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Three things to watch for in the Legislature

Posted: March 4, 2013 - 12:02am

JUNEAU — The halls of the state Capitol should be quieter later this week as many lawmakers head out for the traditional Energy Council break, though there are a number of hearings crammed into the schedule through Wednesday.

The discussion will include twice-daily meetings by the Senate Finance Committee, as it digs into the oil tax bill, and continued testimony on a measure that would define “medically necessary” abortions.

After hump day, things largely go dark.

Here are three things to watch for:

Begich speech

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich is set to deliver his annual address to a joint session of the Alaska Legislature on Monday. The speech — traditional for Alaska’s two U.S. senators — is generally used to update lawmakers on what’s going on in Washington and how that could or does affect Alaska. Begich, a Democrat, is Alaska’s junior senator. Alaska’s senior senator, Republican Lisa Murkowski, delivered her address last month.

Energy break

About one-third of the 60-member legislature — including half the Senate — is expected to attend The Energy Council conference in Washington, D.C., or meeting of The Pacific NorthWest Economic Region, or PNWER, according to lists provided by the House and Senate majorities. The Energy Council is comprised of 12 energy-producing states, Canadian provinces and Venezuela. Alaska state Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, is the council’s chairman. A major theme of the conference will be the Arctic.

Stedman, in a news release, said the conference is an opportunity to discuss energy policy “with some of the most knowledgeable people in the world on these issues.” He said his goal is to get as many experts and leaders together as possible to really hone in and focus on energy issues facing Alaska and the rest of the Western Hemisphere.

Lawmakers defend the annual trip as important given Alaska’s heavy reliance on oil and as an opportunity to meet with members of Congress and other decision-makers. Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, who plans to attend, said it’s an opportunity to learn from other jurisdictions about taxes and best practices with respect to things like drilling and policy. She said Alaska lawmakers also plan to visit the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and discuss the proposed, massive Susitna-Watana dam project.

McGuire said this will be a big conference for Alaska this year, given that Stedman is in a leadership role.

An agenda for the conference shows it is meeting jointly with the leadership of PNWER and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission.

Centennial Celebration

Sunday marked the 100th anniversary of when the first territorial legislature convened. Events are planned, including a panel discussion on “Leading Women in Alaska’s Political History” at noon Monday and a happy hour to discuss “Prohibition in Territorial Alaska” at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Sen. Gary Stevens’ office says the activities will take place at Rockwell, a downtown restaurant and site of an old Elk’s Lodge that served as one of the main meeting locations for territorial legislative sessions from 1913 to 1931.

Stevens, R-Kodiak, is chairman of the Alaska Legislative Centennial Commission. His office, in a news release, said the site will be decorated and furnished to resemble the chambers in 1913, and exhibits and historic photographs will adorn the building.

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