Anchorage legislator seeks to move legislative sessions out of Juneau

Posted: Sunday, December 31, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- Few things are dependable, but you can count on death, taxes -- and Rep. Norm Rokeberg trying to move legislative sessions out of Juneau.

The Anchorage Republican has filed another bill to bring the sessions to his hometown. Rokeberg has failed in several past attempts. This time, he said, his intention is to keep the issue alive in the minds of Alaskans.

''The issue of access is a central one. It certainly comes to mind as I pack my bags to go to Juneau,'' Rokeberg told the Juneau Empire. ''It's very difficult to be separated from your family and difficult to recruit people to run for office. The average person in the state has difficulty accessing his legislator during the session.''

Rep. Bill Hudson, a Juneau Republican, has fought the effort many times before. He wasn't surprised to discover Rokeberg had filed the bill again.

''I've almost gotten to the point where I expect it. Obviously it's something I'll have to work very hard against because of its devastating effect, if it were to happen, to the economy of our community,'' Hudson said. ''I certainly hope folks would maybe take a powder on it for once, but it looks like we're going to have to deal with it.''

The bill was co-sponsored by Anchorage Republican Rep. Joe Green and was one of several dozen measures pre-filed by lawmakers, scheduled to meet in Juneau Jan. 8 for the legislative session. Rokeberg also filed a measure to shorten regular sessions from 120 days to 90 days.

A measure similar to the capital-moving bill passed out of a committee two years ago. But lack of support killed it soon after. Former Senate President Mike Miller called it a non-issue back then. Senate Majority Leader Loren Leman, an Anchorage Republican, last month said it likely would not be a priority among Senate Republicans this year either.

Senate President Rick Halford also has questioned whether such a measure would find enough supporters.

''Well, there are certainly people who advocate moving the Legislature. I don't know if they're anywhere near critical mass,'' said Halford, a Chugiak Republican. Hudson said a session move would mean state administrators would have to travel to Anchorage to testify before committees. That cost would be enormous to the state.

The measure proposes moving only legislative sessions, not the capital. But Hudson said the capital eventually would follow.

''It would be the first step to what I call a backdoor capital move,'' he said.

Rokeberg said Juneau could make the issue go away by building a new facility for the Legislature.

''I believe our Capitol building is antiquated, obsolete and not safe for public use,'' he said. ''I think the people of Juneau should take notice of that.''

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