Legislators should work more in public's eye, less in closed caucus

Posted: Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Gov. Tony Knowles made what would likely be his last visit, as governor, with the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner editorial board (last week).

The discussion was relatively light, though we still managed somehow to kill an hour.

The subjects were wide and varied. But there was one item that popped up in conversation that we didn't expect and that remained on our minds after the meeting; the increasing frequency of legislative decisions made in caucus.

It has become perennial newspaper editorial fodder.

With spring we can now expect to see the state's newspapers decrying legislative decisions made behind closed caucus doors as surely as we can expect to see wild iris popping up around local wetlands.

The iris are a welcome perennial. We could all live without the caucus recurrence.

We didn't have time to check the record between the end of our talk with the governor and the deadline for this editorial, but we would guess that the governor was correct in his comment that the amount of action on the floor was quite literally minuscule in comparison to caucus discussion time in the final week of the last session.

The closed caucus is an important tool for legislators, and we understand the need for strategizing and some closed-door sessions. It just seems to have gotten out of control.

While the governor allowed that perhaps he could have worked harder on his relationship with the Legislature, he also pointed out the inherent power any party in this state has once it gains a two-thirds majority.

That's a good point.

Whatever the party, the power of a majority and the lure of caucus discussion seems a powerful one in this state.

So, here in the damp and darkening days of October we are reminded to look toward spring.

We would urge those now campaigning for state office to do the same and tell the voters how you will be able to help bring those Juneau proceedings back into the public light, where they can bloom for the enjoyment, and edification, of all.

-- Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Oct. 2

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