Alaska Legislature Centennialby Senator Lisa Murkowski
Posted on 2013-02-28
MURKOWSKI. Madam President, I rise today to mark a
significant event in Alaska's history as we commemorate the 100th
anniversary of the convening of the Alaska State Legislature.
Compared to the States that my colleagues represent, Alaska is a relatively young State, so it is remarkable that our legislature has existed for only 100 years. However, creating our State's legislative body was not an easy process. Secretary of State William H. Seward acquired Alaska from Russia for $7,200,000 on March 30, 1867. The First Organic Act of 1884 established the District of Alaska and provided us with a Governor and judicial branch but no legislative body to be the people's voice. It was not until after several petitions by Alaskans of all backgrounds that Congress passed the Second Organic Act giving Alaska territorial status and a legislative body. Our first elections were held November 12, 1912. They produced the first of many civil servants who would have the honor to serve in the Alaska Legislature. We did not yet have a capitol building, so eight senators and 16 representatives convened at the Elk's Lodge in Juneau, AK. That year, the first territorial legislature passed 83 laws--laws that began building our State and uniting us as Alaskans.
While Alaska may have been just a territory and seen by many as a vast wilderness separated from the rest of the country, our territorial legislature led the Nation in passing the first law in the Nation giving women the right to vote. This was 1913. The 19th amendment wouldn't be ratified for another 7 long years. The great Nell Scott was the first woman to serve in the first territorial legislature, way before other daughters of this country would. The territorial legislature also led the nation in the civil rights movement as it passed an antidiscrimination bill providing for full and equal enjoyment of public accommodations for all Alaskans. It is noteworthy that before statehood, Alaska's Legislature acted in response to the passionate advocacy of Roy and Elizabeth Peratrovich long before Congress would on Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks' advocacy. Before a territorial referendum in 1946 that began the legal quest for statehood, the Alaska Legislature had been advocating admission as early as 1913.
This past January, the 28th Session of the Alaska State Legislature convened, consisting of 20 senators and 40 representatives. Under house speaker Mike Chenault, and senate president Charlie Huggins, they continue to provide representation to an estimated 731,449 residents of Alaska. The Alaska Legislature has worked for the past 100 years to give Alaskans the opportunity to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and they will continue to do so for the many years to come. I extend my congratulations and heartfelt appreciation to the senators and representatives as well as all support staff to our legislature on this special anniversary.