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Still. Not. Done.

Lawmakers frustrated at session's drawn out finale

Posted: April 25, 2014 - 12:10am
Legislators and their aides play and sing the Eagles hit "Take It Easy" in the central stairway at the Capitol on Thursday evening. The legislative session continues Friday into the fifth day beyond the official 90-day session.  Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Legislators and their aides play and sing the Eagles hit "Take It Easy" in the central stairway at the Capitol on Thursday evening. The legislative session continues Friday into the fifth day beyond the official 90-day session.

Ukulele players serenaded the quiet halls of the state capitol on more than one occasion Thursday, but they weren’t celebrating the end of session.

That’s because the 2014 Legislature hasn’t finished its business yet.

Despite having time to clean out their apartments, play golf in the capitol building lobby and pull pranks in the chambers, lawmakers aren’t happy.

“I’m very, very frustrated. We could have had a resolution today,” said Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau. “If we had all committed to being here today and meeting and working once we had the (final version of a bill), ... we would have been able to resolve it this evening.

“It’s just very frustrating when it continues to drag on and on like this,” she added. “I think the public is very frustrated, and I want it to be over. I want to go home — I am in my community, but I want to be with my family.”

Muñoz was forced to postpone joining her family on a vacation in Tenakee Springs, again, after it was announced late Thursday that the work would continue into Friday.

Earlier in the day, several sources close to the decision-making process told the Empire the Legislature would finish its work Thursday night.

Democratic Rep. Les Gara of Anchorage tweeted that each extra day is costing taxpayers about $30,000. But that number, he said, is derived from the cost per-day for a special session, which includes the cost of airfare for lawmakers.

“We should have passed an education bill months ago — this isn’t rocket science,” Gara said, adding that the final version of the bill still falls short of what schools need to stave off cuts.

The initial extension of the session was largely due to Republicans in the House and Senate disagreeing on issues within the governor’s omnibus education reform bill, but those issues were resolved by Wednesday night.

It was expected that the House and Senate would quickly approve the compromised bill Thursday and adjourn.

That hope fell through late Wednesday when a bill appropriating money for the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority project in Southcentral Alaska fell one vote short of passing the House on a concurrence vote.

At least two Republicans in the House — Rep. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, and Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage — had left Juneau by the time of the vote. Reportedly, Lynn is caring for his ill wife and Reinbold is on a birthday vacation.

Muñoz said that at least three-quarters of lawmakers have opted to delay trips and change travel plans as a result of the extended session.

When asked Thursday and at earlier points in the week, many legislators — Republican and Democrat in the House and Senate alike — have been largely unsure of what was causing the lengthy delays.

Says Muñoz: “It is bewildering.”

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