The Alaska House of Representatives adjourned sine die just before 5:30 p.m. Monday. It marked the end of a tumultuous special session that seemed doomed from the start.
Lawmakers passed only one of the bills on the special session call, pertaining to human trafficking. The governor pulled oil taxes from the agenda after his bill appeared to be going nowhere. The Senate then adjourned on Thursday, relying on a legal opinion that said if a bill was removed from a special session call while the session was underway, the action, in effect, ends the session. The only bill left on the table would have advanced a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to Southcentral Alaska.
In a news conference following adjournment, House Speaker Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski) said in-state pipeline supporters had looked at every possible option to get the Senate to act on the project.
“We’re not afraid to continue to work on it,” he said, “but without any input from the other side, we’re not a single-bodied legislature, so we have no option other than to ‘sine die’ and go home.”
The House passed the bill in March, after 14 months of consideration. During that time the Senate expressed concerns about elements of the measure and when they adjourned senators said they were not ready to rush into the subject.
Chenault said the bill had been written to take the Alaska Gasline Development Authority’s project though a successful open season, where gas shippers agree to terms by contracting for shipping space. He said there were only a few “must-have” elements to the bill.
“Specifically, they needed confidentiality, they needed money. Those are probably the two biggest issues out there. Both of those were addressed in two other pieces of legislation that were sent over there a year ago that they (the Senate) failed to take up or consider. And they were also in the bill that went over to them in March,” Chenault said.
A version of the bill generated in the Senate appropriated enough money to the Authority to continue advancing the project; another element gave the Authority the ability to take part in confidential negotiations with oil producers. But those provisions were rejected by House supporters of the measure.
After House adjournment, Gov. Sean Parnell said he stood with the House on its decision to gavel out “after the Senate Majority failed to address the state’s energy needs.”
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