The Alaska Senate last week passed legislation making Juneau the governor's official duty station in what may have been a final jab at former Gov. Sarah Palin.
The bill itself, sponsored by Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, would accomplish nothing concrete, as Juneau is already the governor's duty station.
It passed 17-2 in the Senate, and now goes to the House.
The bill "codifies in statute the Legislature's intent that Juneau is the governor's official duty station," Stedman said on the Senate floor Thursday.
Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, co-sponsored Stedman's bill.
"I think the governor's duty station ought to be in Juneau," he said.
In addition to making Juneau the chief executive's duty station, the bill also bars payment of a "lodging allowance" to a governor while they are living in their own home elsewhere.
Palin regularly billed the state for $60 a day for "meal and incidental expense" payments, typically given to state travelers, while living in her home in Wasilla. The payments amounted to thousands of dollars over her 2 ½ years as governor, and despite the state providing an official residence for the governor in Juneau.
Palin claimed the payments were legal because her official duty station was in Juneau, and said she was "on travel status" when she was living at her Wasilla home, and thus was entitled to the payments.
After Sean Parnell became governor last summer he told the Empire he would not be claiming any expense money living in his Anchorage home prior to moving to Juneau earlier this year. He declined to say whether he believed it was appropriate for Palin to seek such payments.
The "lodging allowance" that the bill purports to ban is something that is currently not allowed under state travel rules, state administrative officials say.
The state instead pays for actual lodging expenses, such as those put on a credit card or reimbursement with a receipt.
It has not paid for any governor to stay in their own home, said Linda Perez, administrative officer for the Office of the Governor, in a fiscal analysis of the bill.
"As there are no lodging costs when staying in a personal residence, there is no lodging allowance paid," she said.
Stedman said the bill began with his unhappiness with Palin seeking travel payments for days spent in her own home.
Stedman legislative aide Darwin Peterson acknowledged that the duty station bill would do nothing additional to block payment of a lodging allowance.
"It won't be permissible, it is not permissible now," he said. "It's a moot point."
Passage of the bill won't "change the ability of the governor to have incidental reimbursement while traveling," Stedman acknowledged.
The bill has been erroneously reported to block such payments.
Senate Republican Minority Leader Con Bunde, R-Anchorage, was one of only two senators to vote against the bill. He called the bill a "residue of the anti-Palin" sentiment during the past few years, and noted that its sponsors were from Southeast, a region that felt disenfranchised by Palin.
"I think the genesis comes from the last governor," agreed Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, frequently a Palin ally.
Coghill said he voted for Stedman's bill because the governor should be in the capital.
"If you want to move the capital, move the capital," he said. "Like it or not, Juneau is the seat of government."
Sen. Fred Dyson, R-Anchorage, who joined Bunde in voting "no," said the issue seems to have ended with new Gov. Parnell.
"He understand this is the capital," he said.
Egan said the bill was at least a statement of intent, even if it didn't accomplish anything.
"We just made it a lot clearer that the governor ought to be here," Egan said.
Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 586-4816 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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