Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, center, speaks with House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, as Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, prepares to gavel into session at the Capitol on Friday, July 19, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, center, speaks with House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, as Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, prepares to gavel into session at the Capitol on Friday, July 19, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Legislature comes back together, but uncertainty remains

A final agreement on a revised budget seems far off.

After a week of dueling legislative sessions, Alaska’s lawmakers are back in the Capitol. But even with everyone gathered in the same place, a final agreement on a revised budget seems far off.

Both the Senate and the House held short floor meetings Friday morning. The Senate’s session was mostly technical with a few senators asking to be excused from the Senate’s call in the near future. There was some gentle ribbing by legislators who had gathered in different locations, but the atmosphere was largely cordial.

In the House, however, a bit of acrimony still hung in the air. As Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, moved through House business, his move to certify previous days in the journal was challenged by Rep. Sara Vance, R-Homer.

The journal is the record kept of all the proceedings that take place while the House is in session. Vance objected because she believed, “this does not accurately reflect the call of the special session.” Vance was one of the legislators who went to Wasilla per Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proclamation for a special session there, instead of Juneau. But the journal only recorded what happened on the floor in Juneau, a session which some of the legislators who went to Wasilla called “illegitimate.” After a brief at ease, a vote was taken ending with 21 for, 10 against.

The governor’s amended proclamation was read out loud, and House Bill 2002 was introduced. HB 2002 is the bill submitted by Gov. Dunleavy via the House Rules Committee and and is a competing bill to HB 2001, which would restore all the funds cut by veto earlier this month. HB 2002 contains a number of appropriations but far less than HB 2001. HB 2002 has been followed closely by many members of the legislature as it works its way through both House and Senate Finance Committees.

Toward the end of the session, Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, asked to speak to the House “on the topic of law.” Eastman began by explaining a scene from a recent mini-series entitled, “Rebellion,” which is a fictionalized version of the 1916 Easter Uprising in Ireland. Eastman gave a quote from the series which said, “the law only has a function when people believe in it.”

Lawmakers talk among themselves during a break of a joint session of the Alaska Legislature Thursday, July 11, 2019, in Juneau, Alaska. Lawmakers are meeting for a second day to consider overriding Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetoes, but still don’t have the needed 45 votes as about a third of lawmakers continue to meet in Wasilla instead of Juneau. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Lawmakers talk among themselves during a break of a joint session of the Alaska Legislature Thursday, July 11, 2019, in Juneau, Alaska. Lawmakers are meeting for a second day to consider overriding Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetoes, but still don’t have the needed 45 votes as about a third of lawmakers continue to meet in Wasilla instead of Juneau. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

He suggested that the majority of the legislature which had remained in Juneau had flaunted the law, and that in doing so he and his constituents were pushed out of the democratic process and denied their right to participate in the legislature. If the law was so easily dismissed he asked, “why are we here, at taxpayer expense, discussing laws if the belief in those laws is currently being eroded by the actions of some legislators here in this room today.”

On a more cordial note, Rep. Laddie Shaw, R-Anchorage, one of the 22 lawmakers who went to Wasilla instead of Juneau, wanted to speak on the subject of humanity. Shaw said that he is giving a eulogy this weekend to Solomon “Sol” Atkinson, former mayor of Metlakatla, and one of the first Navy SEALs. Atkinson trained the Apollo 11 astronauts who landed on the moon. The 50th anniversary of the first moon landing is Saturday. “I bring (his story) forth to this body as a representative of humanity and what he has done for our great state,” Shaw said. Several representatives rapped their desks in approval of Shaw’s speech.

The House adjourned shortly after and many of the representatives quickly dispersed, heading to committee meetings taking place elsewhere in the building.


• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.


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