Corrosion, senior care bills die in Legislature

House Democrats fail to revive the popular legislation

Posted: Thursday, May 17, 2007

House Democrats made a final attempt to revive a bill preventing oil companies from deducting the costs of improper maintenance from their state taxes, but they were rebuffed on the House floor.

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A similar bill had earlier passed the Senate unanimously, and the House of Representatives version was co-sponsored by 21 of 40 representatives. It also had the support of Gov. Sarah Palin.

The bill is opposed by the oil industry, however, and has been stalled in the House Finance Committee, chaired by Reps. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, and Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage. Both have oil industry ties.

"I've never seen a bill like that, where it has so much broad support among legislators, get bottled up like that," said Rep. Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, a 32-year-old first-term legislator.

Kawasaki challenged House Speaker John Harris, R-Valdez, to try to bring the bill to the floor in the final day of the legislative session.

Harris first ruled Kawasaki out of order, but then relented when Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, and other Democrats complained, and Harris allowed the body to vote on whether to bring the bill to the floor.

On a 23-16 party-line vote, Republicans killed the move to the floor, with several members who had sponsored the bill, including Speaker Harris, joining to kill the bill.

Republicans made no floor statements against he bill or against the motion.

Kawasaki said afterward it showed the power of the oil industry in the Legislature, even in the face of last week's guilty pleas to bribery by oil field service company VECO Corp. executives.

"They certainly have a big hand in how things work here," he said.

Rep. Vic Kohring, R-Wasilla, voted with the Republicans for the measure. Kohring was indicted on federal corruption charges for allegedly taking bribes from oil industry executives.

Two similar votes followed as Democrats tried to bring senior assistance bills to the floor.

The Democrats also tried to free the Senior Care bill from committee at the request of Rep. Bob Buch, D-Anchorage.

"It's been sitting in finance for 44 days with ample time to consider it," he said.

Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, said the loss of the program would mean many seniors who with little or no money would lose badly needed state help.

One of those bills was sponsored by Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage. He voted against bringing his own bill to the floor.

"Democrats have repeatedly tried to provide security for our seniors this session," she said.

"It will be a true failure of this Legislature if we adjourn without solving this critical problem," Kerttula said.

• Pat Forgey can be reached at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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