Thursday, February 18, 2010

Senate and House Go Own Ways in Mandated 90 Day Session Review Report

From what I can tell, although a majority of legislators seem to think that the 90 day session has hurt their ability to do work, has tipped the balance of power further to the executive branch, and probably hasn't achieved any real savings, no one wants to be the first to take on a citizens' initiative and propose legislation to go back to a 120 day session.

Before this session began, a report reviewing the 90 day session was due to Legislative Council Chair John Harris. 

The report requirement was part of a longish 2007 bill (HB 171) which covered a variety of changes made to accommodate the switch to a 90 day session from 120 days ( Legislative reviews of the budgets were moved up 15 days, for example). A section of the bill called for a report before the session in 2010:
REPORT ON 90-DAY REGULAR SESSION. The Alaska Legislative Council shall prepare and deliver a report to each house of the legislature considering issues related to the duration of the regular session and making recommendations regarding the amendment or repeal of any statutes or Uniform Rules implementing the 90-day regular session. The report may be delivered at any time before the regular session is convened in 2010. By July 1, 2008, the Alaska Legislative Council shall notify the chief clerk, the senate secretary, and each of the presiding officers of the date the report will be delivered.
A subcommitte was created to do the report.   And read the law carefully so you can see what was asked of the committee members.  The House members were:
  • Chair:  Rep. Paul Seaton 
  • Rep. Max Gruenberg
  • Rep. Bryce Edgmon
The Senate members were:
  • Sen. Charlie Huggins
  • Sen. Gary Stevens
  • Sen. Tom Wagoner

 In the end, the House members wrote their own report.
The House committee Report is four pages backed up by lengthy appendices based on a long Survey Monkey survey of their fellow House members and staffers. [The report itself is at the link above.  The survey results come in several different pdf files you can get through Rep. Seaton's website - on the right.  Here's a link for the survey comments.]

They write:
"House subcommittee members viewed our task as providing Legislative Council with a basis and recommendation for their report.  House subcommittee members felt that we needed a baseline information on which to base our recommendations." 

They used an online survey tool (Survey Monkey) to poll fellow House members and House staff.  31 (of 40) House members responded and  47 non-Juneau and 23 Juneau based staffers also responded.

67% (21) of the legislators preferred the 120 day session.  But 85% said the 90 day session had a detrimental effect.  The attached survey results give often lengthy examples of the issues people had with the session.  Unfortunately the report and survey results are in a pdf format that I cannot cut and paste, but here are a couple of screen shots that show you the kind of comments people made (again, double click to enlarge them):

This was what was happening Tuesday at the State Affairs in an attempt to get the HB 241 out quickly.  But in this case, enough members voted no to make sure the issues were dealt with before being sent on to Finance Committee. 

This comment is almost the exact sentiment conveyed at the State Affairs committee meeting.  The bill sponsor suggested letting the repairs be done in the next committee - Finance.  But someone else said, that wasn't Finance's expertise and the substantive changes needed to be taken care of in the State Affairs committee.



There's a lot of data there and probably would make a good student project to take the data and subject it to more rigorous analysis than it got.  

The House Report also says:

"Senate members of the subcommittee determined that they would proceed on a different track and did not participate in the survey." 
That is, apparently, why there isn't a single report from the whole subcommittee.  The Senate members, for their part, each submitted individual letters to Legislative Council Chair Harris.  

Senator Stevens submitted the most extensive letter (one and a half pages) which begins:

"I join with many of my Senate and House colleagues in opposition to the 90-day legislative sessions." (double click the page to enlarge it)

The other two Senators turned in letters which spelled out how many people in their districts voted for and against the 90 limit initiative.  Probably not quite what HB 171 intended.

1 comment:

  1. Well, Huggins and Wagoner both show a lack of leadership. Statesmen sometimes have to lead their constituents, not follow them. Huggins and Wagoner are obviously not statesmen.

    I worked as a House page at the longest session in history (1972) which was wrangling over the original oil and gas tax bill anticipating the construction of the pipeline. They finally adjourned during the last week of June.

    The shortened session has reduced public input and the amount of time for real consideration of bills, just the kind of behavior that short sighted anti-government types like Huggins and Wagoner support. Such simplistic thinking shows that they (and Jay Ramras, author of the constitutional amendment) use. Simple and stupid.


Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.