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Session move bill voted down

Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A legislative committee Tuesday voted down a proposal to hold future special sessions of the Alaska Legislature outside Juneau.

House Bill 318, sponsored by Rep. Carl Gatto, R-Palmer, is one of three bills related to a capital move in the 2008 legislative session. All of the bills got their first hearings in the House State Affairs Committee.

Legislation that would move the capital was earlier passed out of the committee, but has not been heard elsewhere. A bill to build a new legislative hall elsewhere was heard and held in committee.

Gatto's bill failed Tuesday on a 4-3 vote. Three Anchorage Republican representatives supported it, but another Anchorage Democratic representative joined Juneau's Rep. Andrea Doll in opposing it, as did Republicans from Ketchikan and Fairbanks.

Tuesday's vote came despite an impassioned speech by Gatto supporting the bill. The lawmaker said Juneau residents' concerns over his bill's damage to the Juneau economy weren't as important as the inconvenience to him and other Southcentral legislators who have to travel to Juneau for special sessions.

"This is a horrible place to hold a special session," he said.

By the time a special session is called, legislators from outside Juneau have given up their housing arrangements and usually have arranged to have their vehicles shipped.

"It's not just difficult," Gatto said. "It's a monstrous inconvenience."

Gatto said he knew the job was located in Juneau when he was elected and expected to spend 90 or 120 days a year in Juneau, but special sessions have increased that considerably, he said.

If special sessions were held in the state's biggest city, it would be more convenient for most legislators, he said.

"We give up plenty," he said. "We give up that family life. I don't want to give up one extra day."

Doll said she didn't want to sound too hard-nosed, but "that's kind of what you sign up for when you sign up to be a legislator."

She said that despite living in Juneau, she understood Gatto's complaints. Her husband, a Navy veteran, went on nine-month tours and they moved 14 times while raising a daughter and dealing with household emergencies.

The bill had originally called for holding special sessions on the "interconnected" road system, but was changed to requiring them to be held in the Railbelt.

Rep. Craig Johnson, R-Anchorage, moved to pass Gatto's bill out of committee, but Doll objected and a vote was taken.

Voting for the legislation were Reps. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage and Bob Roses, R-Anchorage, and Johnson. Voting against it were Reps. Max Gruenberg, D-Anchorage, John Coghill, R-North Pole, and Kyle Johansen, R-Ketchikan, and Doll.

Lynn said the bill could be resurrected at a later time, but in practice that rarely happens after a defeat in committee.



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