House and Senate Minorities Propose Creating a Caucus of the Whole in the Alaska Legislature
The Traditional Majority and Minority Caucus System is Preventing Fiscal Solutions
Juneau — Last Friday was the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Alaska Constitution. The convention in Fairbanks featured 55 Alaskans, elected from all regions and walks of life. These far-thinking delegates came together as one and crafted a document that has guided not only the state government, but also Alaska’s institutions and people. The constitutional example is being followed today by the Alaska Senate Democrats and the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition as they propose a new structure for the 29th Alaska Legislature.
“There are definitive moments in Alaska history when all of us, with our hands on the tiller, are called to steer our ship of state away from the rocks,” said Senate Minority Leader Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage). “This is one of those times. Members of the legislature are Alaskans first, and we must come together as Alaskans to chart a new course. The Minority organizations in the House and Senate are making a good faith offer to join with our colleagues in the Majority and share the burden of leadership. We do so with the full understanding that we will also share the risks associated with making the tough and potentially unpopular decisions that direct the future our state.”
Alaska is facing enormous fiscal challenges that threaten the economy, our political and social institutions, and the well-being of the people. The members of the Alaska Senate Democrats and the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition are concerned that the challenges ahead have the potential to overwhelm the ability of the Alaska Legislature to respond under the current partisan political caucus system. After much deliberation, the Minority organizations in the Alaska House and Senate have decided to look back to Alaska’s history, follow the example of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention, and propose that all lawmakers put aside politics and work together as one.
“Many lawmakers are ignoring their duty to protect the Alaska economy and way of life as they try to address the ever growing budget deficit caused by low oil prices and continued production decline. At the same time, the halls of the Capitol Building in Juneau are full of lobbyists with special interests scrambling for the last available dollars with little thought to the future of all of us,” said Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition Leader Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage). “However, if you listen carefully, there are also whispers of solutions and acknowledgment of the need for bipartisanship. By proposing a caucus of the whole to bring all lawmakers together under one united banner, we hope to give voice to those solutions.”
The Alaska Senate Democrats and Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition have outlined the proposal for a Caucus of the Whole in a letter that has been delivered to Senate President Kevin Meyer and Speaker of the House Mike Chenault.