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Costs to move session may trump savings

Special legislative session cheaper in Juneau, official says

Posted: Monday, May 21, 2007

Last year, when the Alaska Legislature had three special sessions, Legislative Affairs Agency Director Pam Varni looked into whether it would be cheaper to hold the session in a more central location.

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"It was going to cost more to have it in Anchorage," she said.

Gov. Sarah Palin has proposed holding a special session of the Legislature in the fall to discuss oil taxes and said it might be cheaper to hold it in a more central location than Juneau.

Cost estimates provided by Varni challenge that contention.

While there would be travel savings for some legislators who don't have to come to Juneau, other costs outweighed the savings, Varni said.

Among the problems is simply finding a place to meet, she said. The Legislative offices in Anchorage have a large meeting room, but it also has a large fixed table.

Removing the table and replacing it with 40 desks and workspace for the House clerk's staff, would likely leave little room for an audience, she said.

"I seriously doubt we would have enough room to have the public come in for a gallery," she said.

That would also leave no place for the Senate to meet, she said.

Electronic voting systems and sound systems would have to be rented as well, she said.

Another option would be renting the Egan Center for $8,000 a day, she said.

Anchorage legislators have offices in a building rented by the Legislature.

"At least those members, when they weren't meeting in actual session, would have an office to go back to for some privacy" for meetings and research, Varni said.

It's not clear what arrangements would have to be made for the legislators from outside Anchorage, she said.

• Pat Forgey can be reached at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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