Above the law legislators? Will Dunleavy call the troopers?


Attorney General Kevin Clarkson said today that Alaska Statute clearly states the governor, when he or she calls a special session, determines the location of that special session.

It could be in Huslia. It could be at Mile 137 of the Sterling Highway. It could be in Tok. Or even Wasilla.

The Alaska Constitution gives authority to call a special session to the governor. And in all of the Law Department’s research, it could not find discussion at the Constitutional Convention that contradicts that, nor conversation among members of the Constitutional Convention discussing that the Legislature must meet in Juneau, Clarkson said.

The Legislature’s attorney, Megan Wallace, has a contradictory view. She says that the Legislature has the constitutional authority to meet where it wants, despite what Alaska Statute says about the governor setting the location of special session. After all, the Constitution says the Legislature can call itself into special session with two-thirds vote.

That’s 40 votes.

And there’s the rub: The Legislature doesn’t have the 40 votes to meet in Juneau, even if Wallace was right in her thinking that the Legislature can essentially ignore the executive branch proclamation.

Senate President Cathy Giessel, a Republican, and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, a Democrat (who reregistered as an undeclared to win the speakership) are at a standoff with the governor. They had 39 votes to call themselves into special session. One vote shy. But they said they won’t go to Wasilla because, well, they don’t want to. They think Juneau is better.

This morning, several members of the House Republican Minority told Must Read Alaska that they will go to Wasilla, where the special session has been called on July 8. It looks like at least 15 members of the House will head there.

On the Senate side, it’s anyone’s guess, but as many as seven of the 20 members could go to Wasilla as well. Sen. Shelley Hughes made it clear in a press release that she’ll be in Wasilla.

MatSu Special Session Press Release 6.24.19 

Giessel and Edgmon, however, will head to Juneau on July 8, they say. They’ve been working Legislative Legal to give them the constitutional underpinnings that allow them to gavel in where they choose.

But it’s likely that some members of the Legislature will be in neither location, due to excused absences or other sudden family matters.

What is the governor’s next move?

Dunleavy still needs to get the Permanent Fund dividend funded by the appropriators. He wants a full Permanent Fund dividend, as established by statute, and Sen. Giessel apparently does not, at least at this point. She’s with a few senators who believe the dividend needs to be trimmed down to some amount that the Legislature will need to decide at some point. Until then, the amount of the PFD is under negotiation in the House and Senate. Edgmon has held his cards close on the dividend.

Dunleavy has been clear: He wants the PFD paid the old fashioned way this year, and then he wants the Legislature to focus on the Capital Budget, which passed it during the first special session but which the House and Senate majorities were unable to get funded. They needed three-quarters vote to break into the Constitutional Budget Reserve for a loan; the House Republican minority denied them the loan — they weren’t budging until the Permanent Fund dividend is resolved.


There is history for some of this and it’s not pretty. It involves troopers and handcuffs.

In 1983, several members of the Legislature “went missing” when Gov. Bill Sheffield called for a special session. Speaker Joe Hayes made himself scarce that month.

Among the stories that old politicos remember is how, when the confirmation of Norm Gorsuch for attorney general was being debated, Sheffield called the Troopers to bring in the recalcitrants in order to get the quorum needed for the joint-session vote.

That year, the House was controlled by Republicans, with Hayes as Speaker, while the Senate was controlled by Democrats, with Jay Kerttula of Palmer, as President.

The Republicans were going to try to block Gorsuch because of a perceived conflict of interest he had with Sheffield and his hotel business.

Sheffield called for a joint session on June 7, 1983, and Kerttula supported the call because he knew there were enough votes to confirm.

However, only 17 members of the House attended that day, not enough for a quorum. Troopers searched all over Juneau for the other Republican legislators but came up empty handed. Some had flown to Skagway on a small plane rented by Rep. Vernon Hurlburt, a bush pilot from Sleetmute.

Eventually four were found in their offices and escorted by armed Troopers into the House Chambers, where a vote was held and Gorsuch was confirmed.  The four included Rep. Ramona Barnes, who was hiding in her office. She had one last long cigarette before being escorted to the floor by a Trooper. Richard Shultz, a Republican of Delta Junction, was brought in in handcuffs.

The move by Sheffield short-circuited the Republicans, who wanted to hold hearings and bring up information they thought showed the conflict of interest between Gorsuch and Sheffield. The story of armed Troopers escorting unwilling lawmakers made the New York Times.

If the Legislature doesn’t convene as outlined in the governor’s proclamation, he cannot actually sue the Legislature as a whole, but he can legally go after individual legislators, and get a writ of assistance from the courts, which would then cause him to  send Alaska State Troopers after them.


  1. I would be fine with Gov Dunleavy to authorize AK State Troopers to bring in the recalcitrant legislatures to Wasilla to do their job, and even impose a daily fine on them. After all, Oregon’s liberal Gov Kate Brown has already given the Oregon State Troopers the authorization to track an hunt down the Republicans who oppose the Democrat’s carbon tax initiative and have fled their state and bring them back to the Oregon Capital and am imposing daily fines.
    No Democrat or most news organizations are criticizing her for this. I think anyone who criticizes Dunleavy for doing what Brown is already doing is a hypocrite unless they’re also criticizing Brown. The only difference between Brown and Dunleavy is their political ideology, one is a D and one is an R. It’s either a Governor’s authority to call in State Troopers or it’s not, regardless of their D or R.

    • Different situation entirely. Democrats hold super majority in both houses, along with uber lib governor Brown. Dems control legislature totally even though roughly 30 of 36 counties vote conservative. The Republicans who have left the libs without a quorum simply got tired of being second class citizens and their constituents without representation, since everything they tried to bring up was ignored, ridiculed, etc. The latest is over Dem ramrodded Cap and Trade bill which sounds wonderful to all those snowflakes in Portland and Salem but not so much to most of the rest of the state. Picture the US government consisting of Obama, Schumer, and Pelosi leading the show and you have Oregon in a nutshell. The difference between Oregon and Alaska is that the absent Republicans are actually representing their constituents. That is certainly not the case here in Alaska.
      I applaud the Oregon Republicans at the same time I condemn every RINO working against our governor in AK.
      RECALL them all, now…and by all means bring on the troopers if that’s what it takes.

  2. This sounds like a Alaska State Legislators are trying a “silent coups” against Governor Dunleavy. Governor Dunleavy will prevail.
    The Alaska Legislators are worse than California!

  3. The statute gives Governor Dunleavy the ability to designate where a special session he calls shall be held. But there is a constitutional seperation of powers legal issue in play here that means the case is not an open and shut deal.

    What the legislature should do is gaval in in Wasilla, hold two public hearings in the junior high school re: the PFD and then gavel out. They should call a new special session that puts the PFD issue on the agenda, along with the capital budget and how to craft a resolution putting the Permanent Fund earnings issue (including the PFD distribution formula), before the voters in the form of a constitutional amendment. The new special session should have hearings in Anchorage and Fairbanks and once that important chore is completed, they should meet in Juneau and work out solutions for the PFD, the capital budget and an amendment embedding the Permanent Fund earnings allocation issue in our constitution.

    • Governor could call for another special session in Wasilla before, or while, the legislature votes on their special session, no?

  4. AG Bill Barr had the best line in a longtime with his ‘Madam Speaker, did you bring your handcuffs?’ I hope we get some good laughter out of this sad situation. Maybe the Leftists will have a bring your own handcuff party. Dunleavy is definitely on the right track. And he won’t back down!

  5. I’m sure the recalcitrants in.Juneau are also sycophants of Oregon’s radical liberal governor Katie Brown. She just sent heavily armed Troopers to gather up republicans down there (where they are a lame duck
    minority in both house and senate)

    Also, I’d be happy to loan the Alaska State Troopers my two German Shepherd K9’s to assist in rounding up those lawless scoundrels.

    We want our full PFD!

  6. There is a simple sure fire way to get the legislature to Wasilla. Simply double the amount of Perdiem each of the legislators receive. Get the cowboys over at MatValley Meats to pull out the feed troughs and watch the hogs go to work.

    I am ashamed at the obstructionist politicians we have running our federal government and now it seems they have taken over the state as well.

    I assume our only recourse is when these criminals, which is what they are because they continually ignore the law, are up for election to vote them out. What else can be done, if they dont show up? Anyone want to start a fund to sue them?

  7. I think he ought to call the session in Adak, then line-item veto DOT’s allocation for the Adak airport.

    Then he ought to only approve Adak Airport funding with the impostion of a $3,000 PFD.

    Just my two cents (if I had them, tanks to Walker most of us don’t)

  8. Dump Mom. She got too high and mighty for her own britches, and now we have to help David Geissel return from Canada to find a new Senate president.

  9. Cathy is quickly alienating her friends and supporters. If you don’t want a session in Wasilla, gavel in at the middle school, select a new location, vote on that new location, gavel out and reconvene in the new location. My guess is that Cathy doesn’t have the votes to do either one. The mealy-mouthed talk about constitutionality of this or that sounds a lot like she is trying to justify her actions to herself.

    And she is the key to this, as if the House minority and the entire Senate convene in Wasilla, that leaves the House Speaker and his democrat-led majority out in the cold looking really, really stupid.

    The primary season is going to be a lot of fun next summer. Cheers –

    • Geissel should just retire and go help her failing mother in the Anchorage Pioneer’s Home. That would soothe her siblings, her constituents, and her own conscience (or lack thereof).

  10. Give no warnings, Governor. Simply act decisively and forcefully when action is required.

    If there is an invalid Kangaroo “session” then nothing it might pass is invalid but, sadly, cannot SIMPLY be ignored. It must be ignored to the last possible moment then be vetoed just in case. Let them stew before having to start over according to law.

  11. After what the Lefties in the legislature did to Commissioner Price in confirmation hearings, the State Troopers would just love hauling around extra cuffs on their belts and rounding up belligerent Democrats and turncoat Republicans. Arrest them first, book’em, then haul their sorry a$$es into Wasilla. And film it! Could be used in America’s Funniest Videos…..as well as the 2020 campaigns.

    • You big meanie…
      Bet you’d drop a dime to the IRS about poor hard-working legislators taking illegal tax-free per diem payments for an unauthorized session too…

  12. I hope Dunleavy calls in the Troopers and gets these worthless legislators back to work in Wasilla. They are just scared to face the public and want to hide in Juneau rather than giving us our full PFD and the back pay on the previous years.

  13. It has been mentioned that the Legislature can call itself into session wherever it wants, and Geissel and other RINO’s seem to be using this statute or language to do just that…in Juneau, counter to what our Governor has decreed. Only problem, is that this particular session that has been called, was NOT called by the Legislature, but by the Governor! You can’t have the Governor calling the session first, the the Legislature coming in second calling for the same legislative session…Doesn’t work that way all you wino RINO’s. So the Governor wins because he called it first and it IS in Wasilla Sen Geissel!!

  14. If the Legislature is allowed to break the law now, will they just deem Governor Dunleavy line item veto over ridden? and continue spending money. They are lawless

  15. All those socialists leaving CA, OR, WA, NY, and MA are all funneling up here. They are slowly taking over Red states by turning them purple by moving to them. The take over happens when they integrate into the education/political systems, reproduce (raise families); and then they indoctrinate schools/local politics. Then soon enough, you have a Blue State. Rinse and repeat for all Red States. Conspiracy? Maybe. Is it happening? Yes.

  16. After his handcuffing by Democrats, Rep. Dick Schultz returned to Tok, Alaska and opened a successful ice-cream cone stand. He quit politics and Juneau forever.

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