Clarification needed

Posted: Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Alaska delegation would be helpful if it would clarify the status of some important legislation and further commit to giving a clear, specific and unrushed timeframe to review and comment on the legislation.

The Sealaska lands bill, SB 881 and its companion, HR 2099, have drawn considerable interest from southeast Alaskans and people from across the state. These bills attempt unprecedented things and have drawn controversy.

What was a simple and straight forward ANCSA land settlement claim has been turned into a complex and problematic legislative attempt to reach outside legally set aside selection areas and encumber lands all across southeast Alaska. The current status of the bill in the Senate is murky at best, and public knowledge is primarily based on things "heard through the grapevine".

On April 19, Sealaska representatives stated in a public meeting that a revised bill with amendments should be available for public review on April 30. They further stated that the public should have at least 30 days to comment before any action in Washington D.C. No revised bill was available on April 30. The next thing heard from Washington D.C. was that an amended bill would be available in Sen. Lisa Murkowski's office on or around May 7. Again, no show.

The latest word (again through the grapevine) is Sen. Murkowski's office will provide a revised bill on May 30 and something will happen then. If that "something" is a mark up, then the public is effectively cut out of it's "30 days" that most folks expected to have to review this complex bill.

The Alaska delegation would be helpful if it would accommodate its citizens with a specific date when this revised bill will be available. People who have contacted Murkowski's office have been told that the public will have plenty of time to comment on the bill. That's great to hear and it's appreciated.

It seems like the original 30 days before any action or mark up after a newly released bill is a good, fair standard to use. Alaskans should expect this courtesy, given the gravity of the bill and its impact on citizens. If the delegation has some issue with this 30-day time frame, then it would be appreciated if they would clearly and succinctly explain what we are actually dealing with and why there may be some problem with sticking to what people say.

Gregory Petrich

Alaska Chapter, North American Bear Foundation


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