In an announcement on Moday, House Speaker Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham and Senate President CFathy Giessel of Anchorage said:
“Funding the 2019 Permanent Fund dividend is critical to Alaskans. However, the long-term issues about the sustainability and future of the Permanent Fund must also be addressed. Unfortunately, the Governor’s special session proclamation restricts discussion solely to the amount of this year’s PFD.
“Importantly, the Governor’s proclamation also fails to include the Fiscal Year 2020 capital budget. If the capital budget is not finalized in July, Alaska’s private sector industries could be devastated by forfeiting nearly $1 billion in federal highway and aviation projects because required state matching dollars were not provided.
“For the reasons outlined, we believe the Legislature should call itself into session. We intend to hold floor sessions in Juneau, the seat of government established in the Alaska Constitution, and hold most committee hearings in the Anchorage Legislative Information Office.
“This approach would save hundreds of thousands of dollars and provide in-person access to Alaskans on the road system, while also utilizing facilities designed for legislative proceedings and providing Alaskans who are unable to attend in person the ability to participate and follow along as lawmakers consider these crucial issues.
“Although we are one vote short of the forty vote threshold to call ourselves into our own special session agenda, the majority of legislators in both bodies considers it our right to determine the location and venue best equipped to conduct business on the Governor’s special session call, while providing the most access to as many Alaskans possible.
“We respectfully urge the Governor to add to his call the capital budget and long-term issues relating to the future of the Permanent Fund.”
In response, Governor Michael Dunleavy made a short statement, saying, “Our focus has been on bringing the people and legislature together on the PFD. But instead of convening in Wasilla, legislative leadership is attempting to retreat back to Juneau. This move to negate the special session in Wasilla has no legal basis. A governor is clearly empowered to call a special session in a location of their choosing (AS 24.05.100), The Senate President and Speaker of the House admit they lack the votes to change the venue or call a special session of their own, yet they are committed to thwarting the law and the voice of the Alaskan people. This is all part of why Alaskans have lost trust in their lawmakers. How can we with a straight face expect people to follow the law when the legislative leadership ignores, breaks, and skirts the law at every turn?”