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Who is benefitting from lawmakers' excursions?

Posted: August 26, 2011 - 8:00am  |  Updated: August 26, 2011 - 9:46am

It’s easy enough to identify a $900 a night suite in Waikiki on the public’s dime as outrageous. And we’re baffled as to why members of our Legislature would seem to consider themselves to be entitled to such perks. It’s still philosophically a citizen legislature, right?

Members of the Legislature typically spend some time traveling as part of the duties of their office, and certainly if they’re on state business, they should be reimbursed by the state for those expenses. Travel, they say, to conferences and forums allows them to promote Alaska and become better informed on issues to better serve their constituents.

But we wondering, in this day and age of information and communications technology, are we the people getting what we pay for?

We have serious doubts.

According to the Legislative Affairs Agency, lawmakers tallied $710,300 in state-reimbursed travel expenses in 2010. That number doesn’t include relocation expenses for lawmakers to move to Juneau for the legislative session.

Lawmakers have made some high profile trips this year, including an excursion to an energy conference that shut down the Legislature for a week midsession. According to reports, a quarter of the Legislature attended the conference in Hawaii — most of them submitted expenses far less than the $5,544 for six nights at a luxury resort Sen. Bert Stedman submitted — and another group of 10 was to depart this weekend for a “Norway policy tour.”

Frankly, all that travel did not help the Legislature during this past session, in which it did not complete the most basic of its responsibilities, approving an operating budget, during the 90 days allotted to it. And lawmakers did little else to address other issues, things they claim to be learning about during these conferences.

The fact is that many of these presentations lawmakers claim to find beneficial could be attended via teleconference or videoconference. Indeed, we’ve become proficient with that technology here, as most constituents can only interact with their elected officials via the Legislative Information Office during the session. For conferences and forums where in-person attendance would be truly beneficial, perhaps two or three lawmakers can go and report what they’ve learned back to their colleagues. The last thing an elected official should want do is shut down the Legislature to attend a forum.

Most of all, lawmakers should hold themselves accountable for expenses paid for with public funds. We want to see a measurable benefit from money spent on travel — just as we would for money spent on any other government-funded endeavor.

For lawmakers, that means getting things done during a 90-day session in Juneau, and those are results we simply aren’t seeing.

In short: Lawmakers who claim that travel to conferences using public money benefits their constituents need to prove it with an efficient and effective legislative session.

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drudge
3
Points
drudge 08/26/11 - 09:50 am
0
0
spwright
1376
Points
spwright 08/26/11 - 11:09 am
0
0
TeleConferencing 8/26/11

Fri. 8/26/11
Alaska has the means & equipment to provide
TELECONFERENCING to All of Our State Legislators.
They can attend & participate & VOTE thru TeleCommunications & there is No Need at All to Waste Time & $Money$ on these Junkets & Conferences Out of State.
The Energy Conference during the middle of the Session is a perfect example of Wasted Money & Time.

Our Court System has used TeleConferencing for years
Our Legistlators can do the same & $SAVE$ 1000's of Dollars, Time & Stay right here in Alaska.

If it's Good enough for the Court system then it's good enough for Our Legistlators.

SPW "Airborne"

witchwitch
51
Points
witchwitch 08/26/11 - 03:17 pm
0
0
Travel junkets for local politicians and administrators, too

These types of trips are standard operating procedure for our Borough and for many local service area employees. This goes on year after year. Some are justifiable on then surface, but I cannot accept that the standard trips to Juneau for elected members of the Assembly are necessary when we have elected officials (State Representatives and Senators) that are elected to represent our area and our municipalities. Was the trip to Japan to our sister city by Borough officials beneficial for local taxpayers. Yearly trips to the Alaska Municipal League, in addition to local dues, paid by local taxpayers, are very questionable, in my mind.

Many people would be shocked to know that many of our service areas also routinely take these junkets every year and such trips are without benefit to our local citizens in any way, in my opinion.

Yep... and our Borough is deficit spending and NEEDS MORE MONEY !!!!

You and I pay for these trips. People should pay attention to such waste and should demand that elected officials end such practices. Until you, as voters, hold them accountable the party will not end.

drudge
3
Points
drudge 08/26/11 - 03:25 pm
0
0
Make them pay for their own trips

"Travel spending by the federal government exceeds $14 billion a year – an amount roughly equivalent to the combined annual revenue of Southwest Airlines Co. and Hyatt Hotels Corp."

http://junketsleuth.com/

keeneye
10
Points
keeneye 08/27/11 - 01:38 pm
0
0
— most of them submitted

— most of them submitted expenses far less than the $5,544 for six nights at a luxury resort Sen. Bert Stedman submitted --

I cannot begin to express my "unbelievable, you have to be kidding me" thoughts right now.
$900.00 a night for lodging? What would be wrong with Motel 6 since they are traveling on our dime? Seriously, what gives them the right to such accommodations?

This sense of entitlement that these lawmakers have now-a-days has to stop! They work for us, get paid by us. 3/4 of a million dollars for them to travel ?

As SPW stated "teleconferencing/video conferencing" is available to them-also paid for by us-use it!

denseyler@yahoo.com
46
Points
denseyler@yahoo.com 08/28/11 - 06:23 am
0
0
Let's start over!

Unless we rid ourselves of these self serving morons, things are not going to change. We, as the voters, have to fire each and every one of these entitled politicians, move the capital so that we can watch over them and elect a new batch. If we leave even one, it'll spoil the new group. We go from one unethical bunch to another. And just how many times have the voters of Alaska voted to move the capital? And look where it is! And why? Enough is enough! How much longer are we going to tolerate this political abuse?

Raoulduke
3055
Points
Raoulduke 08/29/11 - 08:19 am
0
0
Self Serving

These MORON'S were voted into office by the people.So! why act as if these expenditures for travel is a new practice.Even when the voters overwhelmingly vote for an issue to pass.The politicians Say We don't understand our own vote.Which leads me to believe.The political system of this country HIGH,and LOW is a corrupt one.The voting process is a sham.There is something very wrong.When money is being spent to the tune of half a billion dollars for the presidency,and they campaign.While in office for 3 years.So! are they working for me while doing this campaigning for self promotion?Yes! I believe.The whole system is corrupt,and to vote is nothing more than beating your head against the wall.Nothing has,or is going to change our political system.

drudge
3
Points
drudge 08/29/11 - 09:06 am
0
0
@Raoulduke

Oh, they're not morons. They know exactly what they're doing.

What types of people are drawn to positions of power? Sociopaths. (link)

Here's what political ads would be like if they were 100% honest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQ5cGYBV2TQ

akal
252
Points
akal 08/29/11 - 10:36 am
0
0
bums

simple, vote the bums out. they don't deserve the position they have. remember on election day these bums took our money and lived like the kings and queens they think they are.

spwright
1376
Points
spwright 08/30/11 - 08:45 am
0
0
Ya Gotta Vote

Yo! akal You are forgetting one very important issue.

In Order to VOTE THE BUMS OUT

Alaskans gotta Get Off Their Butts & actually VOTE !
Well that ain't happening ! My voting district, a terrible
11% Voter Turn Out in the last Primary Election.

So rant & rave all ya want, nothing will ever change until Alaskans actually VOTE. The same Legistlators are re-elected year after year cuz a very small percentage of Alaskans control the Vote.

& the Worst Voting Record, the self proclaimed Un-Declared Independent Alaskan Voter. This Group whines & complains more than any other group of Alaskans but yet the
Independent Alaskan will NOT make the Time to Vote.
Figure That One Out ?

SPW "Airborne"

Raoulduke
3055
Points
Raoulduke 08/30/11 - 08:59 am
0
0
Who is the moron

When these MORONS are re-elected time,and time again for decades.Even after knowing that these moron's are crooks.One begins to question. Are the voters the moron's,or did they not research the candidate's past their political affiliation.Which makes for a very uninformed voter.Before the pipeline,and corruption which came with the pipeline.This was a blue state.

Raoulduke
3055
Points
Raoulduke 08/30/11 - 09:07 am
0
0
@ DRUDGE

I watched the link. I really appreciate the Whitest kids you know,but wouldn't the truth be a breath of fresh air for a change Instead of the same old B.S?The TRUTH.ARE you kidding me?Any politician who spoke the truth.We would see a person's jaw fall of their face.

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