Once more a dysfunctional legislature does us in

Will they or won’t they? No, this is not about whether the Palin’s are running. This is about whether the Alaska Legislature will spend even more of our money to meet yet again on a issue they couldn’t resolve during their regular session. They couldn’t resolve it during their first special session either. Now they’ve apparently decided to hold off a second special session until they have some indication of consensus on the matter.

At issue is a bill relating to our coastal zone management. It is of great importance to those towns and villages that have development happening in waters off their shores. If the legislature doesn’t get its act together by July 1, the feds will fill the vacuum created and have even more say in Alaska’s business than it already does.

It’s almost summertime in Alaska. This means we should be focusing on growing our annuals, nurturing our perennials, feeding and babying our lawns – in short, enjoying all the sunshine and fresh air and green growing things that occupy such a short and intense space in the Alaska year. What we shouldn’t be doing is hearing about the Alaska Legislature. Haven’t we suffered enough?

Our Legislature met for the 90 days the electorate decided should be enough time to get the people’s business done. During that 90-day period, they found time to spend schmoozing in Washington and passing what amounts to a backdoor raise for themselves by increasing their allowance for office supplies which, if not spent on said supplies, can be pocketed. What they apparently were unable to find the time to do was pass a state operating budget, a state capital budget or a coastal zone management plan that will give the state and communities affected a good seat at the table that will now be fairly well dominated by the feds. Kind of puts the Legislature’s priorities into perspective when looked at that way.

This august group of men and women headed to Juneau this January spouting the same mantra they’ve repeated for years. Ninety days, they call out in almost perfect unanimity, is simply not enough time to complete the people’s business. Then, for about 90% of the session, the only thing emanating from Juneau seems to be a very loud silence punctuated periodically be a statement from the governor or a House or Senate party leader who is usually lambasting the other side for not seeing how right their side is.

About five days before the end of session, someone invariably sticks their head up from the midday nap they were taking and exclaims, in sheer amazement, that there are only a few days left in the session and that’s simply not enough time to get any agreement on anything except perhaps the naming of an official state pinecone. Once again, our boys and girls in Juneau live up to their self-fulfilling prophecy that 90 days is simply not long enough.

Of course, this year our elected officials have managed to carry this one step further by needing not one but possibly two special sessions to finish their work. And what glorious finishes they accomplish in those special sessions. Remember how that capital budget got passed? House passed it and adjourned so the Senate had little choice but to rubber stamp the final product. If that’s the best they can do, one wonders why they couldn’t do it within the 90 days. It’s not like the extra time produced some brilliant product that was well worth the cost of an extra session.

If the Legislature does go into another special session to try and save the state’s input into its coastal zone management, I cringe at what might result given what we saw happen with the capital budget. Maybe our coastal communities are better off dealing directly with the feds and avoiding what a group as dysfunctional as our Legislature might pass into law.

I think the electorate should pass an initiative that says when the Legislature is in session, it is not allowed to file any bills, conduct any business or travel anywhere until it first passes an operating and capital budget. Oh wait, never mind. We tried to make our wishes known when we passed an initiative requiring a 90-day session. Look what that got us.