FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 19th, 2015
Legislative Attorneys: Voting in Anchorage During Special Session Likely Illegal
ANCHORAGE – Governor Walker issued a special session proclamation on April 27th to take up the issues of Medicaid expansion, a fully funded budget, and Erin’s Law. That proclamation stated the session was to occur in Juneau. On Monday, May 18th, the House and Senate majorities notified legislators that the Legislature would convene this week in Anchorage for floor sessions.
Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) requested a legal opinion from the non-partisan Legislative Legal Services regarding the constitutionality of holding floor sessions in Anchorage when the Governor’s proclamation declared Juneau as the session location. An opinion from Legislative Legal Services offers that if voting were to occur in Anchorage when the proclamation specifically called for convening in Juneau, the action would likely violate Alaska’s Constitution.
“It is my advice that a court faced with this situation, absent an agreement between the legislature and governor, would find that the legislature may not meet in floor sessions in Anchorage during a special session called by the governor in Juneau,” said Director of Legal Services Doug Gardner. Director Gardner concluded, “So, the legislature must meet in Juneau under the Governor’s current proclamation of April 27, 2015, to comply with the Constitution.”
Director Gardner noted that even attempting to simply adjourn the session sine die in Anchorage was potentially illegal.
“Our legislative attorney is advising us that the upcoming floor sessions likely violate the constitution,” said Senator Wielechowski. “Moreover, any action taken by the legislature during these floor sessions may be challenged in court and expose the state to undue liability and significant legal fees. I would strongly urge the Majorities to either obtain the Governor’s agreement to conduct the session in Anchorage or to reconsider their actions.”
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For more information contact Senator Wielechowski at (907) 242-1558.