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26th session over -- for better or worse

Posted: Friday, April 24, 2009

Well, it's finally over. The 26th Leg- islature wrapped up its business, and lawmakers are home.

Local representatives say there was good and bad about this year's action. While the focus was moving the budgets through, which legislators accomplished, other issues failed to make it to the floor. Some were just time wasters.

"We came to Juneau to do the job we're supposed to, and that's to pass the operating and capital budgets, and that's what we've done," House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, told us.

Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai, said the budgets that were passed were "too high" and state cuts are inevitable. He told us there are ways to make more cuts, because without the revenue, basically we have no choice in the matter.

Chenault said the budgets reflect the economically hard times facing the state.

"They're minimal budgets, and while they're minimal, we're still spending more than we're bringing in," he said.

But budgets weren't the only issue on the minds of the central Kenai Peninsula lawmakers. From picking a new Juneau senator to appointing a new attorney general, the Legislature had plenty of distractions to deal with, as well.

Wagoner called this year's Legislature "middle of the road, doing middle of the road things."

In all, 36 bills passed in the House and 25 in the Senate. Questioned was the 90-day length of the session.

Chenault and Rep. Kurt Olson, R-Soldotna, feel the session length should stay at 90 days for now, despite some challenges. Both said the short period makes it hard to get much public input and testimony on issues.

Wagoner, who sponsored the bill to change the length from 120 days, said the fact that some issues ended up locked in committees tells him the length of the session isn't the problem.

"I don't know if there's anything that happened this year that convinced me that we need more than 90 days," he said.

He noted the passing of Senate Bill 58, making Feb. 2 Marmot Day, as an example.

"I voted against the Marmot Bill. If that's all we've got to do are those kinds of things, then we don't need 90 days, we only need 60."

It's tough to argue a point like that.



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