In this file photo from June 10, 2019, Sen. Mia Costello talks with other legislators on the Senate floor. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

In this file photo from June 10, 2019, Sen. Mia Costello talks with other legislators on the Senate floor. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Wasilla contingent calls Juneau session ‘illegitimate’

They repeated many times that the legislators in Juneau were violating the law.

Alaska’s Senate Majority Leader who was ousted for being absent from Monday’s special session in Juneau said that she will continue to work with her fellow legislators “no matter what label I have.”

Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, reacted to the news of being removed from leadership during a press conference in Wasilla, where several lawmakers are hosting their own legislative special session.

Lawmakers in Wasilla — a small contingency which includes Costello, Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, Sen. Shelly Hughes, R-Palmer, Sen. Mike Shower, R-Wasilla, and Rep. Sara Rasmussen, R-Anchorage — repeatedly stressed during a press conference Monday at Wasilla Middle School that they were following the law by hosting the session in Wasilla rather than Juneau, and upholding the state’s constitution. They repeated many times that the legislators in Juneau were violating the law, and that any decision made there would be illegitimate.

“We are supporting the constitution. The call was made here in Wasilla, this is (Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s) call, there is no other call,” Costello said.

Costello and the others are responding to the call of Dunleavy for the special session to be in Wasilla, his hometown. Dunleavy said the change of venue to the heart of his conservative base would be good for lawmakers who could not finish their work over five months in Juneau this year. Lawmakers rejected that call, citing their right to determine the location and venue for legislative sessions.

[Dunleavy’s Red Pen: Governor’s vetoes take more than $400M out of budget]

Just before the Wasilla press conference convened, the Senate Rule Committee in Juneau replaced Costello as Senate Majority Leader and removed her assignment on the Rules Committee. Both positions will be filled by Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, starting Tuesday.

The legislators in Wasilla contended that those in Juneau actually supported the governor’s vetoes, “otherwise they’d be here,” said Pruitt.

A special session to vote on overriding the governor’s vetoes has been called for Wednesday in Juneau. That session however, “in the opinion of the Attorney General, would be illegitimate,” Pruitt said in the press conference. “Coming together in that session is invalid, it’s a fake session, in someone else’s words.”

Legislators in Wasilla said they would not be present for the special session in Juneau on Wednesday and called for those meeting in Juneau to come to Wasilla.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or The AP contributed reporting to this article.

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