Legislature adjourns -- at least for a night

Posted: Thursday, May 04, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- With a session-ending deal cut in advance and a special session already called on state employee contracts, the Legislature adjourned Wednesday with more emphasis on sentimental farewells than crucial policy issues.

The end of the regular session came a week early, but a special session called by Gov. Tony Knowles for Thursday afternoon makes it likely that lawmakers won't finish much before their original May 9 deadline.

The House approved a $302 million bond package for school construction and other capital projects over the objections of minority Democrats who denounced the Republican majority for bypassing crumbling Bush schools to pay for projects in their own districts.

''I think rural Alaska deserves a little more consideration,'' said Rep. Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon.

Republicans responded that the package contained what was required to win support from lawmakers from around the state. Of the $198 million the package spends on schools, $112 million would go to rural Alaska.

''The democratic process, it's the art of the possible, it's the art of compromise,'' said Senate President Drue Pearce, R-Anchorage. ''None of us gets our way on everything.''

Despite their protests, the minority voted with Republicans to tap the Constitutional Budget Reserve for the money needed to balance the budget and end the session. Tapping the reserve requires three-quarters of both chambers and usually signals a bipartisan deal.

On Tuesday, the House and Senate approved bills endowing rural power subsidies in the Bush for the foreseeable future, winning over some Democrats and greasing the rails for the early adjournment.

''We put power cost equalization to bed and now we're going to take care of the contracts,'' said House Minority Leaders Ethan Berkowitz, D-Anchorage.

Knowles said he called lawmakers back immediately at the request of lawmakers from both parties who wanted to consider the contracts without the distractions of other legislation.

''All of them asked me to have the special session,'' Knowles said. ''They felt the time was right for productive effort'' on the contracts.

Republican leaders, particularly in the Senate, object to pay and benefit increases in the contracts.

After the gavel fell Wednesday, GOP leaders claimed victory in their five-year plan to cut the state's general fund spending by $250 million, but conceded that some of that reduction had been accomplished through budgetary maneuvers instead of cutting spending.

''Did we hit every target, every number in the five-year plan?'' said House Finance Committee Co-Chairman Eldon Mulder, R-Anchorage. ''Probably not. Was it a resounding success? Absolutely.''

GOP leaders said their budget prioritized state spending, focusing on education, public safety and transportation, while holding down spending in other areas.

''It's never been about just cutting the budget,'' said Sen. Sean Parnell, R-Anchorage, co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. ''It's about a vision of the future for the people of Alaska.''

Minority Democrats chastised Republicans for not plowing more money into education and the University of Alaska. Much of this year's budget reductions came from a dip in enrollment that allowed the state to spend less on aid to local school districts.

''We actually cut education,'' said Rep. John Davies, D-Fairbanks. ''Our kids are getting less education, not more, and that's unacceptable.''

Democrats also denounced Republicans for claiming an early adjournment without paying for the state employee contracts.

''I think its a little early for people to start breaking their arms patting themselves on the back,'' said Berkowitz, D-Anchorage.

Before the final gavel fell, the Senate and House each handed over bills that had been held as leverage in the deal.

Senators approved Rep. Ramona Barnes bill to transfer $250 million from the earnings of the Permanent Fund to the $27 billion savings account's principal.

The bill ensures that the money cannot be spent but doesn't have any impact on the fund's annual dividend. Barnes, who faces a tough election in the fall, said she wanted to regain the people's trust after last year's lopsided public vote on using Permanent Fund earnings to pay for government.

''This representative feels as proud as a mother with a newborn baby,'' said Barnes, R-Anchorage.

The House released Senate President Drue Pearce's oil spill response bill. The measure had been aimed at bringing cruise ships and other large vessels under the state's spill response laws, but was watered down by the House.

Pearce, who has said the bill was emasculated by cruise industry lobbyists, voted no as the Senate accepted the House changes.

Much of the evening was dedicated to celebrating the Legislature's departing members, especially veteran Democrats Rep. Ben Grussendorf of Sitka and Al Adams of Kotzebue.

Senators donned cloth work gloves like those Adams used to hand out during campaigns, which read, ''Sen. Al Adams has working hands just like you.'' On the Senate's gloves, ''has'' was crossed out and replaced by ''had.''

''I just enjoyed 20 years here,'' Adams said. ''I loved debating with each one of you.''

In the House, Grussendorf was given the honor of making the formal Latin motion to adjourn the Legislature.

''For a final word, I would turn to Rep. Grussendorf,'' House Speaker Brian Porter said.

''Thank you Mr. Speaker,'' Grussendorf replied gruffly. ''Move the House adjourn sine die.''

4/30/0 10:19 PM Inches: 6.7 ADVANCE BC-SPE-Outdoors-High-Bi 05-01 0277

BC-SPE--Outdoors - High-Biking Tips ,0284

SPECIAL EDITION

Outdoors: High-Biking Tips

DENVER (AP) -- Here are some tips on road cycling in the mountains from Ron Kiefel, an Olympic medalist and former pro; John Klever, an experienced rider; and Edmund Burke, a fitness expert:

Ascents

Start slowly, allowing your heart rate to stabilize. Relax and move around: Shift gears, stand, change positions on the handlebars, move arms apart to expand your chest. Stop occasionally and stretch but don't let your body cool.

Descents

Put hands on the lower part of the handlebars, shift your weight toward the back and relax your shoulders. Brake before cornering. Alternate braking and releasing, so rims don't overheat. Braking too hard in the front can send you tumbling over the handlebars. Beware debris on the road's far right edge.

Clothing and protection

Always wear a helmet and eye protection. Prepare for cold, rain or snow, even on clear summer days. Wear sunscreen; solar radiation is intense at high elevations.

Equipment

''Unless you're Lance Armstrong or you weigh less than 100 pounds, I would recommend lower gearing,'' Klever said. Consider getting a triple chainring (three front sprockets) or installing lower gears on the back wheel. Make sure your frame fits you. Kiefel, who runs a bike shop, said a basic road bike costs $700-$800; better frame material raises that to about $1,400; high-end bikes start at about $2,600.

Nutrition

Burke recommends a diet of about 60 percent carbohydrates, 25 percent fat and 15 percent protein. Stay hydrated. You may lose more fluids than you realize.



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