Above the Law

Observing Legislative Session regularly as I do, one quickly learns the Body’s strict adherence to order.  Its deep commitment to the rules, and its fastidious attention to the record was the format I so admire.  Admired until midnight, Sunday, April 19, 2015, when the Body tossed out due process, the rules, and its attention to the record.

It is unfortunate, despite all the guidance for due process provided by our Constitution, statute, and regulations on this subject, and despite public opinion echoed in newspapers, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in the 80s that Alaska lawmakers can break laws that apply specifically to its process with impunity.  (see Abood v. League of Women Voters)

Midnight, Sunday, April 19, 2015, was the official last day of its maximum 90-day session as adopted into state statute in 2006.  I’m not a lawyer, but I do know this 90 limit is not a guideline.  It is a state law.  The Alaska Constitution allows the Legislature to establish law regulating the start and end dates of its own Regular Sessions – as long as its law does not exceed 120 days.  This 90 day law is what the 2006 Legislature did in response to the will of the people via the state initiative process.  Statute follows:

“Sec. 24.05.150. Adjournment.    (a) Neither house may recess or adjourn for longer than three days unless the other concurs. If the two houses cannot agree on the time for adjournment and either house certifies the disagreement to the governor, the governor may adjourn the legislature by issuing an executive order and transmitting a copy of it to the president or secretary of the senate and speaker or chief clerk of the house of representatives.
(b) The legislature shall adjourn from a regular session within 90 consecutive calendar days, including the day the legislature first convenes in that regular session.”

Legislative Session 29 chose to ignore the public’s right to know what they are doing.  It ignored state statute limiting Regular Session, it ignored the rules of the Body to extend by 2/3 vote as defined by the Constitution, Article 8, and so importantly, it ignored keeping a clear record of its decisions/actions for the state, for history.

  • Nothing was announced as to its next steps.
  • No motion to extend this Session was heard or passed by the Body.
  • No call for Special Session was announced.

I think these actions leave it to the general public to call for order.  We must rise and demand Legislators cease all regular session business now.  We must ask the Leadership to put itself into Special Session now.  We must ask our delegates to immediately operate under the rules of a Special Session to include its defined agenda and dates.  Legislative Session 29 must immediately adjourn, maybe take some time to rest, then gavel back in soon and finish the budget.

These issues above are addressed in Constitutional Articles 8, 9, and 10 as follows:

  • 8. Regular Sessions

The legislature shall convene in regular session each year on the fourth Monday in January, but the month and day may be changed by law. The legislature shall adjourn from regular session no later than one hundred twenty consecutive calendar days from the date it convenes except that a regular session may be extended once for up to ten consecutive calendar days. An extension of the regular session requires the affirmative vote of at least two-thirds of the membership of each house of the legislature. The legislature shall adopt as part of the uniform rules of procedure deadlines for scheduling session work not inconsistent with provisions controlling the length of the session. [Amended 1984]

  • 9. Special Sessions

Special sessions may be called by the governor or by vote of two-thirds of the legislators. The vote may be conducted by the legislative council or as prescribed by law. At special sessions called by the governor, legislation shall be limited to subjects designated in his proclamation calling the session, to subjects presented by him, and the reconsideration of bills vetoed by him after adjournment of the last regular session. Special sessions are limited to thirty days. [Amended 1976]

  • 10. Adjournment

Neither house may adjourn or recess for longer than three days unless the other concurs. If the two houses cannot agree on the time of adjournment and either house certifies the disagreement to the governor, he may adjourn the legislature.

Lawmakers themselves are above theses laws, now that’s scary!  The guidance herein isn’t worth any more than the paper it is written on without a new legal interpretation.  Legislators are within their rights to waste all the time and money they want to – for 120 days.  The public’s only recourse is the voting booth, 2016.



Above the law c. April 23, 2015,

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