Senate passes ANWR drilling resolution, which faces final concurrence vote in the House

The Alaska Senate agrees with the House: Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is good for the state.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted 18-2 in favor of House Joint Resolution 5, a stern letter to Congress that asks the federal government to open a portion of the refuge’s coastal plain to oil and gas drilling.

HJR 5, sponsored by Rep. Dean Westlake, D-Kotzebue, has already been approved by the House, but because the Senate passed a slightly different version, HJR 5 must go back to the House for concurrence before becoming final. No significant hurdles are expected. Only four members of the 40-person House voted against it the first time around.

The “no” votes in the Senate Wednesday were from Sen. Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, and Sen. Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage.

Also Wednesday, the Senate voted 15-4 in favor of Senate Resolution 4, an expression of support for a measure introduced into Congress by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska. SR 4 was sponsored by Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage.

Young’s resolution, HJR 69, uses the Congressional Review Acts to overturn regulations approved by the Obama administration. Those regulations bar the Alaska Department of Fish and Game from managing wildlife on refuges and parks in the state. Young’s resolution is awaiting U.S. Senate approval.

The four “no” votes in the Alaska Senate came from Begich, Gardner, Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau; and Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage. Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, was absent from the vote.

Bills in committee:

• On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee approved House Bill 106, sponsored by Rep. Zach Fansler, D-Bethel. The bill advances to the House Finance Committee. If approved by that committee, the full House, the Senate and the governor, HB 106 would allow the Legislature to divert up to a quarter of all filing fees paid to the court system to the Alaska Legal Services Corp. instead. That corporation, established in 1967, is a nonprofit charity that provides legal help in civil cases to Alaskans who otherwise couldn’t afford it.

• Alaska will be able to sell some of its royalty oil to an in-state refiner if Senate Bill 30, proposed by Gov. Bill Walker, is approved by the Legislature and governor. On Wednesday, SB 30 was approved by the House Resources Committee and advances to the House Finance Committee. It has already been approved by the Senate.

• The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved House Bill 104, a measure proposed by the committee. HB 104 advances to the House floor for a vote. If approved by the Legislature and governor, HB 104 would remove the legal requirement to report the results of civil lawsuit settlements. According to the Alaska Judicial Council, most civil attorneys already neglect to report such information.

• A synthetic drug nicknamed “pink” will join the state’s list of controlled substances if House Bill 24 passes the Legislature and is approved by the governor. HB 24, sponsored by Rep. Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage, was approved by the House Finance Committee on Wednesday and advances to a floor vote.

• A bill extending the term of the state’s board of architects and engineers has been approved by the House Finance Committee. House Bill 48, introduced by Rep. Sam Kito III, D-Juneau, would add a landscape architect to the board and extend its operations through 2025. HB 48 advances to a floor vote.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at 419-7732.

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