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What others say: Legislature did a B+ job

Posted: May 6, 2014 - 3:31pm

No session of the Alaska Legislature is perfect.

This one came as close as any in years.

While we don’t agree with every bill that came out of the Capitol this spring, the number of bills approved by our Legislature and their importance shows the ability of legislators to whittle big jobs into manageable solutions.

They passed an average of 1.22 bills per day and tackled some of the biggest issues facing Alaska.

What about the late adjournment, you ask? This isn’t grade school — we expect legislators to get the job done. By and large, they did — with much less turmoil than previous Alaska Legislatures have brought to Juneau.

Remember 2011? In that year, the first session of the 27th Legislature, Gov. Sean Parnell had to call an entire special session just to get a budget passed.

Look back farther, and you’ll see worse chaos. In 1992, Gov. Wally Hickel needed to call two special sessions to get the state’s work done.

In 1981, before Alaskans amended the state’s constitution to limit the Legislature’s days, work at the Capitol started Jan. 12 and didn’t finish until June 24 — and there was a special session after that.

A few extra days is nothing in the grand scheme of history.

What you do with those days matters more than the days themselves. Here, the Legislature excelled, passing education reform, pension reform and a natural gas pipeline bill — plus the annual capital and operating budgets.

There were a few too many missteps for a perfect grade, however. The Legislature wasted its breath talking about the minimum wage — an issue bound for the fall ballot. It frittered away time on things like a state bolt-action rifle and trying to reduce public input on permitting decisions.

Republican majorities in the House and Senate meant more bills but less bipartisanship. One hundred and sixteen bills made it through the second session of the 28th Legislature — exactly four were sponsored by Democrats. That’s far too low considering a third of the Legislature is Democrats (7 in the Senate, 14 in the House).

While we appreciate the pace of business in the Legislature, it’d be nice to see less political maneuvering and more compromise.

This legislature confronted abortion and school funding, natural gas and the right to bear arms. While we cannot agree with everything the Legislature did or did not do, we can commend its ability to handle the big issues without forgetting about the smaller ones, too.

— Juneau Empire,

May 4

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