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Legislative session gets underway

Lawmakers urged to act on natural resources, protect state's rights

Posted: January 15, 2013 - 9:26pm  |  Updated: January 16, 2013 - 1:08am
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Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell congratulates Rep. Lindsey Holmes, R-Anchorage, after beening sworn in during the opening the 28th Alaska Legislature on Tuesday. Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, right, waits his turn.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell congratulates Rep. Lindsey Holmes, R-Anchorage, after beening sworn in during the opening the 28th Alaska Legislature on Tuesday. Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, right, waits his turn.

The Alaska House of Representatives was gaveled into session just after 1 p.m. Tuesday by Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, kicking off a legislative session that is expected to focus intensely on energy issues.

New legislators were sworn in by Treadwell in both the House and Senate, which got underway at 2 p.m.

Treadwell delivered identical remarks to both chambers in which he mused on Alaska’s history and urged legislators to prioritize economic development in the state during this year’s legislative session.

“I pray this is a good year,” said Treadwell, a Republican. “I pray it’s a year we can say we have fought the good fight for liberty, for life, for religious freedom, and for clearing pathways of opportunity for our people, our property, our commonwealth, private and public. Our resources in Alaska on land and sea can, combined with our people’s inspiration and perspiration, provide the world with food and fuel, our homes with lower-cost heat and light, our people with jobs. Let this be a session where we resolve to compete better on world markets, do more to attract investment and stand up to those outsiders who would lock up our state.”

In the House, Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, was unanimously reelected. New Senate President Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla, was likewise elected as the Senate’s presiding officer without objection.

Chenault told his fellow representatives that he thinks of them as “family.”

“As the Speaker, what I will try to do is be as fair as I can with each member that is here, regardless of where you sit, who you are or what side or area of the state you represent,” Chenault said. “Those that know me know that I will do the best that I can in that aspect, and those that don’t will, I hope, soon find out that that’s the case most of the time.”

In his brief comments after taking up the president’s gavel in the Senate, Huggins offered a bit of advice to senators.

“When in doubt, be a statesman, and things will work out OK,” Huggins said.

Huggins also thanked Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, one of two Democratic members of the Republican-led Senate majority caucus, for Juneau hosting the Legislature this year in its role as the state capital.

“To Sen. Egan, as our senator, our host senator here in Juneau and the only one of us who did not have to run for reelection (last) year, I say thank you for your hosting of us, and we appreciate that very much,” said Huggins, alluding to Egan having won election to a four-year term in 2010 instead of a two-year term, as other senators elected that year did.

Huggins waived the regular order of business to allow senators to introduce spouses, children, other relatives, friends and constituents watching from the galleries, as well as to give former Sen. Drue Pearce, R-Anchorage, a chance to comment on the freshly inaugurated 28th Legislature from her place in the audience.

“The lieutenant governor was right — we are a small and new state,” Pearce said. “Frankly, I can tell you from my years in (Washington,) D.C., people there … still think of us as a colony, or maybe as a territory. So my prayer is that you work alongside the governor and alongside your (congressional) delegation and help fight for this state’s rights.”

The Senate also approved the formation of two new committees: the Senate Special Committee on Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) Throughput, co-chaired by Senate Majority Leader John Coghill, R-North Pole, and Sen. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks; and the Senate Special Committee on In-State Energy, co-chaired by Sens. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, and Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna.

“Energy, energy, energy,” Coghill said after the Senate adjourned. “That’s what we heard during the campaign.”

Not sworn in Tuesday was Rep.-elect David Guttenberg, D-Fairbanks. Guttenberg was unable to be in Juneau due to a family emergency. The House excused his absence without objection for its brief floor session Tuesday.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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