How many lawmakers does it take ...

Posted: Friday, March 11, 2011

You'll recall that nearly half the Alaska Legislature -- 27 members -- took a week out of the 90-day session to attend the annual meeting of the Energy Council in Washington, D.C. earlier this month. These are the same folks who tell us they don't have enough time to get their work in Juneau done.

Anyway, one lawmaker, Sen. Cathy Giessel, was thoughtful enough to send out a letter this week telling us why attendance at this meeting was so vital. Sen. Giessel is a Republican representing District P, which stretches from South Anchorage down to Whittier and west to Hope.

This must've been a very important meeting because, Giessel tells us, "a representative of the Chinese government, whose intentions must be taken seriously, attended the meetings."

Sounds pretty high-powered.

She continues:

"Energy Council was an opportunity to confer with officials from other oil and gas producing provinces from around the world and to meet, face-to-face, with our US Congressional delegation and government agencies. Visits to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) were invaluable for establishing relationships and sharing our concerns. And we heard from regulators about the requirements our projects must meet and what hurdles we must overcome."

Certainly enlightening.

Giessel goes on to tell us that she met personally with federal energy officials and our own Congressional delegation (who, by the way, recently addressed the Alaska Legislature themselves). She also attended a presentation on fracking, a new method of oil extraction. Perhaps there is no better way to get information on fracking except to go to the Energy Council meeting -- for a week, in D.C.

And the senator also offers this defense for taking a week out of the 90-day session by saying, "The world economic and industrial balance is in flux. Alaska cannot isolate herself and expect to be competitive. The Alaska Legislature would be remiss if we did not attend Energy Council."

And she offers this apology to voters: "I understand the public's concern with the Legislature going into a 'holding pattern' during the first week of March. I would add those missed days onto the session time in April, were I able. But I'm not in charge so it is what it is."

Yes, indeed, it is what it is.

We shouldn't pick on Sen. Giessel too much. At least she took the time to write up and share something about her trip. Perhaps next time she can offer to attend and update the other 26 legislators with a field trip report similar to the one she sent us.

Or, even better, Giessel tells us that the Energy Council will meet in Anchorage later in September. Maybe we can all go.

Wonder how many of the 27 who took time off from legislative business earlier this month will attend the September meeting in our own state?

In short: Half the Legislature doesn't need to take session time to attend a meeting when a handful would do.

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