Dunleavy spokesperson: Next special session could be outside Juneau, with Mat-Su as an option

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s Press Secretary Matt Shuckerow answers reporters' questions after a briefing in the governor’s cabinet room in the Capitol in Juneau on March 21, 2019.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s Press Secretary Matt Shuckerow answers reporters’ questions after a briefing in the governor’s cabinet room in the Capitol in Juneau on March 21, 2019. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Gov. 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.”

Gov. Michael Dunleavy introduces his amended state budget to reporters at a press availability at the Capitol in Juneau on Feb. 13, 2019.

Gov. Michael Dunleavy introduces his amended state budget to reporters at a press availability at the Capitol in Juneau on Feb. 13, 2019. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

The Legislative Affairs Agency has identified a dozen 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 said he’s concerned about the logistics of moving the Legislature, as well as of the challenges to document session work.

He said he and other lawmakers are increasingly apprehensive  about the security of a session in Mat-Su Borough. He said 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 … 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.

Rep. Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, talks to reporters outside the House chambers shortly after being elected speaker of the House in Juneau on Feb. 14, 2019.

Rep. Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, talks to reporters outside the House chambers shortly after being elected speaker of the House in Juneau on Feb. 14, 2019. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Shuckerow rejected the concern, calling it “ludicrous.” He noted the House Finance Committee held one of its series of budget roadshow meetings in Wasilla.

“(Mat-Su residents) are kind and generous people in my view,” Shuckerow said, “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.”

Senate President Cathy Giessel noted the Legislature has met in Anchorage before. She said 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 14.

Editor’s note: Gavel Alaska is a statewide television service of KTOO. (More information)

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