Alaska Legislature won't break for Energy Council meetings this year

JUNEAU -- For the first time in many years, the Legislature won't shut down in early March for what has become known as "Energy Break."

A smaller-than-normal contingent that now numbers eight Alaska legislators is heading to Washington, D.C., for the annual spring conference of the Dallas-based Energy Council.

Six House members are going to the energy conference and a few others have asked to go East that week for other meetings, House Speaker Mike Chenault told reporters Thursday.

Those with approved travel requests for Energy Council are: Republican Reps. Mia Costello of Anchorage, Doug Isaacson of North Pole, Benjamin Nageak of Barrow, Dan Saddler of Eagle River, Eric Feige of Chickaloon, and Pete Higgins of Fairbanks, according to the office of House Majority Leader Lance Pruitt.

Two senators -- Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, and Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage -- have been approved to travel to the energy conference and a third, Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, is headed to an Arctic Council meeting, according to Carolyn Kuckertz, spokeswoman for the GOP-led Senate majority.

The Energy Council conference starts March 6, a Thursday, and in years past committees stopped meeting and no floor sessions -- other than cursory "technical" sessions -- were held past Wednesday during Energy Council week.

This year, committees will continue to meet and the House should hold full floor sessions, Chenault said.

"Our plan is to keep working through," Chenault said. "A number of legislators said they would like to be home at Easter. So we are going to try our best to get out of here, and we may or may not make that."

The 90-day legislative sessions is scheduled to end April 20 -- Easter Sunday.

The Legislature is grappling with a number of complex issues, including a gas pipeline, education funding, declining revenue and proposed constitutional amendments on schools and the judiciary.

Anchorage Daily News /