Bill would let lawmakers oust governor from Capitol

Posted: Friday, January 26, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- Rep. Scott Ogan has a simple cure for the Capitol's cramped offices and crowded committee rooms -- oust the governor.

A bill Ogan introduced Friday would extend the Legislature's existing power over most of the Capitol to the third floor now occupied by the governor and lieutenant governor.

The Capitol, a 70-year-old six-story brick building that began life as the federal building for the Territory of Alaska, is so overcrowded that some aides must use bank-style vaults as office space, Ogan said.

''This bill is not about picking on this or any other governor,'' said Ogan, R-Palmer.

Ogan suggested that Knowles, a Democrat, and his staff might be more comfortable in the ''Spam Can,'' a state-owned office building across the street shaped like an enormous silver container of processed meat.

Bob King, Knowles' press secretary, said the governor's office belongs in the Capitol. It has been there since statehood. Plus, the Legislature already took over a school next door and converted it into office space.

''Given the needs of the state, its economy, education, public safety, you would think Scott would have better things to do than make 2001 his personal space odyssey,'' King said.

The governor's office is in the midst of renovation.

Ogan's bill would place responsibility for the entire Capitol under the jurisdiction of the Alaska Legislative Council, a committee of lawmakers. At present, the Legislative Affairs Agency, under the direction of the Legislature, oversees all but the third floor.

Ousting the governor would allow the council to expand small committee rooms that allow only a few people to watch debates on legislation.

''On contentious issues, you have people standing in the halls straining to hear,'' Ogan said.

Rep. Joe Green, R-Anchorage and chairman of the Legislative Council, said he hadn't seen Ogan's bill and wouldn't comment about it, but he agrees that the Legislature and staff are ''falling all over ourselves'' and need relief.

This isn't the first time lawmakers have tried to expand their Capitol domain.

Turf wars in 1993 between the House and the Department of Law, resulted in that entire department's getting bumped from the fourth floor across the street to the Dimond Courthouse, said Attorney General Bruce Botelho.

Rep. Ramona Barnes, who was House speaker, asked then-Attorney General Charlie Cole if Rep. Cliff Davidson could use one of the department's offices during the session, since the Legislature had run out of room.

Cole agreed, but when the department asked for the office back at the end of the session, Barnes refused, Botelho said. ''So I got a locksmith.''

He had the locks changed on the office and boxed up Davidson's belongings, he said.

Botelho said the department was out of the Capitol by mid-1994.

There was talk of moving the governor out of the building during that period as well, said John Manly, then the press secretary for Gov. Wally Hickel.

Hickel's commissioner of commerce, Glenn Olds, believed it would be a good idea to have the governor's office on the eighth floor of the State Office Building, where the state historical and state reference libraries are.

''But it was just an impossible idea,'' Manly said. ''Security, with all that glass, would be impossible. And where would you put the libraries?''

Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, D-Anchorage, proposed a different solution to the perceived squeeze.

''If the accommodations aren't large enough to fit everyone's egos, maybe they should find a bigger stage,'' Berkowitz said.



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