Legislative expansion moves forward

Posted: Monday, April 05, 2010

A bill to expand the size of the Alaska Legislature formally passed the state Senate Thursday, after Sen. John Coghill decided against changing his vote.

The measure calls for a vote by the public to amend the Alaska Constitution to increase the Legislature by 12 seats. It passed 14-5, but Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, asked for reconsideration, giving him 24 hours in which he could change his vote. Constitutional amendments need a two-thirds vote to pass, and would have failed if Coghill had changed his vote.

Thursday morning he said he did not intend to do so, and the measure will now go to the House of Representatives.

"My vote isn't totally a resounding 'yes,' because I don't know if it does what people want it to do," he said.

After pondering the issue, Coghill said he would be sticking with his vote.

"I am convinced there are some geographic areas in Alaska that aren't going to get represented well if we don't do something like this," he said.

Sen. Con Bunde, R-Anchorage, an opponent, said he questions the cost estimates of $6 million in the first year and $4 million in subsequent years. Remodeling legislative buildings alone could be much higher than that, he said.

A similar bill in the house would increase the Legislature by six seats, which would result in lower costs and difficulty in remodeling, the bill's sponsor, Rep. Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell, said.

• Reporter Pat Forgey at 586-4816 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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