Public Unwelcome: Alaska Lawmakers Ensure TV Cameras Turned Off During Controversial Vote Today

In the middle of a legislative session piled high with critical issues like the PFD and education funding, the Alaska House of Representatives decided today to take a week off and pick back up sometime next week.

As an elected member of that body, you can expect that such a vote would naturally be of great interest to me. After all, I’m currently in Juneau attending a special legislative session more than 600 miles from my home.

But if you are trying to find out how your legislator voted today, don’t bother.

The cameras in the House Floor Chamber were all turned off when the vote happened.

In fact, while there were 37 House legislators in Juneau today, many legislators weren’t even invited to the vote.

And this is what truly sets Alaska apart from other state legislatures today.

Alaska’s Speaker of the House chose to take the vote and then tell legislators about it afterwards by email.*

When you think about it, there’s really no better way of ensuring a vote goes your way than not letting legislators know about the vote until it has already been taken. I suspect the Speaker’s PR guy will try to call that “efficiency”.

The rest of us might of course mistake this for a level of dysfunction that could only occur in a capital as difficult to visit as Juneau, Alaska.

Today is Day 134 of the 2019 legislative session (44 days into legislative overtime).

To ensure there will not be quorum at the next meeting of the legislature, the Speaker of the House has offered free, round-trip airfare for every House legislator to leave Juneau for the week.

Over the last 134 days, the State House:

  • Has refused to allow a single vote on the 2019 PFD
  • Has refused to approve education funding for the coming school year
  • Hasn’t pass a state operating budget
  • Hasn’t passed a state capital budget
  • Hasn’t passed a state mental health budget

So, of course, what better time to take a week off than Day 134, right?

The Democrat Speaker of the House, Rep. Bryce Edgmon, reigns because of the support of 23 legislators. If yours is one of them, you will find their name and contact information listed below.

Please let them know if this represents the level of public transparency you expect in Alaska’s legislative process. You might also insist that legislators take the very inconvenient step of ensuring the TV cameras are turned back on before the next vote is taken in the legislature.

After all, your legislators are voting on your behalf. When they vote, shouldn’t you know who is present, and how they voted?

*The House Journal mentions only 2 out of 40 legislators present when the vote was taken.