House Chamber

Historical Self-Guided Tour Location #3

Text-only: Before you is the entrance to the House Chamber.  Like the Senate Chamber, the public is only permitted in the galleries.  The door handles to Chambers are hand-cast brass totem poles that represent an eagle, whale and bear.  Please step into either the Peratrovich or Taylor Gallery and have a seat. 
The first is named after Elizabeth Wannamaker Peratrovich.  Elizabeth was a Civil Rights leader in the ’40s and provided the crucial testimony that led to passage of the Anti Discrimination Bill. The second is named after Warren Taylor, who was an Alaska Constitutional Convention Delegate and who served in the Territorial and Alaska State Legislature.  Warren Taylor was Speaker of the House during the First Alaska State Legislature in 1959. 
There are 40 members of the House of Representatives. Representatives in Alaska serve 2-year terms and have no term limits.  Each Representative serves roughly 17,750 Alaskans.  To qualify to serve as a representative, you must have been a resident of Alaska for 3 years, a resident of the district for 1 year from time of filing a candidate application, and 21 years old at time of swearing in. 
Under uniform rules of both the House and Senate, legislators may not speak on the Chamber floor while proceedings are underway, unless either the Speaker of the House or the Senate President recognizes them.  They communicate through notes picked up by Pages or wait for a break to move and talk freely about the room. 
The most recent Chamber renovation was performed around 2010. A few years later, the exterior of the Capitol was renovated to provide seismic upgrades to the building and restored the exterior to its original appearance.  The most noticeable improvements were restoration of the marble columns and installation of a replica cornice that was removed decades earlier as a safety hazard as it deteriorated. 
Ok, now I’m going to teach you a trick so you can go home and show your friends everywhere you went in Alaska without showing them a map! Hold your right hand out like you are telling someone to stop.  Close your 3rd to 5th fingers, so you are holding your hand out as an L.  Great job!  Now swing or rotate your hand counter-clockwise so your index finger is pointing at 9oclock.  Look at that! You’re now flashing the Alaska hand sign.  You’ll always be able to pull this out and show people on your hand what parts you visited.  Juneau will be somewhere between your first and second knuckle on your thumb.  If you’re not quite getting this, please stop by the information desk and we will happily help. 
If you lay Alaska over the Lower 48, the tip of the southeast is in Florida, the most northern point of Alaska lies in North Dakota, and the Aleutian chain stretches out to California.  Kinda big and spread out! One fifth the land mass of the Lower 48 with approximately .91 square miles per resident.  
In the late 70’s the legislature wanted to make it easier for the public to be involved in the process.  A small part of the newfound oil wealth was appropriated to create a network of offices linked by phone and fax that allowed real-time data to be available statewide.  Members of the public from all over the state could now testify before a legislative committee without being physically in Juneau. In 1980 you could attend a public committee meeting happening 1500 miles away from you in Juneau and have your voice heard live in the committee room to testify on the record.  For over 40 years, Alaska has been the only state that offers level of involvement to the public.   

Next: This is the end of this audio stop.  Please exit the House Chamber.  If you are on the express tour, this is the last stop.  Thanks for squeezing in a quick visit and stop by the City Museum across the street to check out our gift shop.  If you are continuing the longer tour with me, please make your way up to the 5th floor by way of the elevator or stairwell located in the center of the building’s two wings.  

After you exit the stairs or elevator on the 5th floor, please turn left and make your way to the end of the hall and enter the Senate Finance Committee Room for the next audio tour location.  Remember to keep your voice down in the hall and stairs- this is an active office space for the legislature and the Governor’s office even when the legislature isn’t in session.