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Kawasaki draws rebuke for conduct on House floor

Posted: April 2, 2013 - 11:00pm
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Rep. Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, talks to the press at the Capitol on Tuesday. Kawasaki was caught sticking out his tongue during House Speaker Mike Chenault's floor speech on an in-state natural gas pipeline bill Monday night.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Rep. Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, talks to the press at the Capitol on Tuesday. Kawasaki was caught sticking out his tongue during House Speaker Mike Chenault's floor speech on an in-state natural gas pipeline bill Monday night.

JUNEAU — You can chalk Tuesday up as one bad day for a Fairbanks Democrat.

Rep. Scott Kawasaki found himself profusely apologizing to the House speaker after sticking his tongue out at a live TV camera during a speech, and then riling many in the House by asking to be excused for the next nine months — code for not wanting a special session.

A video of Monday night’s late floor session shows Kawasaki making faces at one point after Speaker Mike Chenault made the rare step to go to the floor and speak in favor of a bill, in this case, an in-state natural gas pipeline bill.

Kawasaki told reporters after the Interior delegation rebuked him during a news conference that he has apologized to Chenault and the rules chairman. “We should move on and get our jobs done,” he said.

Kawasaki attended the news conference but didn’t speak as the Interior caucus members called his actions unbecoming of the rest of the delegation.

“The floor of the Alaska House is sacred, and his (Kawasaki’s) conduct last night was patently inexcusable and disrespectful,” the delegation’s chairman, Rep. Pete Higgins, R-Fairbanks, said, adding no disciplinary action will be taken.

The House is known for having long floor sessions, some running late into the night as the session wears on. It’s not unheard of for lawmakers to roll their eyes when a colleague, known for long speeches rises, or to swivel in their chairs, staring up at the ceiling as discussion goes on around them.

But it’s rare for one to be publicly called out for it. House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, said it was “troublesome” that some in the Interior caucus decided to hold the news conference without first talking privately to Kawasaki.

Kawasaki said things can become silly as lawmakers work late hours.

For example, during discussions on the in-state gas line Monday night, sponsor Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, ended the debate by saying “HB4 is Alaska’s gas. Let’s pass it,” which was followed by audible laughter in the chamber.

But at the news conference, Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, denied Hawker’s comment was a joke.

Kawasaki’s other misstep came earlier Tuesday during the floor session when he asked to be excused from April 15 — the day after this session is scheduled to adjourn — until the start of the next regular session in January.

He said it was his way of “standing up for” the 90-day session limit.

“If we could have gotten half the Legislature to say, look, we’re done after 90 days, take it or leave it, then maybe things would have gotten done faster,” Kawasaki said, adding he would be available if a special session were called.

Kawasaki’s request drew a floor rebuke from fellow Fairbanks Rep. Steve Thompson, who said he found it “appalling” that someone would be unavailable to do the work for which he was elected for months.

The Republican’s statement drew the House version of applause — thumping on lawmakers’ desks.

Online: http://www.360north.org/gavel-archives/?event_id=2147483647_2013041016

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