With only 90 days in the Legislative session, 89 of which remain, lawmakers are being asked to make the most of a very limited resource — time.
Ever since the session was shortened from 120 to 90 days in 2007, lawmakers every year seem to lament the short amount of time given to pass bills. What should make this daunting task a bit simpler, though, is if they focus first on the bills that really matter; bills that make Alaskans safer, smarter, wealthier and those which provide more opportunities. Leave everything else for later.
Too often the key bills with potential (or guarantee) to have the largest impact statewide are slow-moving out of the gate, and end up being debated and revised up until the final days or hours of session. While we absolutely support vetting an issue properly, we also hope hot-button topics and key issues are given first priority over legislation with minimal or no impact.
We’re not saying Alaska shouldn’t celebrate Marmot Day on Feb. 2, or that the Malamute shouldn’t be recognized as the state dog, but in no way should bills like those detract from others that will have an immediate and long-lasting impact.
Too few high school students graduate on time, and many that do aren’t prepared for the rigors of college. Alcoholism and domestic violence still plague communities from Barrow to Ketchikan, and energy costs in rural Alaska grow more expensive with each passing year. These are among the issues that Alaskans want to see discussed, debated and, if necessary, passed into law. These are the types of issues that most lawmakers promised to address when running for office in the first place.
Session is the time to fulfill promises to constituents.
Let 2014 set a different tone for how the Legislature handles business by forgoing the procrastination and unnecessary politics that worm their way into the legislative process each year. Lawmakers were elected to provide a critical role in how our state operates in both the short- and long-term future, but are given a relatively small amount of time to get the job done.
We urge lawmakers to identify the critical issues and tackle those first. Once that’s done, focus in on the small stuff.
And if there isn’t time left over, the state won’t be any worse off than it was before the session started.