Special session back on

Legislators will return to Juneau to restore Coastal Management program

The special session is back on, and Alaska’s Coastal Management Program may yet survive.

House Speaker Mike Chenault late Friday announced that there was sufficient support in the House of Representatives to hold a session, and with strong Senate support the 40 votes needed to for the Legislature to call itself into session were available.
It will be located in Juneau, and will begin at 11 a.m. Monday, he said.

Friday, as news of the impending special session spread among legislators, many began booking tickets to Juneau on Sunday evening and Monday morning.

Juneau legislators were among the coastal lawmakers pushing to keep the program.
“It’s very important to Juneau,” said Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau. “And I’m not talking about the jobs, but we’re a coastal community. We’re trying to preserve some form of Coastal Management so communities have input into coastal zone issues,”

Twenty-two of the program’s 33 staff members were also located in Juneau, raising fears among the local delegation that those jobs would be lost.

House Bill 106, which renews and makes changes to the Coastal Management program, was the subject to a conference committee agreement on the last day of May’s special session. That agreement was approved by the Senate, but failed two separate House votes on the session’s final day.

The intent now is to bring that bill back, with changes, and pass it in the one-day session, House leaders said and Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, confirmed late Friday.

The Coastal Management program sunsets at the end of this month without reauthorization by the Legislature.

When that failed to happen during the Legislature’s regular and first special session, the program began winding down and staff began departing.

More recently, the Parnell administration has signaled a lack of support for the program, with Attorney General John Burns saying publicly that it was not necessary.
Coastal community legislators across party lines urged the program be continued to keep a local voice in federal offshore and coastal issues.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.


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