Alaska needs more legislators like Lynn

Posted: Tuesday, January 20, 2004

The fallout from a recent decision by an Anchorage Republican member of the state House to vote against the GOP leadership regarding the Longevity Bonus has caught the attention of people way up here in Fairbanks.

It's easy to see why.

Rep. Bob Lynn voted what he believed unusual in the strict atmosphere of the caucus-controlled House and found himself punished for it. The freshman legislator had voted with the Democrats on the first step of their effort to override the governor's veto of the Longevity Bonus, a politically hot issue that is likely to be prominent leading up to the November election. Rep. Lynn was the only Republican to vote in favor of the Democrats' proposal, which failed.

In return for voting what he believed, Rep. Lynn suffered the loss of the chairmanship of the Special Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs and the vice chairmanship of the Labor and Commerce Committee.

Punishing a legislator who acts true to conviction cheats Alaskans out of better governance.

What's the worst that can happen if legislators in the majority, regardless of which party holds that spot, vote freely? Perhaps ideas that differ from those who hold leadership posts within the majority will have a chance to collect votes and maybe win the day. Perhaps, too, that is why discipline is imposed to keep the agenda on track and assured of passage.

Punishing a legislator who acted as Rep. Lynn acted also risks further alienating the public from its elected leaders at a time when those elected leaders will be turning to the public for help in solving the state's pressing fiscal problems. The state cannot afford to have the public distrust its leaders.

Rep. Lynn, in voting as he did, kept true not only to his belief but also to what he told the Daily News-Miner last year. Back in July, the newspaper began its own poll of state legislators, asking them whether they supported holding a special session to considering overriding the governor's veto of the Longevity Bonus.

At that time, House and Senate leaders were asking the same thing because Democrats had obtained enough signatures on a petition to force the question. They declined to make the results public, which is why the News-Miner began its own survey.

In the News-Miner poll, Rep. Lynn was one of eight House Republicans expressing support for an override session. But when it came time to follow through last week, he was the only one to act in accordance with his word.

The others Reps. Tom Anderson of Anchorage, Vic Kohring of Wasilla, Beverly Masek of Willow, Lesil McGuire of Anchorage, Carl Morgan of Aniak, Dan Ogg of Kodiak and Peggy Wilson of Wrangell chose to say one thing to the newspaper but do another thing in Juneau.

Alaska, whose residents pride themselves on being independent thinkers, needs more legislators like Rep. Lynn.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Jan. 18



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