By Dan Fiorucci
6:23 PM AKDT, April 11, 2012
Gov. Sean Parnell has laid down the conditions that would cause him to call a special session of the state Legislature.
In a Wednesday interview, the governor says any one of three conditions would require him to hold lawmakers over past the scheduled conclusion of the regular session Sunday.
First, Parnell says, if lawmakers fail to pass a budget, he will keep them in Juneau -- as he has to. The Legislature is required to pass a budget each year, but it appears to be on track to get a budget to Parnell's desk on time.
Second, Parnell wants passage of a bill to build an in-state natural gas pipeline from the North Slope. The measure, currently embodied in House Bill 9, is so contentious it's not clear that it could pass both houses of the Legislature.
Third, Parnell wants the Senate to finish its work on oil tax reform -- and get the measure to the House. As of Wednesday evening, the Senate Finance Committee has not yet finalized that bill.
House Speaker Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski) backs Parnell's parameters for a special session. Chenault says such sessions must be limited to certain key measures, otherwise the horse trading and the negotiations can go on endlessly. The longest any special session would last is 30 days -- but everyone hopes that if it comes to that, it will be much shorter.
Rep. Les Gara (D-Anchorage) is less enthused about the governor's requirements for a special session. He says that if lawmakers are going to be held over, they should be discussing increased funding for education.
"Right now, we're going to be laying off hundreds of staff across the state," Gara said. "Anchorage is going to shut down summer school. And going backwards on education isn't the way I want to go -- and he totally forgot to address that."
But whatever the agreements -- or disagreements -- concerning Parnell's requirements for a Special Session, lawmakers have a marathon four days ahead of them in the regular session. While they may be working right up until midnight Sunday before the governor makes his decision, the chances of a special session currently seem high.
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