Alaska editorial: Take care of seniors at the special session

Posted: Friday, June 15, 2007

Lawmakers had the time. Lawmakers had the money. Lawmakers even had the wherewithal.

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But they didn't have the sense to extend SeniorCare's $120 monthly payments before they clocked out of Juneau in May. So now there's some bickering over the location of the June 26 special session that lawmakers need to do right by about 6,800 older Alaskans.

Gosh, will it cost more to have the session in Anchorage or Juneau? Is this a not-so-subtle revival of the capital move issue? Can we actually make a decision away from the apparatus of government in Juneau?

Spare us all the angst. Spare the poorest Alaska seniors the quibbling.

Meet in Anchorage and keep the costs down by keeping it simple. Stick to the issue of SeniorCare and resist any temptation to open others. You don't need a voting machine. Call the roll; there's rich sense of history in that exercise that you don't get with names on a board in red and green lights. With only one issue to consider, that shouldn't hold you up long.

If Juneau shudders at the thought of an Anchorage session, be at ease. The capital isn't moving anytime soon, and there's no harm in an Anchorage session that's more convenient for most lawmakers. Besides, Juneau has been arguing for years that the marvels of modern communications keep us all better connected. So lawmakers can use all those marvels to tap whatever expertise they need from the capital for what should be a short meeting.

Arguing about the cost of the session misses the bigger point: SeniorCare is an affordable program that helps the poorest of older Alaskans make ends meet - lawmakers should have taken care of this on their regular shift. Instead, they've gone to overtime on the people's dime to fix a problem of their own making - or, to be fair, the making of a few lawmakers.

No wonder Alaskans voted for a 90-day session.

Hold the special session in Anchorage. Egan Center? OK, but wouldn't it be better to have this session at the Senior Center on East 19th? Yes, it might be a little crowded for 60 lawmakers and staffers, but then they'll all know how seniors feel when the bills start closing in.

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