New special session date urged

Posted: Sunday, May 13, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- Concerned about an appearance of heartlessness, supporters of a cruise ship pollution bill want Gov. Tony Knowles to reschedule a special session on the measure because a key opponent of the bill will be with his wife who may be undergoing heart surgery.

But Bob King, a spokesman for Knowles, said the governor is not changing the May 21 date of the special session.

Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, Knowles' key ally on the bill in the House, and Joe Geldhof, who has proposed statewide taxes on cruise ships, said Knowles should reconsider.

''What the governor needs to do is apologize and smooth the ruffled feathers in the Senate to get this process back on track for a debate on the merits,'' Geldhof said Friday.

Senate President Rick Halford, R-Chugiak, supports the legislation, but nonetheless said it was ''inhumane'' of Knowles to call a special session when he knew Sen. John Cowdery, R-Anchorage, couldn't attend because he would be with his ill wife.

Cowdery heads the Senate Transportation Committee, where the bill was stalled at the end of the regular session Tuesday. Halford said the cruise ship bill will not move in a special session without Cowdery.

Kerttula said she hopes the timing of the special session was a matter of bad judgment caused by lack of sleep at the end of the regular session, rather than by vindictiveness.

''It may have been they just didn't think through how that was going to affect everything,'' Kerttula said.

King said the May 21 date was chosen because it is the first time the governor has available. He is out of state this week attending his daughter's graduation and will be in Anchorage next week for an Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission meeting.

King said the governor is sympathetic to the Cowderys' situation and to other legislators who have plans for the summer, but the bill needs to be enacted as soon as possible.

''The cruise ship industry is in Alaska waters right now dumping 4 million gallons of wastewater a day into the Inside Passage,'' King said. He noted that the first big ship of the season, the Norwegian Sky, already has been cited by the Coast Guard for dumping sewage that violated federal standards.

The cruise industry has agreed to voluntarily abide by the provisions of the legislation, but King said that does not replace the need for a statute.

Relations between the governor and the Republican majority in the Legislature became particularly strained this week when Knowles called a news conference to announce the cruise ship special session at the same time Republicans traditionally hold a news conference to talk about their accomplishments during the regular session.

House Speaker Brian Porter said he was insulted by the scheduling, and the majority physically barred reporters from their news conference if they showed up late because they had gone to the governor's event. A majority press aide later said that was to avoid the disruption of setting up cameras and microphones.

Knowles spokesman Bob King said holding the governor's news conference first gave the majority leaders an opportunity to respond to the special session news.

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