Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson said Gov. Mike Dunleavy could sue lawmakers who show up in Juneau rather than Wasilla for the first day of the second special session on July 8.
While the state constitution bars the governor from suing the entire Legislature, Clarkson said Dunleavy could ask for a court order to have Alaska State Troopers round up individual lawmakers and bring them to Wasilla.
In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Clarkson cited a constitutional provision allowing the governor to enforce the state’s laws.
“He could, under Article III, Section 16, go to court — not against the Legislature, because that’s not permitted — but against the absent legislators who are not present in Wasilla subject to the call and seek a court order compelling them to go to Wasilla,” Clarkson said.
Clarkson said the law allowing the governor to name the location for the session is constitutional.
“The governor could have picked anywhere,” he said. “He could have picked Kotzebue or Bethel or Huslia or Mile 135 of the Sterling Highway — literally anywhere in the state.”
But the Legislature’s top lawyer disagrees with Clarkson. Megan Wallace, the director of legislative legal services, wrote in a memo to House Speaker Bryce Edgmon that the legal mandate giving the governor the ability to set the location for special sessions may not be constitutional.
In the memo, Wallace said the record shows that when the Legislature passed the law, legislators didn’t contemplate a scenario where the governor would designate a location without an agreement with the Legislature.
She also said a court could find the law unconstitutional because it gives the governor more power than the constitution spells out regarding special sessions. The constitution says a governor can call special sessions, but it doesn’t say they can set the location. Wallace also noted that the constitution says the capital is in Juneau.
Additionally, she said a court could find that the Legislature can only decide the location of a special session under the separation of powers doctrine.
But Clarkson said the drafters of the Alaska Constitution said nothing about the location of special sessions. And he noted that no one until now has challenged the constitutionality of the law allowing a governor to set the location of special sessions they call.
The only item that Dunleavy put on the special session agenda is funding permanent fund dividends under a formula set in state law.
Legislative leaders have asked Dunleavy to add the state’s capital budget and the future of the permanent fund to the agenda.
The Legislature can call itself into a special session at a location and with an agenda that it chooses. But two-thirds of lawmakers must agree, and legislative leaders have said they’re one vote short.
Legislators differ on where they’re planning to be for the first day of the session. For example, Wasilla Republican Rep. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard said she plans to stay in her hometown.
“I live here in Wasilla, so as the governor has called the session here, this is where I will be going for the special session, unless the governor calls it elsewhere,” she said.
Clarkson said private citizens may also sue the Legislature over the location of the special session.
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