Alaska House weighs options after Senate adjournment

Chenault warns inaction will delay progress on in-state gas line.

The Associated PressApril 27, 2012 

JUNEAU -- Members of the House's GOP-led caucus were considering their next step Friday after the Senate abruptly adjourned from the special session a day earlier.

House Speaker Mike Chenault said Friday afternoon that one of the options being considered is the introduction of a bill under the same subject as HB9, the only remaining issue on the special session call. But he said nothing definite had been decided yet.

The House Resources Committee noticed a meeting for Monday on a bill "pertaining to an in-state gas pipeline," pending introduction and referral.

HB9 is a bill meant to further advance an in-state gas pipeline project. It passed the House during the regular session but stalled in the Senate. It advanced no further than the first of three committees to which it had been assigned when the Senate adjourned Thursday. Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, told reporters shortly after adjournment that he didn't see a way forward for the bill.

But HB9 is a priority for Chenault. He and other supporters say inaction on the bill will delay progress on an in-state gas pipeline. Joe Dubler with the Alaska Gasline Development Corp., or AGDC, the group behind the in-state gas project, said the money provided to AGDC in the recently passed budget "is enough to keep the lights on but not to keep the project on schedule."

Critics of the bill have said that it gives AGDC too much authority. They also have said that there are other alternatives for providing gas to Alaskans that could be cheaper.

Chenault, R-Nikiski, talked with Stevens Friday.

Under the state Constitution, the House could remain in session, forcing the Senate to return every three days.

While Stevens indicated Thursday that this would be a fruitless endeavor, noting, among other things, that the House had no bills before it, things with the Legislature can change -- and fast -- as they have at several points during the regular and special sessions.

The Senate still planned a "technical session," one in which a majority of members do not need to be present, on Monday, the press secretary for the Senate bipartisan majority said.

It wasn't immediately clear how soon a decision would be reached or announced. A number of House members were gone Friday; before the Senate's action, the House hadn't planned to meet for floor session until Monday.

Chenault said caucus members could meet over the weekend to discuss their options.

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