My Turn: Reporter keeps crystal ball to himself

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2002

Bill McAllister's Capitol Notebook (Empire, Sunday, April 21) described the two-minute per person testimony limit at Senate Finance Committee public hearing last Thursday and Friday in the most abhorrent, slanted way possible.

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Mr. McAllister forgets that part of our job is not just making sure everyone who wants to testify gets to, but to also make sure that everyone has an equal amount of time to testify. Is your writer suggesting that we should give some members of the public more time than others? How would that be fair?

We try to set the time limits so everyone who wants to testify will have an opportunity. But McAllister argues that the hearing ended 45 minutes ahead of schedule. This point might have meant something had McAllister allowed us use of his crystal ball as the meeting progressed to be sure that no one else would come late to testify.

McAllister's mission seemed clear this past Sunday: Invoke hostility toward the Senate without regard for the truth or fairness. To that end he failed to mention that public testimony was scheduled in the evening hours so Juneau residents who wanted to testify could do so without missing work. Nor did McAllister mention the fact that the two-minute time limit is the same limit enacted by the House when they took budget testimony. And two minutes has been the standard for public testimony on the budget in most previous years as well. Most of all, McAllister failed to mention the Juneau testimony completed 10 hours of public testimony over a two-day period.

It also seem interesting that McAllister thinks we should run timers on constituents, lobbyists, activists and other who schedule appointments and meetings, but never once does he suggest we run a timer for our interviews with journalists.

This situation is simple: Legislative committees structure public testimony on budget bills, based on how much time we have for the hearing, how many people we think will testify, extra time for questions from committee members - all to establish a public hearing that is fair to everyone.

Dave Donley, an Anchorage lawyer, serves as co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

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