In a major olive branch to the House and Senate Majorities, Gov. Michael Dunleavy changed the location of the second Special Session from Wasilla to Juneau to break the gridlock that has taken hold of the Legislature, after the presiding officers refused to honor Dunleavy’s original location for the Special Session.
Dunleavy had called for the Special Session to meet in Wasilla starting on July 8 for the purpose of funding the 2019 Permanent Fund dividend.
But only conservative Republicans went to Wasilla. The rest of the Republicans and Democrats went to Juneau, where they have been unable to conduct business.
Dunleavy has also has expanded topics for the Special Session to include several items on the capital budget, including those that require federal matching funds.
Lawmakers have been at odds over who has the authority to name the location of the Special Session. Since the governor called the session, Alaska law gives him the authority to say where it will be held. Lawmakers could have met in Wasilla for one day and then adjourned themselves to Juneau, but Sen. Cathy Giessel and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon refused to meet in Wasilla. Edgmon cited security concerns, which was a prescient notion after anarchists took over a legislative meeting held by the Republican minority in Wasilla last week.
“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,” Dunleavy said. “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.”
Speaker Bryce Edgmon expressed his satisfaction at the governor’s concession:
“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. “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.”