(With Rep. Christopher Kurka for the 10am House Floor Session on 8/25/21)
Today marked the fifth time since the special session began last week, that Democrat leadership has asked legislators not to attend a required floor session of the Alaska State House.
The Alaska Constitution requires the legislature to operate under the Uniform Rules of the Alaska Legislature. They are not ambiguous:
“Each house shall convene daily, except Sunday, at 10a.m., unless otherwise ordered by a majority vote of the members present.”
Democrat legislators could work with their Republican counterparts to amend those rules at any time. They prefer instead to flaunt the very rules the constitution requires, to the dismay of the public, and despite the chaotic effect that this has on the entire lawmaking process.
Is it any wonder the public complains about the great difficulty of finding out what happens in their state capital?
House Democrats first asked that legislators not attend yesterday’s scheduled floor session, and then announced that they would meet and conduct business at some other time yesterday without giving any indication as to when that time might be.
Republican legislators were obliged to reschedule commitments in order to be available for the unsanctioned voting session. Hours later, Democrat leadership reversed themselves and announced in an email that they would not be attending any floor session that day.
This morning, that process has repeated itself. The State House was scheduled to meet at 10am this morning. Democrat leadership again told legislators not to attend the required floor session and that they planned to meet and conduct business at some other time, again without giving any indication as to when that time might be. Hours later, Democrat leadership announced that they would be attending a floor session after a spending bill has been written.
Lawmakers failing to meet when required to do so, and then meeting to vote when not previously scheduled, are things we would normally expect to see in Banana Republics. We should never find this happening in Alaska. This form of lawmaking converts a process that is designed to be open to the public into something that has the effect, if not the design, of keeping the public from being able to participate effectively. It also has a profound effect on those legislators that have not pledged loyalty to Democrat leadership.
It converts the constitutionally-protected lawmaking process into a process where a handful of legislators can bully other legislators into voting as they are told, or risk being excluded from knowing ahead of time when votes are to take place.
The power to postpone a voting session to an unscheduled time is the power to hold a vote when only certain legislators are available to participate in that vote. It is also the power to wreak havoc on the calendar of any legislator who does not demonstrate an acceptable level of loyalty to Democrat leadership.
My senator once made the mistake of visiting constituents in the Mat-Su when the legislature was in session. Very few Mat-Su residents travel to Juneau during the session, so in-person meetings with constituents are often, if not always, held in the Mat-Su. Before he left the capital he was assured by leadership that before any critical votes took place there would be sufficient time for him to return to the capital so that our district would be able to participate in the vote. When the vote was announced he immediately hopped on a plane to Juneau. When he got off the plane they told him that they had decided to take the vote while he was in the air, depriving my district of the ability to participate in that vote.
These are the types of shenanigans that take place when you permit legislators to flaunt the rules that govern the legislature under the Alaska Constitution.
Thomas Jefferson was quite public about what would happen if legislators in our nation’s capital were ever able to flaunt the rules governing their behavior:
“To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power not longer susceptible of any definition.” — Thomas Jefferson, February 15, 1791
In Juneau today, a handful of legislators have taken possession of this boundless field of power and use it to daily run roughshod over their fellow legislators through the Binding Caucus.
If the cabal that has formed in our state capital is ever to be turned back, we must start by defending the rule of law against those who would perpetually reinterpret our laws and constitution in ways that perpetuate their own political power.
The house legislators shown in green below are the legislators who voted to install the current Democrat leadership of the Alaska State House. It is with their votes that this leadership maintains its power and continues to set itself above state law and the requirements of our state constitution. You can reach out to them by phone here.