Alaska legislature to take up Palin stimulus veto

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A final battle remaining from the Sarah Palin era as Alaska governor closes today when the Legislature votes on whether to override her veto of federal stimulus money for energy cost relief.

The vote will happen in a one-day special session scheduled for the Egan Center in Anchorage, just the second time a special session has been held outside of the capital city of Juneau. It won’t be easy to override Palin’s veto — 75 percent of the Legislature has to vote for an override in joint session to make it happen.

“My sense over time is that the numbers to override the veto will be there at the end of the day. But I don’t know for sure,” said Rep. Mike Hawker, an Anchorage Republican who has led the efforts in the House on the stimulus package.

At least one lawmaker, Nome Rep. Richard Foster, isn’t expected to attend. So even if all 59 other members of the Legislature show up, only 14 need to vote against the override in order for Palin’s veto to stand.

The other item on the session agenda is a vote on whether to confirm Craig Campbell as lieutenant governor. The Senate will hold a hearing prior to that vote.

The special session will probably cost the state around $112,000, said Pam Varni, executive director of the Legislative Affairs Agency. It’s considered more expensive than having it in Juneau because of extra costs, including renting the Egan Center, flying up needed staffers and securing equipment. But Varni said she doesn’t have good figures to compare costs of the locations.

The session won’t be televised on Gavel to Gavel like regular sessions are in Juneau because of the cost of the satellite link and bringing up crew.

Proponents of having it in Anchorage cite convenience value for legislators who live around the city or in commuting distance. It also opens the session to people in the state’s population center who don’t normally see legislative action in person, and there are at least three rallies planned to take advantage.

“We don’t very often get a chance to directly confront our Legislature while in session on an important issue,” said Mark Fish, who is helping organize an anti-stimulus rally.

The override vote culminates a drawn out fight between the Legislature and Palin.

She vetoed the appropriation of $28 million in federal energy stimulus cash in May, two months before resigning as governor.

Palin argued that accepting the money would require the state to “entice” local communities to adopt building codes. “There isn’t a lot of support for the federal government to coerce Alaska communities to adopt building codes,” she said.