Alaska 90-Day Legislative Session, Ballot Measure 1 (2006)

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The 90-Day Legislative Session Initiative or Ballot Measure 1 appeared on the November 7, 2006 ballot in Alaska as an citizen-initiated state statute, where it was approved.

Election results

Alaska 90-Day Legislative Session, Ballot Measure 1
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 117,675 50.8%
No113,83249.2%

Results according to the Alaska Elections Division.[1]

Aftermath

The first 90 day session was held in 2007. It was met with restraint, especially Sen. Gene Therriault who predicted that special sessions would have to be held. The Anchorage Daily News published an editorial criticizing the new 90 day session a waste of time and "unenforceable." Other senators, like Senate President Lyda Green, R-Wasilla expressed frustration that the lead backer, Rep. Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks, of the initiative did not have any suggestions for how to be more efficient in the 90 session.[2]

Meanwhile, at least two editorials appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News and the Peninsula Clarion in support of the 90 day session. Citizens were writing about the high amount of activity in the legislature during Alaska's short, busy summer season. The Ketchikan editorial pointed out that while legislature managed to hold a special session 1,000 miles away from the capital to fund a program for low-income senior citizens in less than a day.

During early 2010, a report stated that legislators were not getting enough sleep and were arguing that they had limited time to communicate with constituents over the three month period. The report was from an appointed subcommittee in the Alaska House of Representatives and was lead by Paul Seaton. The committee also included Max Gruenberg and Bryce Edgmon. The committee stated that lawmakers should overturn the approved ballot measure.

Possible overturn

State Senator Gary Stevens wants to lengthen state legislative session in Alaska from 90 to 120 days because he argues that the measure has weakened the legislature. He proposed the bill during 2011 state session. Stevens said, "The rationale was to save money, but it hasn’t saved money...I think the public has been shortchanged." Stevens also said that there was less time to review bills and less time for public involvement.

One of the sponsors of the 2006 measure, State Senator Thomas Wagoner, disagrees: "I think it’s working fine. We save everything until the last 10 days anyway, that’s when the business gets done.” Ballot measures passed in Alaska can be amended or repealed two years after approval.[3]

The measure was approved by the Alaska State Senate on April 6, 2011, sending the proposal to the Alaska House of Representatives for consideration. If the measure is approved, it will take effect in 2014. The bill's formal title is Senate Bill 18.

The revenue department estimates the bill would cost the state nearly $900,000, which half of that would come from the per diem that legislators receive every day they are in session.

Supporters of SB18 counter this by saying they would use money from the "special session contingency account" to cover the costs.

Case for support

The 90 day session has been introduced in Alaska 24 times and this time was brought forth by R-Rep. Jay Ramras, D-Sen. Gretchen Guess, and R-Sen. Tom Wagoner again in the 2006 election. Supporters of the 90 day session believe that it will be cost efficient, eliminating per diem costs of the first month which is commonly believed to a waste of time, due to the amount of time taken up by swearing in new members and four-day work weeks.[4] In arguments about the length of time needed to pass bills in the legislature, they often cite that 27 other states have a shorter legislation and that a 90 day session will be seen as an incentive to introduce only necessary legislation and curb excessive laws. It is hoped a 90 day session will create an environment where citizens are encouraged to run for office as it is less time at the capital and more time with their families and communities.

In response that it will allow less time for the public to have input, activist Diane Holmes argues that the location of the capital is enough of a deterrent for much of the public and with the information highway available, it is also easily overcome. Especially with most legislation being passed at the end of a session which required only 24 hour notice to the public.

This initiative was also supported by: Rep. Vic Kohring, Rep. Norm Rokeberg, Rep. Kevin Meyer, and Rep. Lesil McGuire.

Statement in Opposition

Opposition was lead by Sen. Gene Therriault, who was quoted saying that voters were sold a "bill of Opposition of the 90 day session argues that it will result in less public participation. They also believe that the length of the session would result in more interim sessions and higher travel budgets. It's also argued that the first month of the legislature is not wasted, as that is when members are sworn in and become familiar with the committees they will oversee. It is insisted that as a result the legislature will be forced to call more special sessions and that ultimately the rule is unenforceable. If this does not occur, the Opposition has argued that lobbyists and interest groups will have more influence in a 90 day session due to time constraints on bills.

Other senators that opposed the 90 day session were: Former Majority Leader, Mike Miller; Former Chair, Committee on Health, Education, & Social Services Niilo E. Koponen; and Former Speaker of the House Sam Cotten

Campaign spending

90days.org is a known donor for the measure.[5]

See also

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