Special sessions getting tiresome

Posted: Sunday, May 15, 2005

Here we go again.

It seems that the special session is becoming less and less special every year.

In fact, it might be considered more special if the state legislators didn't have to be called back or asked to stick around so they could do what they were there to do in the first place.

Back in March, the Clarion ran a story about how slow the process was going: "More than nine weeks into its first session, the 24th Alaska Legislature has passed just one appropriation measure and eight resolutions and sent them to Gov. Frank Murkowski for his signature.

"The only spending measure is Senate Bill 62, which makes supplementary appropriations to the Division of Elections."

Like we said, weren't our state legislators elected to go to Juneau and work? Are we not paying them to go in and get the job done?

Apparently not. Year after year, it seems, they stall, stammer and point fingers at each other in an effort to blame someone else for their failure to get any work accomplished.

Granted, politics will always be politics, but just once it would be nice to see the system work the way it was intended. Just once it would be great to see all of our representatives go to the capital, sit down and talk like civilized adults and resolve the issues that sorely need to be fixed so we can go about our lives.

Can you imagine any job where this type of behavior is acceptable?

If we as citizens were to pull these tactics in our everyday lives, it's hard to envision what we would accomplish. It's the equivalent of waiting to take your studded tires off the day before they need to be removed; paying your bills the day before they are due; or getting a fishing license when there's only one day left to fish.

What's the point?

The point is, our legislators know what's coming, yet they continue to put off until the end those bills that impact so many.

The retirement and workers' comp bills are a perfect example. Why are they waiting until the end of the session to try and shove them through? Legislator after legislator has said they need more time to review the issues, yet there they sit in committees, buried under whether DNA samples should be taken from prisoners.

A month before the session ended, our Legislature was solidifying its position on Senate Bill 42 — "An Act extending the reporting date for and the termination date of the Task Force on Naturopathic Scope of Practice; and providing for an effective date." Four days before the session ended, it passed the proclaiming of July 24, 2005, as Parents' Day.

The fact is, the only true way to get anything done is to take action now. It doesn't have to be the perfect action, it just has to get the ball rolling. Changes can always be made, but if there's nothing to make changes on, what's the point of dragging it into a special session in the first place?

Add to this mixture that the legislators noticeably gave up their fights when the governor announced the session Tuesday. Did they feel their work was somehow finished?

If there is an upside, at least this year the governor didn't wait until they left town, adding to the expense of bringing them back. Still, it costs money either way, and in these financially stressed times should it be any more acceptable?

It doesn't bode well for our state when inefficiency is the standard practice. Our representatives need to be held accountable for their actions, as well as their inactions.

Perhaps the voters should start taking a serious look at revamping our legislators' job descriptions.

It's called planning ahead. Most businesses do it. The Legislature should give it a try.

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