Gov. Mike Dunleavy, Jan. 8, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy, Jan. 8, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

With Legislature fractured, override vote uncertain

Dueling sessions.

Legislators in Juneau are planning to hold a joint session to consider overriding Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetoes Wednesday at 11:30 a.m., but it remains to be seen whether the 45 legislators needed for an override will be present.

Forty-five votes — three-quarters of the full Legislature — are necessary to override Dunleavy’s more than $400 million in line-item vetoes. But 21 members of the 60-member Alaska Legislature were in Wasilla Tuesday rather than Juneau, where they’re holding a dueling legislative session.

“There’s not much we can do when 38 (legislators) aren’t following the law,” said Sen. Mike Shower, R-Wasilla, by phone Tuesday, referring to those in Juneau. Shower and others of the Wasilla contingent believe lawmakers in Juneau are ignoring the law by not convening the session where Dunleavy called for it, in his hometown and conservative base of Wasilla. Dunleavy said the change of venue would be good for lawmakers who could not finish their work over five months in Juneau this year.

Shower said that for him the issue was “black and white” and that those in Juneau need to come to Wasilla to govern.

“We’re currently waiting for people to follow the law so we can take up doing business,” he said.

[Even ‘right-leaning’ groups, bankers and builders are calling for an override]

Lawmakers in Juneau, the state’s capital and seat of government, on the other hand, are conducting business as usual.

They previously rejected Dunleavy’s call to go to Wasilla, citing their right to determine the location and venue for legislative sessions.

Senators in Juneau also spoke to the necessity of a united Legislature when the Senate convened Tuesday.

“I urge the Legislature come back together to unite and debate the issues that are at hand, so we can have a more functioning government,” said Sen. Donny Olson, D-Golovin.

None of Juneau’s three state lawmakers — Reps. Andi Story and Sara Hannan and Sen. Jesse Kiehl, all Democrats from Juneau — have any intention of going to Wasilla, they told the Empire.

Kiehl was among the senators who called for lawmakers to unite in Juneau.

Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, was in Wasilla on Monday, but Tuesday she was in Juneau. She told the Empire that she went to Wasilla first because that was where the governor called the session.

“Once we were there and found we didn’t have a quorum, we knew that they were going to be doing business in Juneau, and I’m going to make sure my constituents are represented,” she told the Empire.

She said she recommended other legislators should follow suit but did not think there would be 45 present at the Capitol for Wednesday morning’s joint session.

“But planes are still coming in,” Wilson said. “Anything is possible.”

Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, is among those leading the charge to host the session in Wasilla, citing the governor’s power to designate a location for a special session.

At a press conference at Wasilla Middle School, Reinbold said it’s legislators’ responsibility to uphold the constitution, which gives the governor the power to name a location other than Juneau for a special session.

“This is our second day waiting,” Reinbold told the Empire. “We just spent five months in Juneau.”

As to the session in Juneau, Reinbold said it would be “up to a lot of other people than me” to decide if any governing in Juneau would be legitimate, noting the possibility of a legal dust-up. Any action taken by either of the competing sessions will surely be challenged in court.

“We’re meeting, waiting, and talking,” she said of the legislators gathered in Wasilla.


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


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