Mike Dunleavy

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has called the second special legislative session to continue in Juneau rather than his previously designated location of Wasilla. 

In an amended proclamation released Wednesday afternoon, the governor designated that legislators will gather in the Capitol in Juneau beginning Thursday, July 18, to continue work on an expanded session call to include not only permanent fund dividend appropriations, but also the as-yet-unfinished capital budget.

“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,” Gov. 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.”

The announcement brings some reprieve to the division between the 22 lawmakers who followed the governor’s call to meet in Wasilla as designated by his original session proclamation and the rest of the Legislature who bucked the governor’s call to meet in the Capitol.

Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, praised the announcement in a statement released Wednesday afternoon, referring to the common meeting place as a “productive next step”.  

House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, emphasized the importance of working together over the rest of the session.

“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.”

Giessel and Edgmon were two of the 38 who met in Juneau.

House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, said he feels like a significant amount of work lies ahead.

“It will take a lot of compromise among all 60 legislators and the governor to breach the current impasse,” Pruitt said in a statement. “I appreciate the compromise from the governor and other legislators to change the call of the session, and I’m confident we can move forward on an agreement that meets the deadlines in front of us.”

Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, thanked the governor for the amended proclamation.

“I’m encouraged that everyone has come to the table to try and find compromise,” Costello said in a statement. “We appreciate the Governor’s quick response to our proposal, and we look forward to being with our colleagues in Juneau to wrap up the people’s business.”

Pruitt and Costello were two of the 22 who met in Wasilla. 

Fairbanks Democratic Rep. Grier Hopkins, who was at the Fairbanks LIO listening to public testimony before the House Finance Committee, celebrated the announcement and the inclusion of the capital budget in the session call. 

“I’m happy to see that the governor amended the special session call to include the capital budget. Thousands of Alaskans depend on that budget for jobs and we all depend on it for our infrastructure and many programs,” Hopkins said.

House Finance Co-Chair Neal Foster, D-Nome, announced the session location change to Fairbanks-area residents gathered at the Fairbanks LIO to testify on the permanent fund dividend. The announcement was met with applause from the crowd.

The dispute over the session location brought about two lawsuits: one filed by former North Pole Republican Rep. Al Vezey, represented by Fairbanks attorney Bill Satterberg, against the lawmakers who convened in Juneau; and one filed by two Anchorage residents, Kevin McCoy and Mary Geddes, representing themselves against the governor for his call for the special session to be held in Wasilla.

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