Senate Adjourns Special Session

The Senate has adjourned the special legislative session the governor called last week. That follows the governor’s unprecedented action Wednesday night of removing any consideration of his bill lowering taxes on oil.

After meeting in private most of the day, Senators explained their adjournment in a floor session by approving a statement called a “Sense of the Senate.” The Clerk read the brief statement of the events that led to their adjournment decision – and the members’ group opinion.

The Senate rejects the governor’s asserted authority to withdraw the subject relating to oil and gas taxes, and SB3001 introduced by the Senate Rules Committee by his request concerning that subject.

Judiciary Chairman Hollis French (D-Anchorage) had a written opinion by the legislature’s attorney agreeing the governor was out of line – saying his next constitutional duty was to sign or veto the legislation coming from the session. French said that the governor can add items to the agenda, it isn’t safe to assume the governor can remove them.

It points out that where one could fairly imply a power to rescind a designation before a legislation assumes jurisdiction over the subject by convening, there is no justification for implying such power once the legislature has convened. Once he submits a bill to us, it is our bill.

House Leaders agreed with the governor asserting his right to withdraw the bill, but were disappointed that he had done so. They were more disappointed in the Senate’s action that also removed the only other item on the agenda – a bill that outlined a complete plan for a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to SouthCentral Alaska. Speaker Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski) said that is a high priority for the House. And he hasn’t yet decided how to handle it.

I can’t tell you what’ll happen next. The House will decide tomorrow what direction we’re going to go. We certainly could stay here in session – make the Senate continue to come back. We could gavel out sine die and not take up any of these issues until future legislatures. I think the governor has the ability if he wants to to turn right around, call us back in and put whatever he wants on the call.

The state Constitution allows the Senate to take three days in adjournment – meaning that if the House is still in session on Monday, the Senate must return. President Gary Stevens acknowledged that mandate, but said he expects the House to adjourn, too, since the Senate has the only piece of legislation to work on.

So I don’t know what the House would deal with, but to answer your question, if we have to be back within three days – if the House continues and they call us back – then I will be here to have a technical session should that occur.

The “Technical Session” Stevens referred to requires only a minimum number of people – generally three. No business is dealt with.

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