WASILLA — The Special Session of the legislature called by Gov. Mike Dunleavy in his proclamation gaveled out on Friday to converse with constituents,all but eliminating any possibility for a veto override as the legislators meeting in Juneau gaveled out almost simultaneously.
As Friday at midnight loomed, no votes have been taken with even 45 members present, the amount required to override any of Dunleavy’s vetoes.
“The House Minority is standing strong, obviously,” said Rep. Delena Johnson (R-Palmer).
The 18 legislators that attended technical session in Wasilla on Friday were greeted with a standing ovation from the crowd of nearly 200 spectators on one half of the gym. Spectators had been moved Thursday from the bleachers to the gym floor, and 120 chairs were in the gym on Friday. No protests were staged or advertised at WMS on Friday.
“What ended up happening the other day was the legislators didn’t feel safe,” Buddy Whitt, Chief of Staff for Sen. Shelley Hughes, said.
Sen. Mia Costello briefed the crowd on the activities of the legislators in Wasilla. After a brief statement, pledge, prayer and Alaska Flag song sung by the Valley’s own Adele Morgan, legislators mingled with the crowd to engage in conversations.
“The positive effects are the crowd that we have today are civil, they’re considerate, they’re conscientious, and they’re willing to converse. They’re willing to talk to us. We don’t need to be patronized,” said Rep. Laddie Shaw.
Those in attendance were Representatives David Eastman, Sharon Jackson, DeLena Johnson, Kelly Merrick, Mark Neuman, Lance Pruitt, Sara Rasmussen, Josh Revak, Laddie Shaw, Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, Cathy Tilton, Sarah Vance, Tammie Wilson, and Senators Mia Costello, Shelley Hughes, Mike Shower, and David Wilson.
“There’s hope. You’ve still got to be optimistic about where we’re at and the future of Alaska sort of sits on the shoulders of 60 legislators and the governor and I think between us, an ounce of compromise might give us a pound of win,” Shaw said.
The 17 legislators in attendance at WMS did not have enough for a quorum, and were unable to conduct business. After adjourning, the legislators discussed the vetoes with constituents, many of whom had already been in contact with legislators. Shaw said that his email inbox was overwhelmed. Along with residents, Costello reiterated that legislators attending special sessions in different cities are still in contact with one another.
“We have been in earnest and heartfelt conversations every minute that we are not sitting at these desks,” Costello said.
Despite the deadline to override budget vetoes, neither special session received a surprise influx of legislators, and neither were able to do business. Pruitt suggested that space in Anchorage is being looked at in order to hold meetings in the middle of Juneau and Wasilla.
“We will reconvene as a whole at some point and I look forward to that, but in the mean time you know, again, we have followed the law and I think that’s the most important part that people can glean,” said Sullivan-Leonard.
Rep. Tammie Wilson spent her Monday in Wasilla, middle of the week in Juneau, and resurfaced again in Wasilla on Friday. Wilson was removed from the House Majority after being admonished for attending Wasilla on Monday.
“The amount of waste that’s happened this week where I thought they were going to work on a bill and get us closer, nothing happened…Sadly enough I think the majority in the house wanted to come here today and the leadership was against it and basically talked them out of it and said the logistics were wrong,” Wilson said.
Wilson was offered the vice-chair of finance position, and instead declined.
“I said no if I can’t trust the group I’m in, I will be better on my own,” Wilson said. We’re doing everything right in front of people versus kind of being on an island.”
Legislators in Wasilla remain ardent that the proclamation issued by the governor remains the constitutional and statutory location for a special session. While most legislators insist that they are engaging in productive conversations, Johnson claims that some were not included in the conversation.
“They never consulted us. They never talked to us. They didn’t act like we were members of the house and they seemed to forget that at the end of the day, we have to sign off on this,” Johnson said.
Sen. David Wilson had been out of state for job training and attended session in Juneau on Wednesday. Wilson came back out to Wasilla on Friday to make an appearance at WMS.
“This is my district and I would love to show my district off to the entire state legislature and how we’re growing,” Wilson said.
The Power Cost Equalization fund was swept, as neither session location was able to wrangle 45 legislators. Those in Wasilla had a meeting with Office of Management and Budget Director Donna Arduin on Thursday.
“It was really helpful to kind of understand where they’re coming from,” Pruitt said of the meeting. “She did have some good things especially trying to understand some of the decisions that were made.”
In the unprecedented move, the OMB is still determining exactly how the accounting will take place. House meetings are scheduled on Monday in Anchorage, but legislators in Wasilla remain confident that a compromise is on the horizon.
“Maybe it means we end up here, maybe it means we end up in Juneau. Whatever it is, the truth is we all need to work together,” said Pruitt.