By Mike Doogan
April 18, 2011
Last night, the first session of the 27th Alaska Legislature came apart like a cheap suit in a hard rain. First the Senate, then the House came crawling to the governor to get them out of a jam that the same governor had helped them into in the first place. It was, bar none, the saddest performance yet by state officials in the 50-plus years of the state’s history. And that includes a governor who was impeached (but not convicted) and three legislators who were indicted AND convicted.
Here’s what happened.
On March 31, the House passed HB 110 22-16 and sent it to the Senate. The bill was and is a stinker I’ve written about before that gives the oil industry $1.5 to $2 billion a year for no particularly good reason.
The Senate has been saying all along that it was not going to do anything with the bill this session. But Parnell and some powerful members of the House Majority really wanted their industry friends to get the money. So Parnell said if the Senate didn’t do what he wanted, he would veto a bunch of things they want from the capital budget.
The Senate has heard veto threats before, from governors a lot scarier than Sean Parnell. (I mean, Sarah Palin? If you got into her doghouse, watch out. I’m speaking from experience here.) But the Senate knows a trick or two. This time what they did was chain $400 million-plus of energy projects together and say that if one was vetoed, they all were vetoed. (There were other issues, but this was the main one.)
The House didn’t like that because they want the oil giveaway and because they think the Senate took all the capital budget money. They didn’t, of course, but the House coalitioners, good fiscal conservatives that they are, don’t want to be the ones to take the rap for going over the $3 billion mark. So they wanted the Senate to reel in some of their spending so the House could spend more.
And there they sat. And sat. And sat.
And ran smack dab into the 90-day session limit.
Like so many things in politics, the 90-day session limit isn’t really a limit at all. True, it is a law that passed narrowly in the 2006 primary. But it is trumped by a constitutional amendment that sets the session limit at 120 days. (Actually 121 days, but don’t get me started.)
But it is politically convenient for all parties to pretend the 90-day limit is important. So the waning hours of day 90 were spent in press conferences and blame shifting. As someone once said, success has many fathers; failure is an orphan.
So instead of packing and looking forward to sleeping in my own bed, I’m wearing my monkey suit and getting my mind right for whatever comes next. And reminding myself over and over again that I volunteered for this.
About: Rep. Mike Doogan is a member of the Alaska State Legislature.
Received April 18, 2011 - Published April 18, 2011
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