In keeping with a staunch rejection of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s call to hold the Legislature’s second special session in Wasilla, 37 members of the Alaska House and Senate convened Monday afternoon in Juneau. Fourteen members of the Senate and 23 members of the House were present.

The other members of the House and Senate met in Wasilla at the request of the governor but were unable to officially convene as both bodies lacked the simple majority to meet the quorum requirements. Twenty-one members of the House and Senate gathered in Wasilla. Two senators, Soldotna Republican Peter Micciche and Wasilla Republican David Wilson, were excused due to work conflicts. 

The Senate and House in Juneau each held floor sessions led by presiding officers Rep. Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, and Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, during which the chambers agreed to meet at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday in joint session to consider overriding any of the governor’s 182 line-item vetoes to the operating budget. It was not clear whether lawmakers plan to consider the vetoes as a group or individually.

However, as it currently stands, the Legislature does not have the 45 votes needed to override any vetoes, let alone that number of members present in Juneau to vote on the matter. 

North Pole Republican Sen. John Coghill, who serves as the Senate Rules chair and carried the motion to approve the joint session in the Senate, noted that holding the joint session Wednesday will hopefully allow time for other legislators to join House and Senate members in Juneau.

Also during the Senate floor session in Juneau, the Senate stripped Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, of her position as Senate majority leader and removed her from the Senate Rules Committee. Costello was replaced on the committee and as majority leader by Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel. 

Costello addressed members of the House and Senate who appeared in Wasilla today, stating that there was only one call for a special session — the governor’s. 

House Republican Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, noted that if the courts designate that the lawmakers meeting in Juneau are in the right, he would go there, but noted that a ruling would likely be more complicated than a simple ruling one way or the other.

As far as any possible veto overrides, according to both lawmakers meeting in Juneau and those in Wasilla, the clock is ticking.

While the legislators meeting in Wasilla do not have a quorum and as such, have not officially been able to convene, Costello stated that time began running down today on the five day window legislators have to act on any veto overrides. Lawmakers in Wasilla have not made any mention of plans to act on perspective veto overrides. Many legislators meeting in Wasilla support the governor’s budget vetoes.

Pruitt went on to call the lawmakers meeting in Juneau a “fake session,” explaining that he feels the joint session scheduled for Wednesday to discuss any possible veto overrides is “not valid.” 

Just as lawmakers in Juneau expressed a desire for those in Wasilla to join them in the state’s capital, Costello extended a plea Monday for lawmakers in Juneau to come to Wasilla. With neither group budging, possible movement on the dividend, capital budget and operating budget vetoes remains at an impasse.

The legality of either meeting is in question. Without a quorum, lawmakers in Wasilla are unable to legally do business. But without the blessing of the governor or the ability to call themselves into special session, lawmakers meeting in Juneau may be in violation of the constitution. 

 

What's next?

Today

Members of the House Finance Committee in Juneau will meet at 9 a.m. to consider House Bill 2001 which would designate a $1,600 dividend this year. 

Members of the Senate Finance Committee in Juneau will meet at 9 a.m. to hear a presentation from Division of Legislative Finance Director David Teal on the current fiscal situation taking into consideration the operating budget as it currently stands. 

House members in Juneau will convene a floor session at 10:30 a.m. 

Senate members in Juneau will convene a floor session at 11 a.m. 

Members of the House Finance Committee in Juneau will meet at 1 p.m. to discuss the impact of a veto override. 

Members of the Senate Finance Committee in Juneau will meet at 1:30 p.m. to hear a presentation from Legislative Auditor Kris Curtis and Legislative Legal Services Director Megan Wallace on the constitutional budget reserve and reverse sweep. July 1, the beginning of fiscal 2020, was the deadline to approve the reverse sweep, a process that refills a collection of state savings accounts that are automatically drained at the end of each fiscal year. The reverse sweep requires a vote of three-quarters of the House and Senate and did not occur by the July 1 deadline. During the Tuesday afternoon meeting, lawmakers will hear possibilities on how to best handle the accounts. 

 

Wednesday

House and Senate members in Juneau will hold a joint floor session at 11:30 a.m. to discuss possible overrides of the governor’s vetoes. 

All committee meetings and floor sessions held in Juneau will be broadcast on Gavel Television Channel 9.9 or online at www.360north.org.

While there are not enough members of the House or the Senate to have a quorum to officially convene in Wasilla, House Republican Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, told reporters Monday afternoon that members in Wasilla will remain there in hopes their colleagues join them.

Members of the House and Senate in Wasilla have announced their plan to broadcast any meetings via Facebook Live on their new Facebook page “2019 Second Special Session — Alaska State Legislature.”

 

Who was where? 

Of the Fairbanks area lawmakers, Sens. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks; John Coghill, R-North Pole; and Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, were present in Juneau, as were Reps. Bart LeBon, R-Fairbanks; Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks; Grier Hopkins, D-Fairbanks; and Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks. 

Healy Republican Rep. Dave Talerico, a member of the House Republican Minority, was present in Wasilla as was House Majority Coalition member Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole. 

Wilson and Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, were the only two House Majority Coalition members who defected from the group to appear in Wasilla. 

 

Public response 

About 150 Fairbanks area residents gathered outside the Fairbanks Legislative Information Office around 9 a.m. Monday to protest the governor’s vetoes.

University of Alaska Fairbanks Chancellor Dan White spoke to the crowd, which had shrunk to about 50 people at about 12:30 p.m., thanking them for their support of university funding and other state agency funding. 

A companion rally was held in front of the Capitol Building in Juneau on Monday afternoon with reports of hundreds of attendees and dueling rallies were held in front of Wasilla Middle School with some attendees pushing lawmakers to approve a full $3,000 dividend and adhere to Dunleavy’s budget vetoes and other attendees urging legislators to override the vetoes. 

A rally in Anchorage is planned for 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Alaska Airlines Center. The rally against the governor’s vetoes is organized by the Save Our State organization and will feature a performance by the band Portugal. The Man. 

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.

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