No special session to save Alaska’s
May 31, 2011
“Why would we go back into special session to vote on something that was twice failed by the House on the last day of the last special session?” Speaker Chenault said. “We offered a compromise with five changes the Senate originally wanted and we were prepared to go with those, but the conference committee report was not acceptable to House members. There’s no sense for House members to go back to Juneau to take up a bill that we already voted down. The House did offer a compromise – taking the House version that passed forty-to-none and incorporating five changes the Senate originally wanted. It is a shame that the program is going to be turned over to the feds – we’ve already relinquished enough powers to them. We wish the Senate would’ve agreed to an actual compromise instead of more of the same.”
House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula (D-Juneau) said in a prepared statement, “Alaskans elect us to be statesmen and women and to work together to resolve issues for Alaska’s benefit. That is not happening with coastal zone, and it hurts all Alaskans. The coastal zone program is essential if Alaska is to have any say in planning federal projects off Alaska’s coast. It’s past time for those holding the fate of the program, and the jobs of its 33 employees, in their hands to put their differences aside and enact a strong coastal management program for Alaska.”
Representative Kerttula is a former state attorney for the Alaska Coastal Management Program and has been a leader in the legislature on coastal issues.
However, the Senate Bipartisan Working Group said on Sunday that it is ready and willing to go into a Special Session to save the state’s Coastal Management Program.
Senate Majority Leadership met Sunday Morning to reaffirm their belief that the carefully crafted compromise reached unanimously by the Conference Committee is the best compromise to keep the program alive and protect Alaska’s best interests.
The Conference Committee report passed the Senate with a strong show of support, by a vote of 14 to 4. The report failed to pass the House by only one vote just before the House adjourned three days early.
“We are concerned about this program. There are very high stakes if this program disappears,” said Senate President Gary Stevens. “The Senate believes this compromise fully meets the needs of the parties on both sides of the debate.”
The agreement includes a reasonable compromise which would save the Coastal Management Program critical to Alaska’s coastal communities, industry members and the overall well-being of the state.
The compromise includes seven major items that were important for the program to succeed including a clarification of the definition of local knowledge versus scientific evidence, removal for cause from the Coastal Management Board, a six-year sunset clause and a requirement for a second report on the status of the program to be made in four years.
The conference committee consisted of three members of the Senate and three members of the House. It was made up of both Republicans and Democrats.
Legislators and staff had been working on an ACMP compromise, using Senate Bill 56 as the vehicle because HB 106 died in special session.
ACMP renewal failed on the 27th and final day of the first special session after the House voted down Senate changes to HB106, which was further amended in a conference committee.
House Bill 106 was placed on Governor Sean Parnell’s special session proclamation April 18, after failing to advance from the Senate Finance Committee. That committee did not act on the bill until May 13, the 26th day of the special session, passing a version that could not get the required votes for passage. The bill from conference, CC SCS CS HB106 (FIN), failed by a vote of 20 to 15 two times on the last day of special session.
According to Senate Majority Leadership, the impacts from Loss of the Alaska Coastal Management are:
If Alaska terminates its participation in the program on June 30, federal officials say it would likely take 2-3 years to get a program up and running again. The federal plan approval process takes 18-24 months, once a new plan is submitted.
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