What part of 90 days don't they understand?

Posted: Friday, February 25, 2011

Ever get the feeling you're talking to a brick wall? Try talking to Juneau about getting used to the 90-day legislative session limit passed by the voters five years ago.

Ever since 2008 when the initiative took effect, lawmakers have begun each session whining about it. The first year they foretold that it wouldn't work. The second year they reaffirmed their stance, complaining about the year before.

And in this, the first year the legislature is allowed to tinker with the voter initiative, the whining began even before the session did, and two bills have already passed through committees in both the House and the Senate that would thwart the voters' will.

Last year we wrote that if any legislator could show us concrete evidence of actual harm caused by the 90-day session, we'd change our position in support of it. Guess what? We haven't heard or seen a thing.

We are at our wit's end with this issue. It reminds us of trying to reason with a petulant child.

Did our lawmakers even make the attempt to work within the 90 day limit? Were there not enough of them willing in the early weeks in the session to hold public hearings on Fridays or deliberate issues on weekends to earn their per diem? Some lawmakers say the state capital's a ghost town on Fridays and weekends. Lawmakers will argue that weekends are for going back in their districts to talk with constituents. We'd suggest that maybe your constituents don't want to see your faces; they want you in the state capital, working, like they asked you to when they elected you.

Is there no time management consultant willing to take on this most mighty of challenges - getting 60 legislators to more effectively organize and schedule their collective assets?

Apparently not.

Our challenge stands. Show us solid proof that taking away 30 days of session has resulted in substandard legislation or demonstrably harmed the body politic. Show us roads unrepaired or capital projects not built or state departments run poorly because you could only work 90 days instead of 120. Show us actual pain and human suffering wrought by the electorate's short-sighted belief that 90 days is enough time to get the job done.

Of course, we'll have to wait for you all to consider that after the Energy Council conference that nearly half of you will be attending all of next week in Washington, D.C.

Sheesh -- now it's a 83-day session.

In short: Lawmakers, quit whining and fiddling and really try to make 90-day sessions work.



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