Plenty to do, but no time for big issues?

Posted: Sunday, March 29, 2009

We're pressed for time, the Legis- lature tells us. We can't get to everything in a 90-day session.

Including today, there are 22 days left until the legislative session ends April 19. Through Thursday, between the House and Senate, the Legislature has introduced 373 bills and passed just four.

So, what is the Legislature spending all its precious time on?

Well, just this week, the Senate passed a resolution to designate Feb. 2 as Marmot Day here in Alaska -- an alternative to Groundhog Day in the Lower 48.

Oh, and the House addressed the nagging issue of Daylight Savings Time.

Meanwhile, the state struggles with a looming energy crisis and a sluggish economy.

In their defense, the Senate also this week passed a measure to aid low- and middle-income Alaskans with their energy bills.

But the Legislature also has pushed aside a number of bills until next session, including the governor's proposals regarding an in-state natural gas pipeline and the consolidation of Railbelt electric utilities.

Legislators -- the same ones pushing for in-state gas during last fall's elections -- claimed the late introduction of those measures did not give them enough time to deal with the issue. Of course, many of them had spent the previous week attending an energy conference in Washington, D.C., leaving no one in Juneau to enact any actual energy legislation.

Yes, the Legislature performs an important function. Legislators are doing a tremendous job sifting through the stimulus bill after the governor declined several million dollars in available funds -- which only goes to prove that body can accomplish great things for the benefit of Alaskans when working on a tight deadline.

And yes, declaring state holidays and naming official state dogs requires legislative action.

But complaining that there's not enough time to do little more than slap a Band-Aid on the most serious issues facing the state, then allocating time late in the session to debate the merits of marmots, seems a little disingenuous.

Here's a better solution. Let's declare Feb. 2 to be Legislators' Day. They can poke their heads out of the Capitol, and if they see their shadows, we can expect six more weeks of special sessions.

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