New date for session?

Posted: Friday, May 11, 2001

Concerned about a potential appearance of heartlessness, supporters of a cruise ship bill sought by Gov. Tony Knowles say the governor should reschedule the special legislative session he has called for May 21.

But Bob King, a spokesman for Knowles, said the governor isn't reconsidering the timing.

Rep. Beth Kerttula, a Juneau Democrat and Knowles' key ally on the issue in the House, and Joe Geldhof, co-author of Juneau's cruise ship head tax and proposed statewide taxes on cruise ships, said Knowles should choose another date because Sen. John Cowdery has said he will be at his wife's side as doctors consider heart surgery.

Cowdery, an Anchorage Republican, blocked the cruise ship bill in the Senate Transportation Committee on Sunday. Senate President Rick Halford of Chugiak, who favors the legislation, said nonetheless that it was "inhumane" of Knowles to call a special session when he knew Cowdery couldn't make it.

"What the governor needs to do is apologize and smooth the ruffled feathers in the Senate to get this process back on track for a debate on the merits," Geldhof said today. "The one thing the governor knows is the Alaska public demands closure."

Kerttula said she hopes the timing of the special session was a matter of bad judgment caused by lack of sleep at the end of the regular session Tuesday, rather than by vindictiveness.

"It may have been they just didn't think through how that was going to affect everything," she said. "It's a mistake to do something personal."

Rep. Bill Hudson, a Juneau Republican who supported the bill when it passed the House 35-3 on May 1, said he doesn't think the special session should be held at all.

As for the timing, Hudson said the governor should have extended the regular session, rather than letting legislators go home and incur the expense of returning.

"So I think the governor made a mistake in calling it for the 21st, and I just pray that it was not a matter of retribution or anything of that nature," Hudson said. "I have no reason to believe that it was, but it's caused the specter of some doubt as to whether it was an honest approach or not."

King said late this morning that a May 21 special session "is still our intention."

"Again, we're sympathetic to Mrs. Cowdery's medical condition," he said. "As far as we understand, they have not set a date for the surgery."

Aides to Cowdery couldn't be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, cruise ships will be dumping about 4 million gallons of wastewater daily, King said. He noted that the first ship of the season, the Norwegian Sky, already has been cited by the Coast Guard for violating federal sewage standards in its marine discharges.

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