Legislature should work together during upcoming session

Posted: Wednesday, December 22, 2004

This is the season for peace and joy, and we hope members of the Alaska Legislature are basking in the mood of the moment. More than that, we hope they will embrace the same warm feelings once the new lawmaking session opens in just three weeks.

A commitment to harmony would be a very good thing and would make all of us look forward with some anticipation that the state's needs will be well served in Juneau this coming year.

Alas, we confess to having some reservations about the prospects for a fruitful and well-mannered session. The November election, cantankerous enough, was immediately followed by an effort by the Democratic minority leadership in the House to torpedo organizational plans by the Republican majority.

The GOP quickly put down the rebellion, but the Democrats smirked a bit about the coup they almost pulled off. And in the weeks since then, all the same old Democratic grumps have been on television taking potshots at any political target in sight.

Too bad. Much will be on the plate when the first session of the state's 24th Legislature gets under way on Jan. 10.

Gov. Frank Murkowski has put his budget proposal on the table and served up what he calls an aggressive agenda that he will have ready for the legislators when they get down to business.

Among other things, he's seeking approval for $20 million in transportation construction programs, much of which will assist in expanding the state's oil and gas development.

''When I talk about increasing oil and gas development in this state,'' Murkowski has said, ''what we really are talking about is increasing job opportunities for Alaskans.''

Surely all the Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature will eagerly embrace that idea, without a lot of acrimony.

The opportunities within the state's grasp in the coming year are significant, among them the prospect of congressional approval for the opening of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and for a final green light to plans for construction of a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope.

Working together for the good of the state should not be impossible for those who serve in the state House and Senate.

Surely the legislators - and most particularly, perhaps, the Democrats who have played an obstructionist role in recent years - know that Alaskans are fed up with political wrangling in Juneau.

Even the people of South Dakota finally got tired of the blockades Democratic leader Tom Daschle raised in the U.S. Senate to every initiative of President George W. Bush.

There's a message there for legislators. The same thing that happened in South Dakota can happen here.

Let peace reign in the Legislature next year.

- The Voice of the Times (Anchorage)

Dec. 16

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