Fresh legislative agenda takes shape

In with the new

Posted: Sunday, November 12, 2000

Out of the frying pan, into the fire for the Kenai Peninsula's three freshman legislators.

With the heat of the campaign behind them, Drew Scalzi, R-Homer, Ken Lancaster, R-Soldotna, and Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, jumped into their new rolls headfirst at Thursday's reorganization meeting in Anchorage.

Under the continued leadership of House Speaker Brian Porter, R-Anchorage, the peninsula's winning threesome came home with the following committee assignments:

n Scalzi: Co-chair, Resources; Community and Regional Affairs; Fisheries; Transportation;

n Lancaster: Finance;

n Chenault: Chairman, Military and Veterans Affairs; Oil and Gas; Resources.

Returning from Anchorage on Friday, Scalzi spent Saturday morning with the staff of predecessor Gail Phillips, R-Homer.

"I'll be taking over Gail's staff," said Scalzi, a former member of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. Doing so will provide consistency for both Scalzi and his district, he said.

Another staff position to be considered is the one shared with Resources Committee co-chair Beverly Masek, R-Willow.

"She certainly is the senior here and she chaired the committee last year," Scalzi said. "I think we both want to agree on who we get."

Scalzi was pleased with the outcome of Thursday's meeting in Anchorage, saying the committee assignments will play an important role in the peninsula's priorities for the future. He believes the main issue of his campaign, development of a long-term fiscal plan, is still the most important thing for the whole state.

"What we will be dealing with as far as future things affecting the peninsula include the gas pipeline and commercial fishery resources," Scalzi said.

On a personal note, Scalzi, a commercial fisher, has fishery decisions of his own to make.

"I have to decide what to do with my boat," he said. "I may get someone to cod fish for me or I'll just tie the boat up and leave it in the harbor."

Then there's Juneau housing to be considered. That was another phone call on his Saturday "to do" list.

Lancaster was off to Juneau on Saturday to attend the Alaska Municipal League's annual gathering. Currently serving on the board of trustees for the AML's Joint Insurance Association, Lancaster plans to pare down his responsibilities in order to devote more time to his new role as representative for District 8.

He will also wind down more than 20 years of involvement with Homer Electric Association and give up his position as Soldotna mayor.

"That's extremely hard to give up," he said. "But I'm going on to bigger and better things, and hope I can make a difference. "

He said he was pleased with his committee assignment.

"They claim freshmen don't get on the Finance Committee," Lancaster said.

As far as priorities for his district, Lancaster said he is familiar with Soldotna's and will meet with borough representatives on November 21. Between now and January, he plans to visit other cities in his district, gathering input on both state and congressional priorities. He also plans to make the most of his time at the AML meeting, discussing priorities with Homer Mayor Jack Cushing and Kenai Mayor John Williams.

Chenault was still in Anchorage on Saturday.

"Busy," is the one word he used to describe his new schedule.

"Thursday actually went well for us 'newbies,'" Chenault said. "We worked our way through it and there's a pretty good diversification of people throughout the state."

Like Lancaster, Chenault is also freeing himself from local commitments, including his position on the Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board and the Nikiski Fire Service Board.

Before session convenes in January, he anticipates meeting with other legislators and representatives from the school district, the borough and peninsula city mayors to examine legislative priorities for the peninsula.

"It's just a matter of getting it organized before we go to Juneau," he said. "I'm putting together staff, making housing arrangements and meeting with different constituents of different groups in our district and elsewhere.

"I look forward to working with the legislators in our area and others throughout the state and seeing if we can't make this thing work," Chenault said.

One thing he won't be considering is moving his family to Juneau.

"I've got kids in the school system and I won't uproot them to take them down there for five months," Chenault said. "I'll just be making trips back and forth."

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