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Special Session: Looking Back May 2, 2012

Posted by roothogreport in Executive, Legislature.
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Another special session in the can, and there are two very different ways to look at it.

The first: The special session was an abject failure by all parties involved, and Alaska will suffer for it.

  • The Governor pushed a new, ill-conceived and very poorly researched oil tax bill that wasted everyone’s time. Then, just as abruptly, he pulled it from consideration, killing the subject of 80 percent of the legislature’s efforts this session. Not exactly a strong move, politically or otherwise.
  • Once the oil tax issue was off the table, the Senate took their toys and went home. This is a little more understandable, since realistically it was very unlikely that they could make any progress on either a) a new oil tax bill that they drafted themselves in the remainder of the special session, or b) House Speaker Chenault’s HB 9 bullet line bill, which was DOA in the Senate. That’s because, as a large-diameter gas line proponent said to me earlier this year, it would have been fantastically expensive, the gas wouldn’t have been any cheaper than existing options, it wouldn’t have spur lines to the communities (Fairbanks, interior villages) that need energy relief most, and it would take gas from a place that has gas to another place that has gas. Maybe that makes sense if you’re Mike Chenault and you want to insure against the possibility that the USGS, Buccaneer Energy, and Furie are all wrong about there being massive gas reserves in the Inlet, but it’s a hard sell to most other people, especially ones outside the Anchorage bowl who would see very little benefit. But back to the Senate – even if it was the right call to close up shop early, was there any good reason not to at least have a conversation beforehand with House leadership, just so they wouldn’t complain about you blindsiding them?
  • The House, after the Senate left them with nothing on the agenda, pouted for a few days and then decided to end the session, call a press conference where they trashed the Senate, then went home. Seems like they could have done that last Thursday without the five-day wait and the associated (estimated) $200,000 cost to taxpayers.

All right, so that’s the glass-half-empty perspective. Here’s the glass-half-full: All things considered, having come out of the session with the oil tax structure unchanged and no concrete gas line plans isn’t nearly the worst thing that could have happened. The oil tax cut that Gov. Parnell pushed, if passed, would have put the state deep into the red with no guarantee that production would ever pick up enough that we would enjoy the same kind of state revenues that we do now. I don’t think anyone’s really heartbroken it didn’t pass. And as to the gas line, what if the legislature had passed HB 9 (or something like it, any kind of North Slope to Cook Inlet bullet line bill) and then this summer Buccaneer’s and Furie’s estimates of at least a few trillion feet of gas in Cook Inlet are borne out? That doesn’t seem unlikely, and then we’ve potentially dumped a lot of money into something that is now completely purposeless and economically irrelevant.

I’m somewhere in between those two positions. I think everyone involved could have done their jobs better, but given the other possible scenarios, status quo seems okay – for now. Over the next several months we’ll get more data on the state of Alaska’s gas supply, world gas demand, and the nature of the Point Thomson settlement and whether a large-diameter gas line is really in the offing. That should do a lot to add clarity to the picture when things get rolling again in January.

State of the State: A Quick Thought January 20, 2010

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Just got done watching Gov. Parnell’s first State of the State. I’ll go into what he said in more depth later, but for now, just a note on the overall impression he made on me:

It’s surprising how different it feels to have our Governor give a speech where all of the statements make sense and the ideas flow logically from one to the next. Where the national media doesn’t deconstruct every statement, and where it’s clear there’s no major hidden agenda relating to his career. In short, a cogent speech, the focus of which is Alaska and not the speaker.

Even if I’m not always with him 100% on policy, I had forgotten how nice it feels to have a full-time Governor.

Palin To Campaign In Georgia As Oil Prices Plummet November 25, 2008

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This morning brings news that Sarah Palin will travel to Georgia next week to campaign for threatened Republican senator Saxby Chambliss in his runoff election against Jim Martin.  I can’t remember the last time a losing vice-presidential candidate was called on for support in such a pivotal race (well, unless you count Joe Lieberman in this year’s presidential election, but I’d argue he didn’t help much).

This, ordinarily, would all be well and good.  Sarah is obviously very popular with a good percentage of the GOP’s base, and as she is a savvy politician it would be unrealistic to expect that she curtail opportunities to keep her name in the national spotlight.  In this case, though, I worry that she doesn’t have Alaska’s best interests at heart.

Why am I concerned?  Well, in short, it comes down to a dollar figure: $44.53. (more…)

Stochastics: If Stevens Wins October 31, 2008

Posted by roothogreport in Executive, Legislature.
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There has been a bit of prognosticating in the comments about what might happen if Stevens were to:

  • Resign prior to the election
  • Win the election and then resign, or
  • Win the election and then be expelled from the Senate.

I’ll walk you through the process for each scenario.

  • If Stevens resigns prior to the election, Mark Begich will surely win his seat.  My guess, however, is that a good 25-35% of the electorate would still vote for Stevens as either a protest, a vote of confidence in Stevens’ innocence, or because they hadn’t heard about his resignation.
  • If Stevens wins the election and then resigns, Sarah Palin doesn’t have the blanket power to appoint his successor.  You may remember the widespread discontent with former Governor Frank Murkowski after he appointed his daughter Lisa to fill his vacant Senate seat.  The state legislature, in the wake of Frank’s nepotistic choice, changed the law to state that while the Governor can appoint an interim Senator or Representative to fill a vacancy, the state must hold a special election for the seat within 90 days.
  • If Stevens wins the election and is then removed by action of the Senate, the same scenario as above would play out: Palin (who would still be governor until January even if McCain wins) would appoint a  temporary replacement, then Alaskans would elect a new Senator within 90 days.

 

If we do end up holding a special election for Stevens’ seat, Mark Begich would almost certainly remain the Democratic candidate; the Republican replacement for Stevens is less certain.  My personal prediction would be Sean Parnell.  At this point it is extremely statistically unlikely that the McCain/Palin ticket will prevail in the presidential race, and Palin will therefore return as governor.  Some pundits think Palin might select herself as interim senator or declare that she intends to be the Republican candidate in the special election, but I think that would be a very unpopular decision, as it would recall Murkowski’s self-serving behavior.

Parnell seems a much stronger candidate to me, though I must say that I don’t find him a terribly inspiring speaker after hearing him speak about the economy earlier this week (I’ll post about that soon).  

In any case, at this point it’s all guesswork as to who the replacement Republican candidate would be if Stevens wins.  Post-conviction polls by Rasmussen and Research 2000 have Stevens down by 8% and 22% respectively, so perhaps none of this will come into play.  One thing Mark Begich and every other Alaskan know better than any poll result, however, is that you can never count Ted Stevens out.

Parnell Concedes Primary To Young September 19, 2008

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This broke yesterday, so it’s semi-old news by now, but Sean Parnell has conceded in the primary race for the Republican nomination to the U.S. House.  After all overseas and absentee ballots were counted, Parnell lost the race by 304 votes (out of 105,987 total votes cast- a margin of 0.3%).  I find this a strong rebuke to the notion that individual votes don’t count.

In terms of the bigger picture, the news that Young survived the primary is good news for Democrats, as Young is widely considered to be an easier target for his challenger, Ethan Berkowitz (D-Anchorage).  Young’s various missteps in office, the most prominent of which is the infamous “Coconut Road” earmark.  Young is also being investigated with regard to his role in the VECO scandal which has already brought down multiple state legislators and is also threatening Young’s fellow Congressman Ted Stevens.

Polling data has Berkowitz up by fifteen points over Young, but the latest poll was taken before the primary results were official.  My personal feeling on the ground, which you should definitely take with a grain of salt, is that the race is closer than fifteen points, but Young is definitely behind, probably significantly so.  Unlike Stevens, Young hasn’t established himself as the cantankerous uncle that brings Alaska presents every time he visits.  I’d be fairly surprised to see him pull this one out, even though I haven’t seen much from either side in terms of full-throated support from the community.