U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is set to deliver her annual address to the Alaska Legislature at 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Watch a live stream here, on 360 North television, or tune into KTOO-FM.
For real-time analysis of this speech and other musings on what happens in the state Capitol, follow the hashtag #AKleg. Many state lawmakers, staffers, reporters and politicos are active there, including Alaska Public Media’s Liz Ruskin (@lruskin), who covers Murkowski in Washington D.C.
For some context, Ruskin and I talked on Monday about Murkowski’s evolving role in the Senate.
“Course she gets a lot of national attention, in part because she’s one of the few moderates left. You know, one of the few Republicans who might be able to criticize the president. She’s often asked if she will play that role.
“A number of senators left to might have played that role before: Sen. (Jeff) Flake, Sen. (Bob) Corker. So you know, it’s dwindling numbers of Republicans who get called on to say, ‘What do you think of this thing that the president just did?’ And so she, she gets a lot of attention that way.
“And her other reason to be in the spotlight often is because she’s chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, which is a pretty powerful perch. She’s in her final two years in that position. Republicans have term limits on the chairmanships and hers expires at the end of this Congress. So at the end of 2020 is the end of her chairmanship. So, there is some question about whether she would run for re-election when she’s next up in 2022.
“She’s rising in seniority in the Appropriations Committee. So it’s possible that she could become chairman of Appropriations, especially if Sen. Collins loses her reelection bid. … Susan Collins, another moderate Republican and she’s from Maine.”
Ruskin also ticked through some of Sen. Murkowski’s accomplishments in the last year.
“The spending bill that just passed that averted the government shutdown – there’ve been a lot of focus on the Homeland Security provisions in there, but it also included funding for the Interior Department and associated agencies. Well, Sen. Murkowski is the chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee that writes that bill, so she got a lot of items in that bill also, then I’m sure she’ll talk about. As I said, that was somewhat overshadowed by this fight over the wall and the emergency declaration.
“I should probably also mention icebreakers. Largely through her efforts and others in Congress, the Homeland Security bill, I believe it’s in the Homeland Security bill, there’s full funding for one polar ice breaker and the start of funding for another.”
Finally, Ruskin explained a major legislative accomplishment affecting Alaska Native veterans and their heirs.
“She did pass a very large land package, which has a lot for the whole country, and also a lot of Alaska items. One of the biggest ones is this reopening of the Native allotment application period for veterans of the Vietnam War era.
“There’s the 1906 Native Allotment Act that allowed Alaska Native people to select 160 acres that would be transferred to them in title, transferred to them as individuals. And the program ended with the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. So the argument went that a lot of service members who were serving their country overseas at that time, that they missed the application period, because it may have fallen while they were overseas. So the program was reopened once and it was said to be too restrictive. So there was another bill passed that made it a little more open, but still few veterans applied or at least few veterans were successful in getting allotments. So this is at least the third bill to try to give veterans another chance at selecting these lands.
“And interestingly, environmentalists have an objection to it for the same reason that a lot of Alaskans probably would like it is that it allows veterans to choose land that’s anywhere in the state. So they can choose parcels that are ripe for development along highways, even in regions of the state that they don’t live in. It’s especially important for Southeast Alaska because they have been unable to choose anything that was in the Tongass, so Southeast veterans of that era or their heirs can choose parcels along the highway in the Interior, even if they have no personal connection to these other lands. So that’s one thing that I imagine that she’ll talk about.”
This is the first of three special addresses this week in the state Capitol. Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Joel Bolger is scheduled for the State of the Judiciary address at 11 a.m. Wednesday, and Alaska’s junior U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan is set for 11 a.m. Thursday.