Bill to move governor clears first hurdle

Posted: Friday, March 09, 2001

JUNEAU -- A bill that could boot the governor's office out of the Capitol passed its first committee Thursday.

Rep. Scott Ogan's bill would give the Legislative Council control of the third floor of the building, which is now occupied by the governor, lieutenant governor and some of their staff. It's the only part of the six-story building not controlled by the Legislature.

''This room is a prime example of why we need more space in the Capitol,'' Ogan, R-Palmer, said, pointing around him at the State Affairs Committee room, which doubles as the office for two of Rep. John Coghill's staff and contains about a dozen chairs for audience members.

Committee rooms average about 650 square feet, he said, and some are as small as 500. During a recent hearing, a legislative aide tripped on the attorney general's foot trying to navigate a crowded room, Ogan said.

''There's some real safety hazards here,'' Ogan said.

He's not targeting Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles, Ogan said. He intends the change to occur as Knowles leaves office in 2003.

Commissioner of Administration Jim Duncan, who stressed he is taking no position on the bill, said his office is preparing an estimate of its potential costs.

The estimate will be based on the governor moving to the 11th floor of the nearby State Office Building. That would displace the Department of Revenue, which he anticipates would move to another nearby state building. The department might also need to lease space elsewhere in Juneau, Duncan said.

The estimate will include the cost of building hard walls to replace cubicles and possible electrical, ventilation and plumbing improvements. The state would also need to remove some asbestos from the State Office Building if it does any construction, Duncan said.

''That's going to be horrendous, that cost,'' Rep. Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell, said. She asked why asbestos removal was included.

For safety reasons the state must remove asbestos if it's going to be disturbed by construction, Duncan said. The cost estimate will be ready by April 1 at the latest, he said.

Ogan objected to the potentially large price-tag being attached to his bill. He said the bill itself will cost nothing because all it does is transfer authority over the third floor from the governor's office to the Legislative Council. Only if the Legislative Council decides to move legislative offices onto that floor will there be a cost, Ogan said.

Rep. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, said it seemed disingenuous to say the bill won't cost anything.

But Rep. Jeannette James said in fact, there is no cost to the budget this year, so it's appropriate to include the administration's estimates as information, but not technically as a ''fiscal note.''

James, R-North Pole, agreed the building is overcrowded but she had questions about whether the building would still be the Capitol if the governor wasn't housed in it.

It would, Ogan said.

And what, she wondered, would the building the governor moves to be called

''I suspect that would be called the SOB -- State Office Building,'' Ogan said.

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