It'll be the biggest, most expensive, and most important project in the state's history. The large diameter natural gas pipeline, as being discussed, will outlive us all and our children and our children's children. It'll outlive Rep. Les Gara's outraged moralism, and Rep. Lora Reinbold's fears of gays getting married. It'll outlive Mike Chenault's tenure as speaker of the House and it will outlive Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins. The gas will still be flowing down the pipe when archeologists unearth Sen. Lesil McGuire's shoe closet keeping time with Sen. Click Bishop's bolo collection. It might even still be flowing when Rep. Don Young decides to retire.
A big, complicated project comes with a complicated contract that our legislators are trying to come to grips with. So much to learn and understand in 90 days. The tax structure, for instance, is clear as drilling mud. Then there are questions about what in the world TransCanada's role will be in the process, other than to serve as a funding source. Once, the company was going to build the line. Now, it appears that in essence, it's a bank, to which the state will guarantee a 12 percent rate of return on equity, a rate of return that even the Permanent Fund doesn't get and a rate of return that almost any Alaskan would salivate over.
Whatever. It's an election year. Gov. Sean Parnell can't have independent candidate Bill Walker be the gas line guy. And no Republican legislator wants to be antidevelopment.
As one legislator put it, echoing Nancy Pelosi on Obamacare, "We'll just vote for it and hope for the best," basically the sentiment in 2007 when the Legislature voted for the contract that got us tied to TransCanada in the first place.
Yes. Let's all drink to hoping for the best. Or as Sen. Hollis French might say, à la vôtre! Well, maybe not all of us. Hint. Hint. Perhaps it's best that our elected officials limit themselves to two drinks at the Triangle during session. After all, you never know when you might be in the crosshairs of a camera lens, wielded by a member of the opposing political party.
Democratic Sen. Berta Gardner introduced a bill that appears to be aiming to put Anchorage Mayor and lite gov candidate Dan Sullivan in the center of her crosshairs. SB 260 would basically prohibit Sullivan from ever again being allowed to go to D.C. on muni business and have an after-hours fundraiser held by a lobbying firm with a sole source contract to lobby for the muni.
The co-sponsor? Sen. Lesil McGuire, who's also running for lite gov.
The bill won't likely go anywhere, largely because it was introduced by the minority in a Republican dominated legislature.
We'll see how that works for them when women and other even semi-reasonable voters across the state learn that a bill passed out of House Finance which would limit state-funded abortions for poor women also strips away money for family planning, which would likely result in fewer women needing abortions in the first place.
In the hearing, Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux who supported the bill and who can play firebrand conservative with the best of them, likened the money to a "Christmas tree," which thoroughly confused everybody until Sen. John Coghill cut to the chase and pointed out that the money for such planning would likely end up being used on contraceptives which would be doled out by Planned Parenthood, which apparently is the real enemy. And women will pay the real price.
Talk about paying the price: Remember in the 1990s when Dems were trumpeting the great work they were doing in fighting corruption by passing campaign reform? One of the laws forbids a gubernatorial candidate from campaigning and raising money in Juneau during the session, which makes it that much harder for any non-incumbent to raise money, particularly Byron Mallott, who lives in Juneau.
Now for some cheery news -- not, however, if you're an African big game animal minding your own business: the Safari Club raised north of $500,000 at their auction Saturday night. The head count was about 850 people. About 20 legislators showed, as did Gov. Sean Parnell, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, Mayor Sullivan, and DNR Dan Sullivan. Indie candidate Bill Walker was there with running mate Craig Fleener. Rep. Bill Stoltze won a gun, as did Treadwell. Sen. Pete Kelly won a gun and was named Safari Club International Alaska Chapter legislator of the year. The biggest auction item? A Cape Buffalo Hunt in Africa that went for $19,000.
Anchorage Republican Women's Club leader Judy Eledge posted on Facebook that "it is times like this that I just want to be one of those uninformed pot heads." Her dilemma? Should she watch "The Voice," "Dallas" or participate in the teleconference on a constitutional convention.
Speaking of pot, the "Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska," or the CTRMLAIA for short, got enough signatures to get on the primary ballot. Pot will be joining initiatives to kill Pebble mine for good, to raise the minimum wage, and to repeal the oil tax.
Hmmm. If I'm an oily, and want to keep the tax in place, I don't like the company I'm keeping. Word is there's a fix for that. Details next week.