Gov. Sean Parnell is lashing out against legislators who fought him on the Coastal Zone Management Program and defending the hard-line negotiations that led to the program’s impending demise.
Likening his legislative opponents to snakes, Parnell said they failed to negotiate fairly and repeatedly changed the terms of the debate on him.
"When you say you are going to support something, you need to support it," he said.
Speaking publicly following last week’s abrupt end to the legislative session, Parnell told the Alaska Miners Association’s Juneau Branch that legislators failed to negotiate in good faith.
The fault was with the Senate, Parnell said, which declined to accept the renewal of Coastal Management that he and industry had negotiated with the House of Representatives.
The mining industry supported the deal, and the oil and gas industry was neutral he said, but the Senate refused to accept it.
Parnell called the way he was treated being “snaked,” and said, “I was bitten in the process.”
After the Senate made changes to the coastal management bill, the House objected to them, setting up a conference committee to work out the differences. Parnell said that process wasn’t fair either.
“It was completely stacked, there was no pretense of balance on that conference committee,” he said.
That committee, which included Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, reached a compromise between the House and Senate versions of the bill, but the House failed to adopt it on a vote of 20-15, with five members absent. Twenty-one votes are required for passage.
The House didn’t send the bill back to the conference committee for additional changes, but instead adjourned early in an effort to force the Senate to accept its version of the capital budget without changes. As a result, the state’s coastal management program will go away at the end of June.
“The House, too, felt like they’d been negotiated with in bad faith, and they said ‘We’re going home,’” Parnell said.
Parnell defended the ending of the coastal management program, saying the changes the conference committee made to it were not good for the state.
“The biggest sticking point, I think, was the delinking of the use of local knowledge from scientific evidence,” he said.
The committee’s version of the bill set standards for how credible scientific evidence must be to be able to use it to reject local knowledge.
Parnell also said the bill lacked “accountability.”
The final version of the bill would have only let members of the advisory Coastal Policy Board appointed by the governor to be removed “for cause,” and listed reasons such as incompetence and failure to participate.
Parnell said the governor should have the power to remove them for any reason, but the conference committee wouldn’t allow that.
“We would now have to swallow to having a Coastal Policy Board that wasn’t accountable to anybody because you couldn’t get rid of the members,” Parnell said.
The final bill version also included too many subsequent reviews of coastal management to provide the certainty the state needs, he said.
Parnell said he had no plans to call the Legislature back into special session to deal with coastal management, but that the Legislature might do that on its own.
“If they’re going to deal with it, they’re going to call themselves back into special session, and that’s a possibility,” he said.
The mining group gave Parnell’s tough speech a round of applause.
His handling of coastal management was cheered by Juneau attorney Jim Clark, who praised Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan, Environmental Conservation Commissioner Larry Hartig and other members of Parnell’s team.
“I thought you did a terrific job” with the coastal issue, he said.
Clark was chief of staff to former Gov. Frank Murkowski, who pushed through a controversial pro-development move to take coastal management authority from local communities and give it the state.
• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.