Costs just another reason to re-examine session process

Posted: Sunday, June 19, 2005

Now that the figures are out, it goes without saying: Our state representatives need to find a better way of doing business in Juneau.

At a cost of $378,716, that's 15 days at more than $25,000 each day — all to get legislators to do what they were there to do in the first place.

Still, it could have been worse. Had the legislators had to travel back to Juneau after the regular session ended, it would have cost a lot more. Legislative Affairs Director Pam Varni said this one probably saved $50,000 a day by not having that expense.

Information also tells us this is the costliest session in the past five years — during which there have been six special sessions. What is so special about that?

Special would be to not have one.

Along the same lines, we're glad to see the House Ways and Means Committee will hold meetings this summer and fall in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau to address a $5.7 billion shortfall in the state's public employee and teacher retirement systems.

The same should be done on other issues, and the workers compensation bill that was passed could stand some tweaking, as well.

In fact, why not be proactive and address issues before they come up in session? Wouldn't that save a lot of aggravation?

Our job as constituents is to tell legislators our likes and dislikes about what is happening in and to our state. We should voice our opinions, provide ideas and offer solutions.

Those elected to represent us should be making themselves available to public comment, holding community meetings to update us on what's happening outside the session and what's coming up on the agenda.

It's a pretty basic arrangement, and in today's world of technology, there are few of us — if any — who cannot connect with those whom we wish to speak. Even in Alaska.

We applaud any effort to fix problems before they get worse. That's what the system should be all about.

Now, how about some meetings this summer and fall to find a way to get through a session having actually accomplished the work on the agenda —without going beyond the last day.

It could happen, and that's what we'd like to see

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