Anchorage lawmaker tries again to move sessions

Posted: Friday, December 29, 2000

Add one more item to that list of sure things. You can depend on death, taxes and Rep. Norm Rokeberg to try to move legislative sessions out of Juneau.

The Anchorage Republican has filed another bill to move the sessions to his hometown.

Although Rokeberg has failed in several past attempts, he said his intention is to keep the issue alive in the minds of Alaskans.

"The issue of access is a central one. It certainly comes to mind as I pack my bags to go to Juneau," Rokeberg said. "It's very difficult to be separated from your family and difficult to recruit people to run for office. The average person in the state has difficulty accessing his legislator during the session."

Rep. Bill Hudson, a Juneau Republican, has fought the effort many times before, and he was not surprised to discover Rokeberg had filed the bill again.

"I've almost gotten to the point where I expect it. Obviously it's something I'll have to work very hard against because of its devastating effect, if it were to happen, to the economy of our community," said Hudson. "I certainly hope folks would maybe take a powder on it for once, but it looks like we're going to have to deal with it."

Although a similar measure passed out of a committee two years ago, it died shortly after for lack of support. Former Senate President Mike Miller called it a non-issue back then.

Senate Majority Leader Loren Leman, an Anchorage Republican, last month said it likely would not be a priority among Senate Republicans this year either. Senate President Rick Halford also has questioned whether such a measure would find enough supporters.

"Well, there are certainly people who advocate moving the Legislature. I don't know if they're anywhere near critical mass," said Halford, a Chugiak Republican.

Hudson said a session move would mean state administrators would have to travel to Anchorage to testify before committees, and the cost would be enormous to the state.

"Instead of having 60 legislators coming to Juneau for four months out of the year, you'll have 150 administrators going from Juneau to Anchorage ... traveling back and forth," he said. "It's going to end up an extremely costly thing with no major benefits from it."

Although the measure proposes moving only legislative sessions, not the capital, Hudson said the capital eventually would follow.

"It would be the first step to what I call a backdoor capital move," he said.

Rokeberg did not disagree the capital would follow, but he said Juneau could make the issue go away by building a new facility for the Legislature.

"I believe our Capitol building is antiquated, obsolete and not safe for public use," he said. "I think the people of Juneau should take notice of that."

The bill was co-sponsored by Anchorage Republican Rep. Joe Green and was one of several dozen measures pre-filed by lawmakers, scheduled to meet in Juneau Jan. 8 for the legislative session.

Rokeberg also filed a measure to shorten regular sessions from 120 days to 90 days.

Kathy Dye can be reached at kdye@juneauempire.com.



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