A Palmer Republican is putting a new spin on an old idea. Rep. Scott Ogan has introduced a bill to move legislative sessions out of Juneau every other year.
Under the measure, lawmakers would convene in Juneau the first year of every two-year cycle. However, the second year the sessions would move outside Southeast Alaska if lawmakers pass a resolution choosing an alternate location. If they fail to pass a resolution, the Legislature would convene in Juneau the second year, too.
Then the process would start all over again.
The bill also deletes a provision in current law that requires approval by voters before the state can spend money to move the Legislature.
"We're taking a more private-sector approach of letting municipalities compete for where the second half of the legislative session would meet," Ogan said.
Although Ogan hasn't worked out the details, he envisions a system in which the Legislature every two years would send out a request for proposals to municipalities, which would compete against each other to host the session.
The idea is to see which town offers the best incentives to help offset the cost of the move, he said.
"It's kind of like bottom fishing - you put out a line and pull up all kinds of surprises," Ogan said.
Sen. Kim Elton, a Juneau Democrat, called the bill "troublesome" and said it could polarize regions of the state already divided on issues such as education funding and subsistence.
"This will create another issue every other year in which we have another situation where one region is pitted against another in the fight to host the legislative sessions," Elton said.
Although the sessions would stay in Juneau at least half the time under the bill, Elton sees it as a first step toward moving the capital permanently.
"We shouldn't kid ourselves," he said.
This is the first time in recent memory a lawmaker has proposed moving sessions every other year, but similar efforts have arisen many times before. Reps. Norm Rokeberg and Joe Green, both Anchorage Republicans, filed a bill last week to move all regular sessions to Anchorage. Rokeberg has said Juneau is too far removed from most state residents.
Rep. Bill Hudson, a Juneau Republican, argued the session lasts only four months each year and representatives have plenty of time between sessions to talk to their constituents.
"We've got eight months out of the year to do that. Everybody has an office in their own home town," Hudson said.
But Ogan said that's not good enough.
"The critical time for legislators to be in touch with their constituents is during session," he said.
Past efforts to move the sessions have failed, and Ogan acknowledged it will be an "uphill climb" to garner enough support for his bill.
The chances it will pass are "slim, but I tell you, I get a tremendous amount of people asking me to get the Legislature out of Juneau," Ogan said.
The issue "is huge in my district," he said. "It comes up without solicitation."
Ogan's bill was one of about a dozen measures filed today before the session convenes Monday.
Kathy Dye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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