My Turn: Legislators need to be accessible

Bill would allow smaller communities throughout state to bid for legislative sessions

Posted: Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Once again a bill has been introduced that, if acted upon, would result in moving legislative sessions out of Juneau. This bill, in its present form, would allow all of the smaller communities throughout Alaska to bid for the sessions. Hopefully this would result in the legislators meeting in a place more accessible to the majority of Alaskans than Juneau.

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I was appalled to hear Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, in an interview for KTUU news describe how easily Alaskans can interface with their legislators. After all, she said in this day of technology we can all use e-mail or the telephone to contact our legislators. Isn't it funny how e-mail or the telephone is OK for us mere constituents, but when a legislator feels a need to interact with someone it is inevitably done in person. After all, they say you can't beat face-to-face communication, especially when the people they are interacting with are in Hawaii and it is winter in Alaska.

And of course e-mail or the telephone would never work for lobbyists. After all, how can you wine and dine a legislator if you are using technology as your means of communication? But what the heck, we are merely constituents. Why would we want to be able to visit a legislative session and witness our legislators in action? They only represent us, and the best way for us to gain an understanding of how good a job they are doing for us is to watch them in action. Could it be that they truly don't want that to happen? After all, an informed constituent becomes a dangerous one, especially at election time.

To complicate things further for us constituents, a new Homeland Security regulation, which goes into effect January 2008, will require all of us Alaskans that desire to drive to Juneau to attend a legislative session to have a passport. Passports take several weeks to acquire and cost $100 each. Once again, Alaska will be unique. We will be the only state in the union that will require its citizens to have a passport to drive to their capital.

Of course, one could respond to this and say that all you have to do is fly to Juneau and then a passport would not be required. That is true, however, the cost of the trip has now grown exponentially. Airfare is not cheap and all of us do not care to fly, especially with all of the new regulations brought on by 9/11. The road-out-of-Juneau proponents like to present the road as one more answer to the age-old question of access to the state capital for all us Alaskans. That could be true, but wouldn't it be nice if the majority of Alaskans had access to their legislators in a location that does not require a passport?

We need better access to our legislators.

• Mike Staso is a resident of Glennallen.

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