Sen. Shower files bill to make binding caucus illegal

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Senator Mike Shower said his bill will allow Senators to vote to do the right thing without fear of punishment.

    Sen. Shower was stripped of some committee assignments and a Committee Chairmanship because he did not support the operating budget ratified by the Senate Majority last July.

    "We have a God-given free will to make decisions that are best for our constituents," he said.

    He also lost legislative staff due to his budget vote.

    Shower said he is not claiming that anyone has been bribed but this practice appears to be coercive.  He said he has been punished in silence and prevented from representing his constituents to his full ability.

    Sen. Shelley Hughes said the binding caucus is fundamentally un-American.  "That is not right for the people of Alaska.  I've been in this position twice.  It is fascinating to see people from across the political spectrum very frustrated with this rule about the fact that I couldn't vote freely, according to my district, and according to my conscience."

    Sen. Hughes said she didn't know if they have the votes to get it through.  She said Alaskans fundamentally think it is right for a legislator to vote to represent their people and not what a caucus tells them to do.

    She felt it would be a much better process if there is no binding caucus.  "Alaska is ready to move into the 21st century without this rule."

    Shower said he felt the binding caucus forces legislators to vote for a larger budget.  "Letting a few people make the decision for us doesn't pass the common sense test.  By July 1 when government checks start going out, we get something done."

    Rep. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard said her principles guide her when she casts her vote.  "It is unheard of in local government or federal government.  Across the nation, many states don't offer this.  There are now 70,000 people disenfranchised in Alaska.  They voted them in for their ideas and now their thoughts are being squashed."

    Rep. Sarah Vance said there is a belief that if you want to be an effective legislator you must be part of the majority.  "That is a lie that has been perpetuated in the capital for way too long.  Every voice should have an equal voice and an equal vote on the floor.  We should not be held to a binding caucus that says if you don't follow the majority we are going to punish you."

    "We are not a democracy led by mob rule.  Every voice is an equal voice in this capital.  Every Alaskan should have the representation they deserve," she added.





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