Calls for state Sen. John Cowdery to resign rang out shortly after he was indicted Thursday on federal bribery and conspiracy charges.
Two of the loudest calls were made by members of Cowdery's own party, Republican Minority Leader Gene Therriault and Gov. Sarah Palin.
Therriault, who leads a five-person minority caucus that does not include Cowdery, reiterated his long call for Cowdery's resignation.
"This development adds to the complexity the Legislature faces to regain the public's trust and confidence as we forge ahead in making one of the most important public policy decisions in the state's history," Therriault said in a prepared statement.
Lawmakers have just started their second consecutive special session on whether to approve TransCanada Corp.'s application for a license to build a multibillion dollar natural gas pipeline.
Palin urged him to step down "for the good of the state."
The charges Cowdery faces stem from alleged misdoing in 2006 - a time when such allegations would not have warranted attention from state authorities.
It took sweeping ethics reform last year to close that legal loophole which previously made it perfectly legal for a lobbyist to offer a campaign contribution in exchange for a vote on a lobbyist's bill.
"It's important that this loophole was closed," said Rep. Les Gara, who, along with fellow Anchorage Democrat Rep. Harry Crawford, proposed the change.
"This state can't rely on the federal government to come in and keep the state's house in order. We have to do this on our own as a sovereign state," Gara said.
Cowdery was in Juneau for gas pipeline hearings on Wednesday afternoon, but checked out of his Juneau hotel room early Thursday morning and flew back to Anchorage. His first court hearing is scheduled Aug. 11.
Sen. President Lyda Green, R-Wasilla, said people should not be quick to call for a resignation as Cowdery remains presumed innocent.
"The Legislature should not prematurely step in and take any action that would alter flavor or prejudice on anything that is ongoing," said Green, whose majority coalition includes nine Democrats and six Republicans - including Cowdery.
Cowdery, who is not seeking re-election, has fought various illnesses the last two years, missing large chunks of this year's regular legislative session.
During his absence, Cowdery did step down from the powerful position of Rules Chairman. Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, took over and yielded his majority leader post to Sen. Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage.
Cowdery returned to Juneau in time to vote on the most important bills such as education funding and the budget.
Green said she saw no reason for him to abstain from voting on the gas pipeline proposal or the energy relief bills being heard this month should he be in town to vote.
"I see no connection (in the charges) to anything that is before us," Green said. "It doesn't help your health when you go through these things, this kind of scrutiny."
The federal indictment did cause a stir in what are otherwise staid pipeline hearings.
Lawmakers were seen passing around Blackberry phones with news alerts announcing the indictment and later copies of the 16-page document.
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