House balks at later start date

Lawmakers try to work out kinks in 90-day session bill

Posted: Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Alaska House on Tuesday questioned the wisdom of changes that were made in the Senate to the 90-day session bill.

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Voting 11-28 not to concur with the Senate's version, lawmakers in the House said they were especially concerned with the proposal to begin each session in mid-February.

Rep. Andrea Doll, D-Juneau, voted with the majority. Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, was excused.

Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, said the proposed start time creates too great a lag between the November election and the first day of session when lawmakers are sworn in. He said that makes any outgoing legislator "a very lame duck."

The House had earlier proposed staggering the start dates for the two-year session, with the first year following the general election beginning in January and the second year in February.

But a Senate committee changed that, arguing that a February start date every year would not only avoid the worst of Juneau's winter weather but provide consistency that lawmakers and their families could count on.

House Majority Leader Ralph Samuels, R-Anchorage, asked if the lag could result in anarchy in state government.

Rep. John Coghill, R-North Pole, said a lame duck Legislature could be called into special session "when you have people who have not only been elected but certified by the time we are called in."

"Whether or not that is anarchy I can't say, but there is a possible problem there," he said.

Lawmakers also wondered if the gap would result in districts being unrepresented because lawmakers' two-year terms would have expired before the new session began.

"If that's even a slight possibility we ought to consider sending it to conference to have that ironed out," said Rep. Mike Doogan, D-Anchorage.

An opinion from the Division of Legal and Research Services said a gap could result, but more likely the affected legislators would hold over until their successors take office. Lawmakers voted to send the bill to a House and Senate conference committee to work out the differences.

The measure was written to make the necessary schedule changes after voters last November approved shaving a month off the current four month legislative session. Sessions currently start in mid-January.

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