Is alcohol the explanation?

Letter to the editor

Posted: Thursday, February 24, 2005

All Alaska legislators should not be painted with the same brush, and my comments are of the "if the shoe fits" kind. It's commonly recognized that drinking alcohol impairs judgment, efficiency and motivation. Perhaps the fact that Alaska legislators, having allocating unto themselves the unabridged privilege to drink in the states Capitol building, might partially explain some of the following:

Legislators have made little progress on state revenue raising issues for many years, apparently preferring to regularly withdraw from the Constitutional Budget Reserve and/or attack the permanent fund.

Legislators routinely allow oil companies to extract a nonrenewable resource from some Alaska oil fields with zero compensation to the state while cutting needed programs and piously crying copious crocodile tears over the lack of funds.

Legislators chronically make little progress on any legislation during the regular sessions and habitually wait until the last minutes of each session to try to ram through complex and confusing legislation, and often with little or no public input.

Legislators all too often must be dragged kicking and screaming back for special sessions after the regular session to finish critically needed legislation, at tremendous extra cost to Alaska taxpayers.

The Legislature apparently considers itself a privileged bunch, exempt from universal standards of behavior for everyone else, and establishes its own set of unique rules for members, much like royalty, and not incidentally, the U.S. Congress.

Rules permit any legislative employee to be fired for publicly disclosing anything, true or not, about the Legislature, and most certainly anything which embarrasses that august body. Recently the Legislature chose to fire a security guard for disclosing the fact that some legislators routinely drink in the Capitol building.

This reactionary and Draconian discipline of an employee has thereby guaranteed a great deal of negative publicity throughout Alaska and beyond. It is perhaps just another manifestation of poor judgment being exercised by Alaska's Legislature, and may even be self-correcting. That act should result in a loud public outcry to remove those special privileges the legislators have allocated unto themselves.

And that would only be just.

Erik Lie-Nielsen


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