ALASKA - They're not exactly rare, but another special session of the legislature will get under way Wednesday at the Capitol.
Governor Sean Parnell was dissatisfied enough with three things that didn't get accomplished by the end of the regular session early Monday morning that he's holding lawmakers over for up to 30 days.
The main issue will be oil taxes.
By calling a special session, the governor sets the agenda. That means lawmakers must focus only on the three matters listed on his proclamation, but that doesn't mean they will come to agreement on all three.
This special session, just like the two regular sessions before it, will be dominated by the oil tax debate.
"We all know from the constitution we have taken an oath to uphold that our resources here in the state are for Alaskans' benefit and are to be maximized for Alaskans' benefit,” said Parnell in a press conference. “But they cannot be maximized if they remain in the ground."
Parnell and the Republican-led majority in the house said the senate passed too little too late on oil taxes by focusing exclusively on new oil – excluding the remaining oil in the ground at the so-called legacy fields of Prudhoe Bay and Kuparuk.
"That's our revenue stream; that's our blood,” said House Speaker Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski). “Whether we agree with it, whether we hate the oil industry or not, that's a resource that we need to develop and we need to develop it to the maximum utilization of the Alaska residents."
But Senate President Gary Stevens stands by his decision to kill the governor's bill passed by the house last year on the first day of this year's regular session.
"My personal belief is now it's time for somebody else to step up. I do believe that House Bill 110 that was originally sent to us was ill-considered. I do believe it was a major giveaway of state funds. And I don't think it was well-defended either by the administration or by the house."
Parnell also has called on lawmakers to keep working on a bill for an in-state natural gas pipeline, which he hopes eventually will be merged with a major line for export.
The third issue on the proclamation, toughening penalties for sex trafficking, had passed the house and was on the verge of senate passage Sunday.
"I was moved by some of the Native leaders that came before our committee and highlighted that problem,” said Representative Bill Stoltze (R-Chugiak), “and how that didn't rise to the agenda of importance... I'm just baffled by that.
"There's a lot of politics at play, and some self-serving statements and things about various bills,” said Johnny Ellis (D-Anchorage). “But I'm proud of what we were able to accomplish. It's a great agenda we were able to work through. We could have done more, but it takes two to tango in that regard."
The dance resumes on Wednesday.
This is potentially the fourth 30-day special session on oil taxes since 2006.
Two were held that year to implement the transition from a gross tax to a profits-based tax.
Another came in 2007, jacking up the progressivity rate in the tax in the wake of indictments and convictions in a bribery and conspiracy scandal associated with the previous year's deliberations.
This one could finally settle the question of whether today's lawmakers think their predecessors over-reacted in 2007.