Hot news in Juneau gets chilly reception outside political circles

-- Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - May 24

Posted: Wednesday, May 30, 2001

Almost without notice, comparatively speaking, this year's session of the Alaska Legislature came and went in silence.

Well, not exactly with complete quiet, of course. But there wasn't much in the way of fire and brimstone, not much of the usual loud rancor, not too much fuss and bother.

When you consider that some of the biggest headlines -- and a call for a special session still to come -- reverberated around waste disposal from cruise ships, it's pretty evident that the big issues were low on the legislative horizon.

Which, for a lot of reasons, may be just fine.

People are tired of constant harangues and name-calling by politicians. Voters welcome signs that their elected representatives may actually be working together, not forever fighting for the sake of political partisanship.

Political fighting and gamesmanship had become a legislative routine in recent years, so ingrained that they were part of the game for members of the House and Senate -- some of whom actually seemed to believe that justified their being in Juneau.

Back home, however, such sniping won few cheers -- and certainly contributed to turning many people off. What was hot and fiery in Juneau was cold potatoes for folks back home in Anchorage and elsewhere.

Maybe this year's legislators finally figured out that their constituents were more interested in seeing things accomplished than they were in watching fights over power and political oneupmanship.

If so, good for them.

The budget was passed with relatively modest infighting.

The governor and the Republican legislative leadership mostly got along, although there was some ugly pulling and tugging at the end over the cruiseship issue.

Some of the big, lingering issues remained unresolved. Long-range fiscal planning. Budget gaps. Subsistence. The usual. No one expected resolution of those and other matters that have been continuing matters of controversy.

And, of course, the Legislature once again lacked the heart and the will to take up the matter of shortening the amount of time -- and the cost -- involved in annual lawmaking sessions that consume one-third of every single year.

Four-month sessions are ridiculous, and privately most legislators will say so -- as will top administration officials. But nothing happens to shorten the sessions to 90 or 100 days, easily more than enough time to get the job done. ...

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