Last week Alaska legislators gathered at the state Capitol in Juneau for their second special session of the year. They also gathered at a middle school in Wasilla for the same reason.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) called for the July 8 session in the hope that lawmakers would finally decide whether or not to allow a full $3,000-per-resident dividend payout from the Alaska Permanent Fund this year, after they failed to resolve that issue in either the regular session or a special session that wrapped up in June. Dunleavy also set the location for the second special session in Wasilla, home to his conservative base.

The 21 Republican lawmakers who showed up at Wasilla Middle School on the 8th - most of whom shared Dunleavy’s support for a full payout - said it was their constitutional duty to convene the session where the governor specified. The 37 lawmakers who convened in Juneau, however, said the governor had the authority to set the time and agenda for the session, but it was up to them to decide where to meet.

Lacking a quorum, there was little the Wasilla group could do. The Juneau contingent was able to get some work done, which included introducing legislation to make a $1,600 dividend payment from the Permanent Fund and replacing Senate Majority Leader Mia Costello (R), who had gone to Wasilla. But there still weren’t enough lawmakers in the Capitol to override Dunleavy’s $444 million in vetoes to the state budget.

Each group blamed the other for that failure.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich (D) said before the override vote that if the lawmakers in Wasilla “choose to neglect their responsibility and don’t come to Juneau, they’re going to be responsible for sustaining the governor’s veto,” adding, “I think that’s their intent.”

Sen. Costello, meanwhile, said: “You could actually argue that those in Juneau want the vetoes to stand because they’d be here where we could actually take action.” (ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS)