Best Bill of the Week:  HB 5 – Can’t-Get-To-Juneau-Compensation-Fund

In Home, News by wp_sysadmin

Several weeks ago, we took a trip from Anchorage to Juneau to meet with our legislators. Between plane tickets, hotel rooms, rental car, and food, the trip averaged out to about $1200 per person, times 8. Most Alaskans cannot afford that. We’re lucky.

One person from our group didn’t make it due to weather conditions, spent the night in Seattle, and was forced to spend money on a hotel there in addition to having to pay for their Juneau hotel room that they didn’t use.

Those who did make it to Juneau for two full days of meetings were subject to the regular practice of meeting cancellations due to a myriad of reasons.

We aren’t the first to suffer this waste of time and money – it happens every single year – and we won’t be the last.

So, we were thrilled to see the introduction of  HB 5 – “An Act relating to convening the legislature in Anchorage; relating to the regulation of lobbying; relating to annual student guests of the legislature; relating to locations of sessions of the legislature; relating to the Legislative Ethics Act; relating to the relocation of functions of state government; and providing for an effective date.”

The sponsor statement reads: 

House bill 5 would bring the legislative session to a place where most Alaskans could participate. Currently, with the legislative session being held in Juneau, it is incredibly expensive for a constituent to participate in person. And while there are options to view meetings online, moving the legislative session to Anchorage would provide Alaskans with a way to participate in the legislative process in person, like is done in most other states.

 In addition to making sessions more accessible to Alaskans, moving the legislative session to Anchorage would also help reduce the huge cost involved in moving all 60 legislators and staff to and from Juneau each year. Furthermore, with the session being held in Anchorage, a good portion of those legislators and staff would also not require housing. House Bill 5 will help bring down the cost of legislative session while giving the public an opportunity to participate in the legislative process without having to spend large amounts of money.

Let’s have some fun with this! How about the following amendment:

Section 24.05.090 – Duration of legislature; sessions.

(c )  The legislature shall establish two, separate, compensation funds, to be operated  while they continue to meet in Juneau:

The first shall be the “Can’t-Get-To Juneau-Compensation” fund and shall be used to reimburse any resident who is unable to reach Juneau, for whatever reason, to attend meetings with their legislators in-person or testify in-person. The revenue source for this fund will be the PFD of all  residents of Juneau who don’t have to spend large amounts of money to visit with their legislators and a $5 deposit into the fund from every lobbyist for every in person visit they make during the session.

The second fund shall be the “Cancelled Legislative Meeting” fund and will operate like a swear-jar. Each time a legislator cancels a meeting with an out-of-town guest, without a doctor’s note or a family emergency, they will be required to deposit $100 in the fund to reimburse the recipient of the cancellation. The contribution will be $150 if there are no committee meetings, no floor sessions or caucus meetings during the time the meeting was scheduled. A bonus surcharge will be added if the meeting cancellation happens within 15 minutes of the scheduled meeting time. The revenue source for this fund will be the legislators office account.