High grades for legislators

Business groups rate state lawmakers

Local legislators earned mostly high marks on the recently released 2011 Alaska Business Report Card.

Rebecca Logan, from the Alaska Support Industry Alliance, an oil-focused group, presented the report card to the Kenai Chamber of Commerce last week, announcing that the central Peninsula's representatives and senator in the Legislature earned Bs or better.

"You guys are living in a good area," Logan said.

Essentially, lawmakers were graded on how "business-friendly" their legislative actions were.

Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, recieved the highest possible grade, an A-plus. Rep. Kurt Olson, R-Soldotna received an A, and Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai, received a B-minus.

The report card was produced by the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce, Prosperity Alaska, Resource Development Council for Alaska and Alaska Support Industry Alliance, all business-focused organizations.

"The report card is a very, very clear record of what legislators in Juneau are inline with our legislative priorities," Logan said.

Those priorities fell into six major categories: fiscal responsibility, oil tax reform, regulatory streamlining, litigation reform, general business climate and strategic infrastructure. Specifically, legislators received good marks for supporting bills that dealt with workers compensation, extending the Regulatory Commission of Alaska beyond its sunset date, endorsing leases in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and others.

The five grading criteria were bill sponsorships, committee votes, floor votes, actions taken in committee and overall leadership in and out of the Legislature.

Logan said the report card helps keep citizens informed of what their elected officials are doing.

"Our role in the political process is electing people, and then holding people accountable," she said.

The most recent grading is considered a mid-term report, as the legislators are just halfway through a two-year cycle, Logan said. Their final grades will come at the end of the next legislative session.

Not everyone fared as well as area lawmakers. The Senate majority got an F, and Logan characterized them as "totally irresponsible." The Senate minority got a B-plus, while the house majority received an A-minus and the house minority got a D. Gov. Sean Parnell was given a B-plus.

Logan said that not everyone is happy about the grading process, but that it generates a dialogue on how legislators can better foster business in the state. Some legislators have already asked how they can do better next year, Logan said.

Molly Dischner can be reached at molly.dischner@peninsulaclarion.com.

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