The Evil of Closed Sessions

sunshine_week-493x330The Alaska Legislature is still hard at work. For a given definition of “hard” and “work.” The Legislature is now in day 114 of its 90 day session and has yet to address any of the major financial crises facing the State of Alaska. One or another of the Republican majority-controlled houses will meet from time to time in pubic session, sometimes for as long as a minute.

Occasionally, a trial balloon will emerge from who-knows-where, maybe a closed-door caucus session, maybe a secret meeting of a handful of legislators, or maybe a lobbyist. Most recently, there was talk of a very modest reduction in the hideously expensive subsidy for the oil industry. But the change wouldn’t have much impact ever and no impact soon and, besides, the poor thing had no parent and got no love. Rep. Craig Johnson (R, Big Oil), who floated the trial balloon, allowed as how he wasn’t sure he’d vote for the idea.

Each day of the extended session costs Alaska about $12,500; maybe a little more since some of their time is in temporary space borrowed from Juneau. So the 24 extra days have so far cost Alaskans about $175,000 that the State really doesn’t have. It might be worth it if we could see a little progress from our elected representatives. But apart from chance encounters at Fred Meyers, and whatever may be happening in the occasional secret caucus meeting, Alaskans seem to have gotten exactly zilch for its $175,000.

What Alaskans have not gotten for $175,000 is a public process. On a series of fiscal issues that are utterly critical to the economy of Alaska and the personal finances all Alaskans, if there is anything happening it is happening in secret. By what little information is public, the Legislature is pursuing ALEC issues and nibbling at the edges of the fiscal crisis. We know that, against the advice of its attorneys, the Legislature somehow decided to pursue an appeal from its loss in trial court on Medicaid expansion. Oddly, WC doesn’t recall a vote on that decision. Oh, wait, there wasn’t one. Or if there was, it was secret, behind closed doors.

WC, of course, is no longer an Alaska voter. Technically, he could have remained an Alaska voter. The Alaska Supreme Court has adopted the Dry Martini Rule to determine who gets to vote on the Last Frontier.1 But the bums embarrassing and bankrupting Alaska seriously need to be thrown out. WC’s remaining scruples won’t let him participate. But WC’s Alaska readers need to get to work. And not the Alaska Legislature’s definition of “work,” either.



  1. The Dry Martini Rule makes it still a martini if you open the bottle of vermouth in the same room as the glass of gin and wave the cork around for a moment. It takes about the same amount of contact with Alaska to remain an Alaska voter.