Women members of the 29th Alaska Legislature pose with Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski during her annual visit to the Capitol on Wednesday.

Women members of the 29th Alaska Legislature pose with Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski during her annual visit to the Capitol on Wednesday.

In address to Legislature, Murkowski stresses ‘certainty’

Alaska’s senior U.S. Senator didn’t offer her advice on solving the state’s fiscal problems. Speaking to a joint session of the Alaska Legislature, Sen. Lisa Murkowski said the Legislature has enough people offering advice.

Instead, she offered a report on the work of the Alaska Congressional delegation over the past year, highlighting its efforts to reduce federal restrictions on state and business activities while providing certainty that new regulations and restrictions will not come in the future.

“I hope this is your takeaway from my comments — that what I’m trying to do is help with that level of certainty at that federal level,” she said.

Murkowski faces re-election this fall but no serious opposition yet. Republican Thomas Lamb of Anchorage is her only primary election opponent, while Libertarian Cean Stevens of Anchorage and Independent candidate Margaret Stock would face Murkowski in the general election.

Speaking to legislators, Murkowski said the Senate has “returned to what we call regular order” since the election of a Republican majority in 2014.

In addition to a replacement for the No Child Left Behind Act, the Senate has approved a bill funding transportation projects for several years.

Federal military spending legislation also calls for more than a half-billion dollars in construction within Alaska.

“An effort like this doesn’t happen by accident,” she said, calling attention to the work of her junior counterpart, Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska and the 49th state’s only delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In regard to veteran care, “we’re making some headway, but the fight’s not over,” Murkowski said.

When it came time to discuss federal land ownership and the federal government’s relationship with the state, Murkowski pointed out John Sturgeon, who was observing the speech from the House gallery. Sturgeon has sued the Department of the Interior in a case now in front of the U.S. Supreme Court over whether the state or the federal government has jurisdiction over rivers within federal parcels.

“If the court should not come to the right decision,” Murkowski said, referring to a Sturgeon victory. “I’m prepared to crack open ANILCA (the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act).”

In fisheries, Murkowski discussed efforts to require the labeling of genetically engineered salmon, the proper labeling of Russian pollock, and laws against “pirate” fishing in federal waters.

“These help to bring about certainty within an industry that needs it,” she said, returning to the theme of her speech.

With the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the Senate will be asked to confirm his replacement — an as-yet unidentified person selected by President Obama.

That person, Murkowski said, “should get a hearing.”

She then added, “that doesn’t necessarily mean that ends up in a vote.”

The person could be found unqualified and rejected by the Senate without a vote, she said. Overall, she said, she hopes the president finds someone who keeps the court in balance, an allusion to Scalia’s habit of ending up on the conservative side of many rulings.

“It’s clearly in Alaska’s best interest to maintain balance on the highest court in the land,” she said.

Murkowski declined to state her preference in the contest for the Republican presidential nomination (Alaska’s preference poll is March 1), and she added, “I will defer from saying that I don’t like somebody, because I don’t think that is a fair approach.”

She did say that she thinks the eight years of the Obama administration has “not been good for our state, and I’m not seeing it reflected in the overall strength of our economy” or in the “strength of our nation from a geopolitical perspective.”

Based on a comment from the president’s chief of staff, she said she is particularly concerned about new executive actions that could be taken by the president in his final months in office.

“This last year could be a bit scary for us,” she said.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at 523.2258 or at james.k.brooks@morris.com.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks to a joint session of the Alaska Legislature during her annual visit to the Capitol on Wednesday. In the background are Crystaline Jones, Chief Clerk for the House of Representatives, center, and Liz Clark, Secretary of the Senate.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks to a joint session of the Alaska Legislature during her annual visit to the Capitol on Wednesday. In the background are Crystaline Jones, Chief Clerk for the House of Representatives, center, and Liz Clark, Secretary of the Senate.

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