Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Public Testimony on Operating Budget as Legislators Leave Town

Today at 1pm public testimony begins on the operating budget and it closes tomorrow.  This schedule is probably up somewhere, I got mine from a legislative staffer.  The best thing to do is check with the Legislative Information Office. 

Public testimony for the House Finance CS of the Operating Budget is scheduled as follows:
1:30 – 2:30 Juneau
2:45 – 3:45 Bethel, Kotzebue, Barrow, Nome, Delta Junction, Offnets
4:00 – 5:15 Anchorage
Wednesday, March 3
1:30 – 2:45 Fairbanks
3:00 – 4:00 Sitka, Wrangell, Petersburg, Dillingham, Cordova
4:15 – 5:00 Homer, Kenai, Valdez, Ketchikan, Kodiak, Seward, Mat-Su, Glenallen, Tok
Two days.  Four hours and 45 minutes today, and three and a half hours tomorrow.  Not much time to comment on a multi-billion dollar budget.

Some legislators I talked to were upset that the notice only came yesterday and people didn't have much time to prepare.

Some other legislators say that this is on the Finance Committee's calendar in addition to the email notice that came out yesterday.  They also said generally people who are following specific bills keep track of these things and are prepared to testify.  Basically, that means, I would guess, the people who specific funding at stake in the budget and their lobbyists. 

I tend to think that even with a month's notice, the average person wouldn't be prepared to testify.  First of all, they only closed out the budgets last week.  Though the governor's proposed budget has been out a while.   The legislature's  "LAYMAN’S GUIDE TO THE BUDGET PROCESS" says: 
Even for people who have fully understand [sic] the legislative process, the budget often remains the mystery of mysteries. The appropriation process is difficult to track. Appropriations bills are lengthy and complex composed of hundreds of “line items” which must be negotiated one by one. House and Senate Finance subcommittees work out many of the details. (Ask for the list of Members of the Finance Subcommittees -- lobbying these key people can be important.) Although the subcommittees do hold public hearings, they are usually only for testimony from departmental experts. Late in the session, the subcommittee recommendations are submitted to the full House and Senate Finance Committee and the public. There is often one round of public testimony by teleconference. Generally a Joint House-Senate Conference Committee finalizes the budget late in the session. [emphasis added]

Moving on.  I have some videos to edit and post - one on the Seeds for Change program and another of Rep. Crawford on his bill to have the state buy steel today while the price is low and have it ready for the gas pipeline which will need to use a lot of steel.

I also got interviewed by one of the legislative interns who has a paper due soon on the role of the media.  She's very sharp and it should be an excellent paper.

So this is just an interim post while I get my stuff together.  

And after three days of steady drizzle to light rain, it's merely cloudy and the sun has made shadows if not completely emerged from the clouds. 

Oh yes, leaving town.  The Energy Council meeting is this week.   Here's what the AK Republican Website said about this in 2002:

Several members of the House Republican Majority will travel to Washington, D.C. this weekend to represent the state's interests as a major oil and gas producer at the annual spring meeting of the Energy Council, and to help support oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
"The Energy Council has always been an important forum for Alaska to represent our interests as one of the nation's top energy producing states," said Rep. Joe Green (R-Anchorage) head of the state's delegation, and a member of the Energy Council's executive committee. "With Congress debating a national energy policy that directly impacts the future of our oil and natural gas industries, it is critical for the Legislature to have a place at the table at this conference."
The Energy Council is a legislative organization of ten energy-producing states ranging from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean. The member states produce more than 80 per cent of United States oil and gas and include leading coal, uranium and renewable energy-producing states. Associate members include Venezuela and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Newfoundland/Labrador.
Other members of the House Majority attending the Energy Council meeting include: Rep. Scott Ogan (R-Palmer), chair of the House Special Committee on Oil and Gas and a member of the Energy Council executive committee; Rep. John Harris (R-Valdez), member of the House Finance Committee; and Rep. Hugh Fate (R-Fairbanks) vice-chair of the House Resources Committee. Other legislators, including Rep Eldon Mulder (R-Anchorage), co-chair of the House Finance Committee, will accompany the Energy Council delegation with plans to visit members of the U.S. Senate to encourage them to support pending legislation to authorize oil exploration in ANWR.
"There is so much happening regarding energy right now that it's really in the best interest of the state to make our case clearly to any U.S. senators who still haven't seen the light on the importance of Alaska's energy to the nation's future," Green said.
The Energy Council's 2002 "Federal Energy and Environmental Matters Conference" starts Saturday and will continue through Tuesday. Among the items on the agenda are: increasing investment in the U.S. energy infrastructure; a status report on national energy legislation; forums on the impact of the national energy bill to the states; a roundtable on how the congressional committee process affects energy and environmental policy; and reviews of federal energy regulations and legislation.
State legislative sessions ordinarily scheduled for Friday and Monday will not be held, so some legislators may attend events in Washington, D.C., and other legislators may travel home to meet with constituents.

While this just talks about House Republicans, there are more than several legislators going because things are pretty much shutting down for the rest of the week.  Lisa Demer at the Anchorage Daily News writes:

JUNEAU -- Twenty-one Alaska lawmakers, including half the state Senate, are heading to Washington, D.C., this week for an energy conference that some go to year after year.
Nearly all are traveling at state expense.
The Legislature is essentially shutting down midday Wednesday. By the time lawmakers return on Monday, March 8, the 90-day legislative session that many complain is too short will have reached its 49th day . . .
Let's see, things are shutting down midday Wednesday and the second half of the public testimony on the  budget starts Wednesday at 1:30pm.  Well, according to the ADN article, about half the legislators will still be in town.  Probably members of the minority who don't have much say on the budget anyway.

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