Gov. Sean Parnell early Monday morning called a special session of the Alaska Legislature after the regular session adjourned without taking action on oil taxes and other legislation he favors.
The 27th Alaska Legislature ended early Monday morning, extending the 90-day legislative session just slightly, as they’ve made a point of doing before.
The House ended a few minutes after midnight Sunday, while the Senate went nearly to 1 a.m. Monday.
They ended without taking action on oil taxes, one of Parnell’s top priorities, or a small natural gas pipeline, one of House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski’s top priorities.
Those two issues and a popular crime bill caught in the last-minute jockeying will be the three items Parnell has outlined for the Legislature to address.
Chenault and Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, issued a press release late Sunday after it became apparent that the small-diameter, in-state gasline project that they were pushing would not make it through the Senate.
The two House Republicans took the Senate to task for “failing Alaskans in need of affordable natural gas.”
Democratic members of the House of Representatives disputed how affordable that gas would be.
“It would bring us some of the most expensive gas Alaskans have ever seen,” said Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, and leader of the House Democratic Minority.
Kerttula also said she was concerned that the plan to bring a subsidized small-diameter pipeline to Cook Inlet would “freeze out” explorers now looking for gas there.
The state has provided healthy incentives for exploration in Cook Inlet, which Parnell’s Department of Natural Resources says has led to a “renaissance” of the state’s oldest oil and gas region.
Opponents of the Chenault-Hawker plan said Alaska instead needs a large-diameter pipeline that could be used to export large quantities of natural gas from Alaska. They say that would bring Alaskans cheaper gas, and revenue for the state treasury as well.
The companies holding rights to Alaska’s vast North Slope natural gas reserves have recently said they’d align their development efforts with TransCanada, which is developing a gasline under the state’s Alaska Gasline Inducement Act.
During a special session called by the governor, legislators can only consider those topics on his call. He cited two bills by number from the just-concluded regular session, and a general statement about oil taxes.
The House last year passed a large oil tax cut, but could not get the Senate to go along. Just recently the Senate passed a smaller tax cut, aimed at new oil fields.
Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage, predicted that would be the tack the Senate would again take.
“I expect we’ll focus on new oil in the Senate,” he said.
Also on the session call will be a crime bill, toughening penalties on human trafficking.
The special session, which could last up to 30 days, will begin 1 p.m. Wednesday, Parnell said.
“I think it will proceed fairly swiftly,” French said.
The new session battles are scheduled to begin Monday, even before the session convenes. There will be dueling press conferences from the governor and legislative leaders during the day.
Kerttula called the just completed regular session “a win for Alaskans, with no bad gas pipeline and no giveaway of oil taxes.”
• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.