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House leaders struggle to keep session going

New bill, hearings planned for next week, legislators say

Posted: April 30, 2012 - 12:58pm

(Note: this story was due for release Sunday.)

The House of Representatives indicated Friday that it would force the Senate back into session, as House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski tries to keep his gas pipeline legislation alive.

The Senate adjourned Thursday, but under the state Constitution automatically returns if the House doesn’t follow suit.

The House’s controlling Majority caucus met Friday behind closed doors to discuss strategy. They made no formal announcement upon concluding the meeting, but later in the day scheduled meeting for next Monday and Tuesday on in-state natural gas pipeline legislation.

They also began providing copies of a new version of House Bill 9, the only bill remaining on the special session call after the passage of a sex trafficking bill and the withdrawal of Gov. Sean Parnell’s oil tax legislation.

Meanwhile Friday, two Senate committees held meetings despite the adjournment.

The Senate Finance Committee considered a contract for a study on possible price-fixing in the gasoline and fuel businesses, and the Senate Judiciary Committee heard informational presentations on the disputed Point Thomson oil and gas field.

It’s not clear what the House meetings next week will be able to do. Only remaining bill, Chenault’s gas pipeline bill, has already passed the House and is in a Senate committee that showed no signs of moving it before the Senate adjourns.

It’s not clear what authority the House has to hear any bills.

Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, and House Minority Leader, said Chenault told her he’d be introducing a new bill, but had not told her how.

“The constitutional concerns are multiple right from the world ‘go,’” Kerttula said.

Kerttula said she doesn’t want to see a bill that would give a new state pipeline effort give wide powers for a costly bullet-line, she said. A scaled-back proposal might win approval, she said, but there’s have been few signs of a compromise in the works, she said.

Kerttula said the House Majority is also planning to take the House Resources and Energy Committees to Fairbanks for hearings to try to wins support for Chenault’s bill.

Several Fairbanks legislators have expressed concerns at the long-term high cost of gas it would bring.

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

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