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Senator Sean Parnell Session:
State Capitol, Room 518
Juneau, AK 99801-1182
Phone: (907) 465-2995
Fax: (907) 465-6592
Send E-Mail

716 W 4th Avenue, Suite 530
Anchorage, AK 99501-2133
Phone: (907) 269-0250
Fax: (907) 269-0249

Sponsor Statement for SJR 29
Duration of Regular Legislative Session

Updated: February 1, 2000

Senate Joint Resolution 29 would place a constitutional amendment on the 2000 general election ballot to limit the Alaska State Legislature to regular annual sessions of no more than 75 days, which would begin on the fourth Monday in February.

The Alaska Constitution originally imposed no session limits, and while pre-oil sessions averaged about 70 days, by the 1980s sessions stretched from January into June or even July. In 1984, Alaska voters amended the Constitution to impose a 120-day limit, and legislators found they could transact the people's business in the time allowed. It is likely that legislators could likewise adapt to a 75-day session that would save money, foster a citizen legislature and focus attention on legislative priorities.

  • SAVE MONEY: Shortening sessions would help lower the cost of state government. Fiscal notes show savings of $1.21 million, including legislative per diem, session staff, contractual services, and operations and maintenance.

  • FOSTER CITIZEN LEGISLATURE: Many Alaskans choose not to seek legislative office because it can mean putting their families and careers on hold - or moving them along to Juneau - for at least 120 days each year. Reducing session by 45 days would lessen that impediment significantly, making legislative service more attractive to more Alaskans.

  • FOCUS ATTENTION: A shorter session would focus the Legislature's attention on its primary constitutional duty - to pass a budget - and bring its work schedule more in line with the spring revenue forecast. And with more time in their home districts to hear constituents' concerns face-to-face, legislators would be better prepared to use the remainder of the session on the issues of greatest concern to their constituents.

Some would argue that shortening the session would simply shift workload and expenses to the interim, but this is not likely given historical trends. Legislative Council and other standing committees already meet during interim, but at a fraction of the cost of full sessions. Unless the Legislature increased interim staff budgets or committee powers, interim expenses would continue to be much lower than regular session costs.

Alaskans in 1984 saw the benefit of reducing legislative sessions from no limit to 120 days. Alaskans in 2000 deserve the chance to continue this process. Passing SJR 29 will give voters their say on a measure that would save the state money, speed action on legislative priorities and allow more Alaskans to serve their state.

I urge you to pass SJR 29 on to a vote of the people.

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