Dunleavy says second special session could happen on the road system, listing Mat-Su as an option

Gov. Mike Dunleavy discusses his proposed budget and Permanent Fund Dividend related constitutional amendments with reporters at a press conference held at the Capitol, Jan. 30, 2018. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Governor Mike Dunleavy’s office is considering sites in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and elsewhere on the road system for a possible second special session.

The session would occur if the Legislature doesn’t complete work on the budget, permanent fund dividends, education funding and a criminal justice bill. That’s according to Dunleavy spokesman Matt Shuckerow.

“If they can’t complete their work here in Juneau, he’s going to call them back into session, and he’s going to put them in a different venue, perhaps on the road system,” Shuckerow said. “And one of those places that he’s identified having interest is the Mat-Su Valley.”

The Legislative Affairs Agency has identified a dozen serious concerns for a special session outside of the Capitol. They include a lack of adequate space for meetings and offices. In addition, the session would not have televised Gavel Alaska coverage. This means people who do not have reliable internet will have no access to the Legislature’s work.

House Speaker Bryce Edgmon says he’s concerned about the logistics of moving the Legislature, as well as the challenges to documenting session work.

He says he and other lawmakers are increasingly apprehensive about the security of a session in Matanuska-Susitna Borough. He says he’s received threatening phone calls, and he and other lawmakers have been the focus of anger from Mat-Su residents over the size of permanent fund dividends.

“I’m concerned about the security aspect, and if the governor does call us up there, you know, I intend to sit down with the Senate president and talk about bringing more security presence for the Legislature, because I think it could be a very volatile environment,” Edgmon said.

Shuckerow rejected the concern. He noted the House Finance Committee held one of its series of budget roadshow meetings in Wasilla.

“The idea that a community of Alaskans — the Mat-Su Valley, frankly those are kind and generous people in my view — and the idea that the speaker of the House would say it’s inappropriate to conduct business there because of an issue of safety — as I recall, the Legislature, the House hosted discussions and listening sessions there,” Shuckerow said.

Senate President Cathy Giessel notes the Legislature has met in Anchorage before. She says it presents logistical challenges and can raise session costs.

“We’ll go wherever the governor decides he’d like to call us in,” Giessel said. “At the same time, if it’s logistically challenging or significantly difficult, we also have the authority to move ourselves to a different location. So, time will tell.”

The current special session in Juneau must end by June 14th.

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Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at akitchenman@alaskapublic.org.

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