Day 203: Democrat Leadership Pays Legislators Not to Show up to Work Today

In 203 days of session this year, I never once missed an announced floor session, excepting when Democrat legislators left Juneau in June and it afforded me the opportunity to drive my family the 1,852 miles back home to Wasilla. As Mark Twain observed, “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”

I returned to Juneau for this morning’s legislative floor session for the sole purpose of voting to end the current special session once and for all. There was nothing on the agenda today, the governor’s income tax is dead, and the Alaska Senate voted on Friday to adjourn permanently until the legislature returns to Juneau next year.

With nothing remaining on the agenda, and no hope of accomplishing anything in the remaining nine days of special session, it should have been an easy decision for the House to adjourn and thus end this year’s endless legislative sessions at a record-breaking and hitherto unfathomable 203 days.

But this was not to be, and my return to Juneau today was a wasted trip. Democrat legislators in Juneau have decided to keep the party going at all costs, even going so far as to arrange to pay for legislators to fly home on adjournment travel over the weekend, not to return until next year.

This, along with the decision by some Democrat legislators to remain outside of the room when roll was taken this morning, ensured that the House was five legislators short of quorum (21) and was unable to vote to permanently adjourn.

For those who aren’t aware, legislators such as Sen. Mike Dunleavy, who have expressed interest in running for governor, and legislators hoping to run for lieutenant governor, are banned from campaigning while the legislature is in session. The Democrat’s governor and lieutenant governor are exempt from that ban.

In order to rack up more than 210 days in session, in a state that limits legislative sessions to just 90 days, House Democrats in Alaska are having to pull out all the stops to keep the party going, even going so far as to pay for legislators to fly home to prevent reaching a quorum in Juneau.

And so the legislature will continue in a ‘ghost’ session until Day 211, when the 30-day constitutional limit for special sessions will go into effect for the third time this year. In the meantime, because the legislature is still technically in session, there is a total ban on legislators raising money either for their own campaigns or even helping the campaigns of others.

These are the antics that House Democrats are using to try to protect their governor’s re-election and increase their control in the legislature.

Republican and former Mayor of Juneau, Bob Robertson, was a delegate to Alaska’s Constitutional Convention in 1956. On the 49th Day of the Convention, Mr. Robertson rose to address his fellow delegates and asked:

“…what is to prevent either house from…Having a recess for three days…Then meeting again and then immediately taking another recess for another three days?”

Frank Barr, a US Marshal and delegate from Fairbanks, rose in response: “I can answer Mr. Robertson’s question as to what would prevent it. The newspapers would prevent it.”

Where are the newspapers today to prevent such abuses? What does the public have to say?

In an effort to prevent this type of abuse from happening, our Constitution requires that no one chamber in the legislature can maintain a “ghost” session “for longer than three days“. However, leaders in the legislature have decided that this means “not longer than five days”, and so the House felt justified this morning in adjourning until Friday, at which point the farce will no doubt be continued.

When leaders in the legislature have reached the point of paying fellow legislators to keep them from showing up to work and voting to end the farce, you know that the legislature has reached a very low place indeed.

Now, by law, my fellow legislators and I are prohibited from raising funds and campaigning to change this arrangement for another nine days. Likewise, some governor and lieutenant governor hopefuls will now do the math and realize that successfully running for either office is a mathematical impossibility when you were prohibited from campaigning for 211 days this year, and less than 50 days later you will be asked to return to Juneau for perhaps another 211 days where you will once again be prohibited from campaigning.