Alaska editorial: Anchorage should host second special session

Posted: Monday, July 16, 2007

This editorial appeared in the Anchorage Daily News:

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The Legislature's special session to restore SeniorCare was a swift and efficient exercise, held within easy reach of half the state's population. Meeting away from the Capitol in Juneau was cheaper than doomsayers warned.

Yes, there were logistical challenges, such as no electronic voting system and holding committee meetings off-site. But they were minor compared to the value of bringing that particular piece of legislative business closer to the people.

Another special session is on the horizon this fall, to revisit the new oil tax law that was born in corrupt circumstances last year.

Should that session also be held outside Juneau?

You needn't support moving the capital to see the advantages of holding the oil tax special session somewhere besides Juneau.

This session essentially will be a "do-over" because corruption infected the passage of the new oil tax. And why did that corruption fester? In part, because the capital is so isolated from the scrutiny of ordinary citizens.

That isolation works against the whole point of the upcoming special session. It must rebuild public confidence in the state's multibillion-dollar oil tax system. That makes a strong case for having it within easy reach of large numbers of Alaskans. Anchorage is again the most logical location.

Yes, this session is sure to be longer than the one on SeniorCare. And the issues will be more complicated. By the time lawmakers secure meeting space, set up shop and bring in state officials from Juneau, the overall cost could be significantly higher than meeting in the capital.

Some creative steps can help cut those costs, though. For example, committees could begin work on the oil tax issue before the full Legislature officially convenes. That way, Alaskans don't have to pay 45 or 50 legislators to sit around doing nothing while committee work proceeds.

On this high-stakes issue, it's worth spending a little more to have the Legislature meet where more of the public can see legislators at work. Holding the session in Anchorage will give Alaskans more confidence that the outcome represents the best judgment of the Legislature, not the illegal influence of powerful interests.

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