Legislature(2011 - 2012)CAPITOL 106
04/12/2012 08:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS
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SCR 24-COMMISSION ON 100TH ANNIV. OF LEGISLATURE 8:21:02 AM CHAIR LYNN announced that the next order of business was SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 24, Establishing the Alaska Legislative Celebration Commission to organize events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first convening of the legislative branch of government in Alaska. 8:21:15 AM TIM LAMKIN, Staff, Senator Gary Stevens, Alaska State Legislature, gave a PowerPoint presentation on behalf of the Senate Rules Standing Committee, on which Senator Stevens is a member. He said the convening of the first Alaska Territorial Legislature was 45 years in the making and took place on March 3, 1913. He showed a photograph of Juneau in 1905 and noted that the usable land then was just where the mountains met the sea. In 1911, U.S. Congress authorized the funds for the Alaska [territorial] capitol; however, because of a lack of land and the advent of WW1, construction was not started until September 1929. The building, then known as the Federal and Territorial Building, was completed in February 1931. Mr. Lamkin showed a photograph of the first [Territorial] House of Representatives, dated Spring 1913. He noted that the House was comprised entirely of men at the time; the first female representative was elected in 1923. He said the initial gatherings of the Territorial Senate were held in the Elks Lodge, but related that he had been unable to get confirmation regarding the early gathering place of the House members, other than that it met in "various halls." 8:25:11 AM MR. LAMKIN indicated that from 1913 to 1947, the Alaska Territorial House had 16 members serving 15 committees. In response to a question, he said the Senate was comprised of 8 people. He indicated that in one particular 60-day session, 84 bills were passed. He offered examples of the legislation that was passed, and he noted that the first bill to pass gave women the right to vote. Mr. Lamkin pointed to a member of the Alaska Territorial Legislature, depicted in a photograph, and noted that the man's name was Elwood Bruner (ph), whom Mr. Lamkin discovered was a distant cousin. 8:29:21 AM MR. LAMKIN said SCR 24 is a rare opportunity to pay tribute to Alaska's history. He noted that there were some historians available to testify. 8:30:00 AM CHAIR LYNN noted that some of the laws passed by the Alaska Territorial Legislature are still in effect, and he ventured that it would be interesting to look through some of the old laws. 8:30:20 AM STEVE HAYCOX, Professor of History, testified in support of SCR 24. He expressed his hope that the legislature would see the proposed concurrent resolution not only as an act of commemoration of the first legislature, but also an act of education for the citizens of Alaska - particularly students. He said SCR 24 represents the beginning of self-government for Alaska. He stated James Wickersham, the principal champion of the bill that created the legislature, was committed to democracy and government by consent of the governed. He talked about the long road from territorial government to statehood and the lesson that provides young Alaskans regarding the importance of perseverance. He ventured that the commission would not need to spend much money, because people could use "on line and electronic technology" to do "what needs to be done fairly reasonably." He suggested having a half-day public session on March 3. 8:32:41 AM CLAUS M. NASKE, Professor Emeritus, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, remarked upon the interesting manner in which legislators arrived in Juneau during territorial days, including some by foot. Regarding the work done by the territorial legislature, he said one of the constraints had to do with taxation. He mentioned an influential lobbyist who represented fishermen. Mr. Naske said the Alaska Territorial Legislature met every other year and established devices intended to circumscribe the federally appointed governor. He echoed Mr. Haycox' remark that not much money needs to be spent, but opined that it is worthwhile to remind people of Alaska's colorful history. He stated his support of SCR 24. 8:35:29 AM REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON stated her support of SCR 14. She asked Mr. Naske what the first budget was and how many bills were passed that year. MR. NASKE said he has that information in his books, but does not know off hand. Notwithstanding that, he said the budget amounted to about $2 million at one point. He said there was not much money available to spend; taxation and the powers of the legislation were limited. He said the first state budget was just about $40 million, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the current budgets of several billion dollars. 8:36:38 AM MR. LAMKIN stated that the budget in 1913 was $200,000. 8:37:18 AM MARIE DARLIN specified that she was testifying on behalf of herself. She said she is a walking tour guide. She said considerable research has been done and she would like to see more done. She explained the reason the Alaska Territorial Legislators met in the Elks Lodge was because that organization offered the space for the least amount of money. Following that the legislature met in the Goldstein building, which she indicated was erected in 1913-1914. Regarding a building that was referred to as the governor's house, she explained that it was used as offices; the governor actually lived across the street. She confirmed that Mr. Wickersham was the one responsible for getting a territorial legislature. She said there was a person who took six weeks to get to Juneau to serve in the legislature, because he traveled through Interior Alaska by dog team and from Valdez on a steamship. She said one of the reasons that he may have taken so long to arrive in Juneau is that back then the steamships often traveled first from Valdez to Seattle before heading back north to Juneau. She echoed previous testimony that the legislature met every other year, and she said U.S. Congress put many stipulations on what the legislature could do. She said Mr. Wickersham bought the house on Seventh Street in 1928. She explained that the women in the photos of the earliest legislature were staff to legislators. She offered her understanding that the first woman to serve on the legislature was not elected, but took the place of her husband; the second female legislator was elected. She pointed out that the Alaska Territorial Legislature gave women the right to vote seven years before U.S. Congress did. 8:42:29 AM MS. DARLIN, in response to Representative Gruenberg, offered her understanding that Henry Rodin at one time was the territorial treasurer. 8:42:49 AM REPRESENTATIVE PETERSEN, regarding the aforementioned period when Alaska's governance had to be approved by U.S. Congress, remarked upon the great distance between the East Coast and Alaska and the challenges that must have presented. 8:43:26 AM CHAIR LYNN, after ascertaining that there was no one else who wished to testify, closed public testimony. 8:43:35 AM REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG noted that the date the Alaska Territorial Legislature first convened - March 3, 1913 - is shown on page 2, line 8. He expressed his hope that the proposed commission would recommend that schools might observe that historical event on that date, and that legislative members could visit schools on that date. 8:44:38 AM REPRESENTATIVE KELLER moved to report SCR 24 out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, SCR 24 was reported out of the House State Affairs Standing Committee. CHAIR LYNN commended the committee for its work, said this may be the last meeting of regular session, and handed the gavel to Vice Chair Keller.