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Alaska House adjourns, leaves gas bill unfinished

Posted: April 30, 2012 - 5:56pm

JUNEAU — The Alaska House adjourned Monday and left an in-state gas pipeline bill unresolved, mirroring the Senate's action last week and marking the end of a tumultuous special session that seemed doomed from the start.

While lawmakers passed one of the bills on the call, pertaining to human trafficking, the governor pulled an oil tax measure after his bill on the subject appeared to be going nowhere. The Senate adjourned Thursday, relying on a legal opinion that says if a bill was on a special session call and removed while the session was under way, that action, in effect, ends the session.

That left unresolved the gas pipeline bill, which was a priority for House Speaker Mike Chenault.

Members of the House's GOP-led majority expressed disappointment, frustration and sadness with what they saw as the unwillingness of the Senate to compromise or even work on a pipeline bill.

On Monday afternoon, a couple hours before the House adjourned, Chenault told reporters there was a "50-50" shot of a bill being introduced Tuesday and said there were talks under way about what may or may not work. The House Resources Committee had scheduled hearings pending the referral and introduction of a bill.

Chenault, R-Nikiski, said he didn't think the House needed the Senate to give its blessing to any bill.

But, "we need to try to maybe come up with a piece of legislation that they can support," he said. "With the group that they have, that they have to work with, that's a pretty hard row to hoe."

Later in the day, Senate President Gary Stevens said in a statement that the Senate didn't see any reason to spend "any more time or money on issues that won't produce a different outcome" than what happened during the regular session.

An early estimate of the special session cost, given last week, was up to $30,000 a day.

The proposal floated late last week by the House was the same as the one released by the sponsors — Chenault and Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage — at the end of the regular session. They said the governor's office also worked on it. By the time the Senate adjourned, the proposal had been out there for nearly two weeks, and it was never taken up by a Senate committee.

Supporters have said inaction on a gas line bill would delay progress on a project that could serve Alaskans.

On Monday, House Democrats opted against a "showy motion" on whether to concur with the Senate's adjournment, and instead wanted to see what the GOP-led majority might come up with, said House Minority Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau.

Before the House adjourned, Kerttula said there remained an "outside shot" that a bill may emerge that's good for Alaska, one that would allow for the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. to move forward with its efforts to advance a line but not give it too much authority. She said she did not support the proposal that emerged late last week.

At the start of the special session, called by Gov. Sean Parnell, the House and Senate each passed resolutions allowing bills on the call to be taken up where they were when the regular session ended. Both bills on the call — including HB9, a measure to further advance an in-state gas line — were in the Senate after earlier passing the House. The call also included the issue of oil and gas production taxes, but Parnell pulled that last week, the day before the Senate adjourned.

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