces gubernatorial bid

Kurka said he was motivated to run by a sense of betrayal from Dunleavy.

The Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson star is Illuminated on the side of Mount Gordon Lyon on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, just east of Anchorage, Alaska, in observation of the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. A crew from the base went to light the 300-foot wide holiday star, but found that only half of the star’s 350 or so lights were working, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Airmen from the 773rd Civil Engineer Squadron Electrical Shop haven’t been able to figure out what was wrong and repair the lights, but they plan to work through the week, if necessary, base spokesperson Erin Eaton said. (Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News via AP)
Avalanche delays holiday tradition in Alaska’s largest city

ANCHORAGE — A holiday tradition in Alaska’s largest city for more than… Continue reading

AP Photo/Gregory Bull,File
In this Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, photo, George Chakuchin, left, and Mick Chakuchin look out over the Bering Sea near Toksook Bay, Alaska. A federal grant will allow an extensive trail system to connect all four communities on Nelson Island, just off Alaska’s western coast. The $12 million grant will pay to take the trail the last link, from Toksook Bay, which received the federal money, to the community of Mertarvik, the new site for the village of Newtok. The village is moving because of erosion.
Federal grant will connect all 4 Nelson Island communities

BETHEL — A federal grant will allow an extensive trail system to… Continue reading

Most Read