The paternity of the Alaska Permanent Fund might be settled, with the death of Hugh Malone.
There are jokes about the number of people who would have to pay child support based on their claims of authorship. But Malone's sudden death in Italy led to heartfelt eulogies granting him the distinction of at least partial fatherhood.
Although the idea of an oil savings account had kicked around for years, Malone, a Kenai Democrat who served 12 years in the House, "put the idea down on paper," said former Senate President Chancy Croft of Anchorage, a contemporary.
Several observers say that Malone, in concert with Democratic legislators Clark Gruening of Anchorage and Terry Gardiner of Ketchikan and Republican Gov. Jay Hammond, was key to winning support for the constitutional amendment creating the fund, now worth about $26 billion.
Although the permanent fund is now a hallowed institution, it wasn't a sure thing in the 1970s. Mike Miller of Juneau, House majority leader when Malone was speaker, recalls that Hammond actually vetoed Malone's original bill setting up the permanent fund under state law in 1975, voicing concerns about the dubious constitutionality of a dedicated fund and also the danger that future legislatures would tamper with it. Hammond persuaded Malone and others that the constitutional amendment route was the way to go, though initially Malone didn't think he could win support of two-thirds of the Legislature to get the issue on the ballot. But he did the next year, and the amendment was approved by voters.
Gruening, now a Juneau resident who chairs the permanent fund board, said this week of Malone: "He can rightfully claim to be a father, and probably the most important one in the Legislature."
Malone also was tenacious in making sure the state was fairly compensated for its natural resources. "He was not shy about taking on the oil companies and others," Gruening said.
In another momentous action of the 22nd Legislature, the House State Affairs Committee approved a resolution urging recognition of Tartan Day on April 6.
Tartan, which is not a species of alien from "Star Trek," refers to textile patterns worn by members of a Scottish clan. The resolution honors Alaskans of Scottish descent by asking Gov. Knowles to issue a proclamation commemorating the Scottish accomplishments since the declaration of independence from 1320.
"I would have at least thought the senator would have worn a kilt today," quipped Rep. Gary Stevens, a Kodiak Republican, referring to resolution sponsor Randy Phillips, an Eagle River Republican.
"The problem is I'm not Scottish," Phillips said.
The Alaska Highlanders of Anchorage, a bagpipe group, put out a list indicating that 10 of 20 senators and 16 of 40 representatives have names implying they're Scottish.
"My grandmother was Scottish and she was tighter than the paper on the wall," said Rep. Jeannette James, a North Pole Republican. With that many Scots at the Capitol, she said, it shouldn't be any trouble cutting the state budget.
(By the way, despite my last name, I'm not Scottish.)
"People do not know how many zeros there are in a billion." - Rep. James, recalling that someone once suggested cutting public television - an $800,000 line item - to close a $1 billion budget gap
"We need to be thinking ahead so we don't drop into this bottomless pit that's on the horizon." - Rep. Peggy Wilson, Wrangell Republican, on the need for a long-range fiscal plan
"I had no idea that the Chamber of Commerce has such sweeping powers under the state constitution." - Rep. Andrew Halcro, an Anchorage Republican, on the state chamber's report saying some legislators believe it's the responsibility of the business community to propose a long-range plan and sell it to the public
Bill McAllister can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.