By REP. LANCE PRUITT
Tomorrow is July 8, and the Alaska Legislature is due to begin the second special legislative session on the Permanent Fund Dividend at Wasilla Middle School.
This is exactly where the House Republicans will be, alongside a number of our Senate colleagues.
Each legislature is established with power granted by the people of Alaska, for the purpose of creating the laws that govern our great state. Despite all the changes, one foundational underpinning remains constant: Alaskans expect, as they should, that those who make law should also be subject to it. No one in Alaska is exempt from compliance, and those who do not comply are made to face the consequences for violation.
Rather than changing the law through the process laid out in our Constitution, the legislature has made an unfortunate habit of simply ignoring laws that don’t fit the agenda of the moment, and it’s sending the wrong message to Alaskans.
The Constitution defines the governor’s powers, and in the case of calling for special sessions, they are broad. The governor has the authority to call a special session when, where, and on whatever topic he feels is necessary.
We have the largest, most geographically diverse state in the country, and our state’s framers took this into consideration during their deliberation and debate. Special session locations were left open to change through statute, and the Legislature defined that change in 1982.
The change allows the governor to choose the location for special sessions and bring the unique topics under debate to other regions of Alaska. When the statute was adopted, legal experts saw no conflict with the constitution, and to this day, the statute has remained in effect.
In 2015, Governor Bill Walker called a special session on Medicaid expansion to be held in Juneau. The Legislature followed the law by convening in Juneau, and with a three-quarters vote, moved the special session to Anchorage.
Logistically, this was a challenge, but well worth the effort of bringing a session to another region of Alaska. This Legislature could follow that precedent and example, but it has chosen instead to willfully ignore what is clearly written in statute, as well as actions taken by previous Legislatures.
The law is clear: special session should begin tomorrow in Wasilla.
We cannot control what other members of our respective bodies choose to do with their time tomorrow, nor where they choose to be. But we will not be complicit in any attempts to undermine the law or diminish the reverence that we expect Alaskans to hold for it.
It’s entirely possible that we may arrive to start work on legislative business tomorrow without a quorum, but we will be following the law and we encourage our colleagues to do the same.
Alaskans are watching, and our willingness to adhere to the laws we create will, undoubtedly, be noticed.
We hope to see you in Wasilla.
Lance Pruitt represents Alaska’s 27th District in the House of Representatives and serves as the House Minority Leader.