Area lawmakers positioned to promote peninsula interests

Posted: Sunday, November 07, 2004

State legislators from the Kenai Peninsula were pleased Friday with House majority party leadership position selections, especially that of Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, to co-chair the House Finance Committee.

"The peninsula will have a fair voice in everything that goes on in Finance," said Chenault by phone as he returned from the Republican Party caucus in Anchorage where the selections were announced.

Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, was selected as chair of the State Affairs Committee and newly elected Rep. Kurt Olson, R-Soldotna, was selected as co-chair of the Community and Regional Affairs Committee.

"The Finance Committee oversees all capital improvement projects from DOT ... on down the department list," said Chenault.

"We're gonna take all the projects statewide, scrutinize them and go with the projects that are good for all the districts," he said.

When asked about the benefit of having three peninsula elected representatives chairing or co-chairing House standing committees, Chenault said, "What we tried to do, we looked out for all the interests of the peninsula and positioned ourselves accordingly."

Accompanying Chenault on the drive back from Anchorage was Seaton, who said one of the first tasks of the State Affairs Committee will be to look at early funding of education.

"We will address the PERS-TRS issue," Seaton said, of the Public Employees Retirement System and the Teachers Retirement System.

Seaton also said he has heard that Juneau is talking about building a new capitol, and the State Affairs Committee would be looking at that.

When asked if that meant the new capitol would be in Juneau, Seaton said other districts also have expressed an interest.

Chenault jokingly added Homer would not allow any such large building, referring to recent debate in that city over building big box stores.

Seaton also is on the House Ways and Means, Resources and Health, Education and Social Services committees.

In addition to co-chairing Community and Regional Affairs, which has jurisdiction over matters relating to political subdivisions such as annexation of unincorporated areas into cities or boroughs, Olson was named to the Resources and State Affairs committees.

"What I really wanted was to get a seat on Resources, and I got that," Olson said.

He said his interest stems from the fact that two of the peninsula's major industries are oil and gas and fisheries.

"Having two people on Resources is good for the protection of the peninsula," Seaton said.

"Not only do we have oil and gas, but also fisheries," he said.

The committee assignments are for the entire two years of the coming legislative session.

Sen. Tom Wagoner could not be reached for comment on his appointments Saturday.

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