Legislature to reconvene in Centennial Hall today

Special joint session requires more space than Capitol offers

Posted: Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Legislators are preparing to say goodbye to their usual perch in the Capitol this afternoon.

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Gov. Frank Murkowski wants them at Juneau's convention center, Centennial Hall, at 1:30, for the beginning of a special session on a proposed North Slope gas pipeline contract.

The legislators and their staffs could end up occupying Centennial Hall for as many as 10 days, according to special the session's tentative schedule.

Some legislators said Tuesday that they aren't too excited about it.

"It's like lecture(s) in a school auditorium," said Rep. Eric Croft, D-Anchorage.

Though the special session may be grueling, the 60 legislators will have access to coffee, tea and water, and they will not be forced to sit in Centennial Hall's folding chairs.

Centennial Hall was selected because the Capitol didn't have a large enough room to squeeze 60 legislators in joint session, their aides and members of the public and the media.

Special session

Tentative schedule for Centennial Hall gas pipeline contract session:

• Wednesday: 1:30-5 p.m.

• Thursday: 9-12, 1:30-4:30 p.m.

• Friday: 8:30-11:30 a.m.

• Monday, May 15: Start time to be announced.

• May 16-18: 9-12, 1:30-4:30 p.m.

• May 19: Probably morning only

• May 20-21: 9-12, 1:30-4:30 p.m.

"The city graciously picked up the tab," said Sue Gullufsen, a manager for the Legislative Affairs Agency.

"We've been able to get everyone into a ballroom, with their staff and room for the public," said Deputy City Manger Kim Kiefer.

The cost to the city could be $10,000 to $15,000, depending on the length of the special session, Kiefer said.

The city is paying for the rental space at Centennial Hall by dipping into its Better Capital City account, the same pot of money that is used to fund KTOO's Gavel to Gavel legislative television, Kiefer said.

The legislators will sit at long banquet tables, with cushioned chairs imported from committee rooms at the Capitol.

The folding chairs at Centennial Hall were deemed less comfortable than those in the Capitol's committee rooms, according to Gullufsen.

The public, however, will be routed to Centennial Hall's folding chairs. About 75 chairs have been reserved for the public, 60 chairs for legislative aides, and 10 to 15 chairs for the media.

"I'm going to bring my camp chair," said Dave Donaldson, Capitol correspondent for the Alaska Public Radio Network. Donaldson thinks the hall's folding chairs are uncomfortable.

Administration officials and the state's oil and gas consultants will guide the legislators through the elements of a North Slope gas pipeline contract, said Murkowski spokeswoman Becky Hultberg.

The special session is not intended as a hearing or a question-and-answer session, Hultberg said. She didn't know Tuesday whether oil companies would participate in the walk-through of the contract.

The 300-page contract was scheduled for release at 11 a.m. today. Legislators were to get hard copies, and the draft contract was to be posted on the Internet, Hultberg said.

• Elizabeth Bluemink can be reached at elizabeth.bluemink@juneauempire.com.

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