Alaska lawmakers look for location to convene after veto override deadline passes

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Alaska lawmakers are trying to find a location where all 60 members will convene and consider funding items vetoed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

The negotiations are continuing after a week when legislators met separately in Wasilla and Juneau.

Across the board, lawmakers are supporting the idea of reinstating funding for the Senior Benefits Program, a program that provides a monthly benefit for low-income seniors.

Anchorage Republican Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, said she would like to see funding reinstated for education programs and an adult dental program offered to Medicaid recipients.

Some Alaskans lost Medicaid dental care before their treatment could be completed.

The effort to override the governor’s vetoes lacked 45 votes -- or even enough members to meet in the same place -- before a Friday night deadline.

To get all lawmakers in the same place, Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, said that Anchorage is being looked at as “neutral ground” between the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and Juneau.

Pruitt said that some lawmakers have spoken to staff at the Anchorage School District to see whether a school could be a venue for floor sessions.

Costello and Pruitt were both very supportive and grateful for the services provided at Wasilla Middle School and the reception from the public.

According to Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, daily discussions are going on between the four leaders of the House and Senate caucuses and the governor over the session’s location.

On the idea of holding floor sessions in Anchorage school, Giessel said, “I have never heard that from the governor or from anyone else.”

Giessel and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, continue to call for legislators who have met in Wasilla to convene in Juneau. In the meantime, some committee meetings are being planned for the Anchorage Legislative Information Office to begin on Monday.

Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, who left the House majority caucus on Thursday, said that a deal on where to meet could be hammered out over the weekend. She believed that 95 percent of the governor’s vetoes would be upheld.

For Giessel, there was hope that members would come to Juneau Monday but she was circumspect if that would happen. “People are unpredictable,” she said.

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