JUNEAU — House Speaker Mike Chenault on Monday said he plans to propose allowing out-of-state residents to serve on the board of directors of a corporation that could play a key role in a major liquefied natural gas project in Alaska.
In a memo to lawmakers, Chenault, R-Nikiski, said he will offer the amendment to SB124, a bill to extend the sunset date of the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, during a House Rules Committee hearing Thursday. Chenault said he would have preferred to find another bill or to attach the amendment to SB138, which is aimed at advancing the gas project. But with lawmakers scheduled to take up the confirmation of board appointees next week, he said that precluded use of SB138, which is still working its way through the committee process.
Richard Rabinow, a pipeline industry consultant and former president of ExxonMobil Pipeline Co., is among the appointees whose confirmation lawmakers are scheduled to vote on April 11. Rabinow, from Houston, Texas, is among the members Gov. Sean Parnell appointed to the board of directors of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp., or AGDC.
Rabinow told Parnell he would resign if the Legislature, before adjourning, did not expressly permit out-of-state residents to serve on that board.
Minority Senate Democrats called on Parnell to withdraw Rabinow’s name, citing a state law requiring appointees to boards or commissions of state government to be and have been before the last general election registered to vote in the state. Chenault and Rep. Mike Hawker, the lead sponsors of the bill that established the AGDC, have said the legislative record “clearly reflects” the intent that the governor can appoint “from the widest possible field of expertise, without limiting that field to Alaskans.”
“I realize that Mr. Rabinow is a resident of Texas. However, he has pipeline expertise spanning over four decades,” Chenault said in his memo. “There are very few individuals in the United States with his level of historical knowledge and executive leadership in the pipeline industry.”
His proposed amendment states that a public member to the AGDC board would not have to be a registered voter or resident of the state.
The boards of the Alaska Railroad Corp. and the Alaska Aerospace Corp. currently allow for certain members to be nonresidents.
Chenault said in an interview that he would prefer Alaskans serve on the board. “But if the brightest person for that job happens to be someone from somewhere else, then I think that we’ve got to be able to have that ability to pick that talent,” he said.
Sen. Kevin Meyer, who sponsored the domestic violence council bill, said he didn’t know how he felt about the “hijacking” of that measure, though he said he didn’t take it personally. Since SB124 has already passed the Senate, once it passes the House it would come back to the Senate, where senators would decide if they agreed with any changes made. If they did not agree, the bill could go to a conference committee.
Meyer, R-Anchorage, said at this point, if the changes that Chenault has proposed are made, he would probably vote against concurrence. He said he thinks he speaks for most members of the majority caucus in saying they would feel better with an Alaskan serving.
However, he acknowledged the desire to have someone with expertise serving on the board and said he could still possibly be convinced that Rabinow has unique skills that the state will need in pursuing the gas project.