Alaska needs more legislators

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, January 16, 2005

Does Alaska need a new capitol in Juneau, and, if so, what design?

No need, when the number of legislators hasn't changed in 45 years and when those same legislators occupy many more rooms ... except ... where's the dome?

But Alaska's population tripled since statehood. Alaska ought to triple the number of legislators. Historically, Alaska has twice before expanded the Legislature. Alaska began with 16 representatives in 1913, grew to 24 in 1943, and to 40 representatives in 1959.

Just 40? That makes Alaska's the smallest House in America. New Hampshire, with 400, is the biggest. (The national average is about 115; 36 states have more than 80 representatives; 17 have more than 120).

Alaska representatives now must care for 16,000 constituents each - too many. Even among low-population density Western States (North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming), that's the worst ratio; North Dakota is best (6,500 citizens per representative). If Alaska tripled its legislators, Alaska would be best. Alaskans would get real personal attention from legislators, like at statehood. Even great staffers can't do that.

Alaska grew legislative numbers twice before. After 45 years, it's time to do that again. Sure, it would cost more, but better representation is worth more. Besides, the best time to grow legislative numbers is when Alaska builds a new capitol.

Do it now:120 representatives, 60 senators.

This letter is just my personal opinion, but I say have the state buy it - it's Alaska's capitol after all - and, oh yeah, put a dome on it.

Joe Sonneman


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