Dear House District 12,
I was planning to be home making my rounds of the district by now but things haven’t worked out as originally planned. After a 90 day session where the House worked through every major issue and passed legislation to deal with those issues – the Senate however has chosen not to deal with them.
As I write this we have been called into Special Session. The House took the unusual step of certifying a Resolution asking the Governor to adjourn the Legislature. We were at an impasse with the Senate over when to adjourn because of the Senate’s refusal to send us a capital budget or negotiate the operating budget within the voter mandated 90-day session unless their conditions were met.
The logjam is a result of two senators trying to protect their personal district projects and exert control over the Governor and on the rest of the Legislature through the budget process. In my view it is wrong for them to use their positions as co-chairmen of the Senate Finance Committee in this manner. They have put their personal disagreements with the Governor above the greater interests of the people of Alaska.
We’ll see just how long the impasse lasts.
As for my office, we have been working. This session I met with 189 different groups or individuals in office meetings. The topics ranged from potential mineral projects to fire trucks and fishing boats. I attended 90 2-hour committee meetings – mostly pertaining to the House Resources Committee, which I co-chair, but also including Education and Transportation. My staff and I responded to over 617 phone messages on every topic under the sun. In between all this were numerous personal conversations with fellow legislators, staff, and others.
As far as legislation, I sponsored more bills on the House floor than any other freshman. Among those passed by the House were HB80 supporting the right to bear arms and HB168 to better protect resource projects from third party lawsuits. HB28 allowing military spouse professionals temporary licensing in their field of practice to ease their transition into the Alaska workforce, was also passed by the Senate. This legislation is currently awaiting transmittal to the Governor.
I was a central figure in the debate and eventual passage of HB110, the overhaul of our oil production tax system, and also HB106, the measure to refine the Alaska Coastal Zone Management Program (ACMP). ACMP is an especially complicated and contentious issue involving industry, local governments, and the state’s resource management authority. The resulting bill which passed the House 40-0 is a finely crafted balance between all parties. Both bills currently sit in the Senate awaiting their attention.
Many have asked me what I thought of this job and if it was what I expected it to be. Well … it’s interesting to say the least. I am at the top of the information pyramid. I get to see the widest variety of perspectives on issues. Armed with that information I am expected to make a decision on whether to support an idea or not. In the end, it is an opportunity to do some good for the people of Alaska and my constituents in District 12.
At first I worried about the arcane rules and the process of getting things done. Turns out it’s not as difficult as I imagined. Great staff made sure I stayed up to speed and always pointed in the right direction to accomplish what was best for the district.
Second, I worried that a freshman would have little influence in a structure where seniority is always an issue. Although I didn’t get as nice a parking spot as more senior members, my ideas and concerns were listened to and I was certainly as effective and perhaps more so than many more senior members of the body. This Legislature is still a forum where knowledge, integrity, and personal reputation are important and can carry the day in a close fight on an issue.
Finally, I am enjoying the job. Dissecting the complexities of issues, whether it’s the history, the personalities involved or the particular merits, and bringing them to a successful resolution are challenging. Hopefully I’m still enjoying things after however long this Special Session lasts.
I’ll be around during the interim. Please feel free to call the office at 465-4859 and the staff and I will give you a hand.
Representative Eric Feige
House District 12