Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Senator Mark Begich is in the state for the Veterans Day holiday. Begich told reporters in Anchorage Wednesday that he’s got some plans for the final weeks of the year before the next Congress convenes in January. The short time intervening, traditionally called a Lame Duck session, is an important time, he said, and issues could be small or large.
Begich plans to introduce some legislation while trying to figure out what lame duck is all about. He’ll continue his fight against genetically engineered salmon, which he terms “Frankenfish,” by introducing two bills when he goes back to Washington – one that will attempt to ban genetically engineered fish, the other to mandate labeling if the genetically altered product ever reaches market.
The bills complement two similar bills introduced by Congressman Don Young last month.
Begich is also concerned about benefits to military veterans. He says Alaska’s National Guard reservists have been denied some benefits, so he will introduce legislation allowing reservists and their families travel benefits on military aircraft and access to commissaries.
Begich says 11 percent of Alaska’s population are veterans, and many of them have fought in the two wars that the country is waging now, and they deserve the benefits.
On the broader issues, Begich said, the coming session in Congress is expected to be one that concentrates on jobs, reducing the national debt, and reforming the tax system.
Begich said many in Washington are already planning for the 2012 elections, but his feeling is that average voters are sick of the gridlock between the major parties.
Begich predicted that, despite what pundits are saying, common sense will prevail.
Congress goes back to work Monday for a short week before Thanksgiving then back in session for two and a half weeks before taking the Christmas break.
Download Audio (MP3)