Session may end early

Adjournment by Easter is a possibility, according to leaders

Posted: Sunday, April 02, 2000

When the Easter Bunny comes to town, there may not be many legislators around.

Both Senate President Drue Pearce and Speaker of the House Brian Porter said Friday they're looking for a pre-Easter end to the legislative session. Easter is April 23 this year. The session, set at 121 days, is slated to end May 9 unless lawmakers vote to extend their stay at the Capitol.

The pair of Anchorage Republican presiding officers said there's a plan to get out of Juneau early, and things are moving fast enough with the state's budget to make that happen.

``We are on track to sine die before Easter,'' Pearce said. ``If we've got our work done, why stick around? It will just cost more money.'' Sine die is a Latin term meaning to adjourn a meeting for an indefinite period.

When the Legislature leaves this year, the 21st Legislature will end and any bills left unfinished will die.

Bob King, press secretary for Gov. Tony Knowles, a Democrat, said as long as there's nothing left for lawmakers to do, they can leave with his blessing. He also said that rumors of an early end surface with many sessions.

``Let them go,'' King said. ``They should not leave until they have finished their work. If they can finish that before the end of the 120-day session, that's fine with me.''

But the governor's goals for the session aren't quite accomplished yet. They include money for child protection, subsistence, a long-range fiscal plan, education funding and paying for contracts with state employees.

Some of those issues, such as subsistence, probably won't get solved this year. Others are not priorities of the GOP majority.

Pearce and Porter both said Knowles may call a special legislative session if the Senate and House adjourn ahead of schedule.

``A goal of Easter is certainly something we're looking at,'' said Porter. He cautioned that it is a bit early to say when the session will end. A lot of things still need to be resolved.

Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, an Anchorage Democrat and minority leader of the House, said the GOP leaders may be getting a bit ahead of themselves.

``There may be enough time (to finish legislative work), but I also don't stay up Easter morning looking for the Easter Bunny,'' he said. ``We need to round up a lot of Easter eggs before we can leave by then.''

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