By most accounts, RCA works well for Alaskans, should be reauthorized

Posted: Tuesday, June 18, 2002

The reauthorization of the Regulatory Commission of Alaska was just one of many issues that the state Legislature was unable to find the time to address during its extended regular session.

But with a special session called by the governor on this very issue just a few weeks away, Senate Judiciary Chairman Robin Taylor, R-Wrangell, is at least holding hearings on the matter -- finally.

Without some sort of reauthorization language passing this month, the commission will ''sunset'' out of existence within a year. That would be a shame, considering most who speak of the commission say it is a governing board that has served Alaska well and deserves to continue. The commission is in charge of a variety of important regulatory duties, including utility rates, telecommunications, pipelines, as well as water, sewer and gas service.

Relatively early in the session, the House passed its version of the reauthorization. However, for the rest of the session, both the House bill and a Senate version introduced by Sen. Gene Therriault, R-North Pole, were left to languish in the Senate Judiciary and Finance committees. Chairman Taylor clearly planned to leave them buried there, refusing even a hearing. The session ended without any final action, which would have effectively ended the board had Gov. Tony Knowles not intervened and called a special session on the issue for June 24.

The only real opposition to the measure appears to come from Taylor, who refused to move on the issue during the regular session, and Alaska Communications Systems, which appears to want the board's current incarnation to end. However those opinions seem to be in the minority. Even the state's Legislative Audit Department said the commission was ''effective and efficient'' and should be continued.

During the regular session, it appeared that the Legislature had plenty of votes to pass the measure, if only Taylor would have allowed it to move forward. Now, at least, hearings have taken place. Hopefully, this is a step toward ultimately approving the reauthorization of this important board. It would be a shame for the Legislature to let the sun go down on a board that, by most accounts, has worked so well for the people of Alaska.

-- The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

June 12

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