Walker blocks bill that would allow lawmakers on Alaska gas line board
Gov. Bill Walker has vetoed a bill that would allow three legislators to sit in on confidential meetings held by the state agency in charge of Alaska’s natural gas pipeline project, AKLNG — a decision that comes amid increased concerns from lawmakers about whether the project will reach completion as planned.
According to Senate Bill 125, legislators would participate as non-voting members of the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation’s current seven member board.
“Having legislators participate in an advisory, non-voting capacity adds experience and continuity to the board,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, in a sponsor statement. “Legislators understand the type of budget decisions that will be needed to meet the state’s cash calls for a gas line project, and would be helpful for discussions on project financing.”
In a letter notifying the Alaska Senate President Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, of his veto, Walker said he understands the legislators’ desire to gain more understanding of AGDC’s work, but called the bill unconstitutional.
“According to the formal Attorney General Opinion issued on July 19,2016, having legislators sit on a public corporation board, like AGDC, would violate the dual-office holding prohibition in the Alaska Constitution, even if the legislators are non-voting members,” said Walker, explaining that legislators would be privy to confidential information held by the corporation, while also having the legislative power to change corporation’s statute and determine its funding.
The Senate majority disagreed.
“Legislators serve on over a dozen state commissions – as well as the boards of directors of state corporations – including the Knik Arm Bridge & Toll Authority, the Alaska Aerospace Corporation, and the board of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute,” its spokesperson, Daniel McDonald, said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.
Walker’s veto follows on the heels of a growing concern for the future of AKLNG expressed by legislators after AGDC’s newly appointed President, Keith Meyer told lawmakers the project “isn’t moving forward.” Walker told business members Monday that the state is looking for new partners on the project — a suggestion Walker says came from current partners ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, and BP.
“The governor’s veto sends the wrong message to the industry, the Legislature, and the public,” said Costello.“The governor needs to share his vision for the gasline with Alaskans and not cut legislators out of closed door meetings.”
Kevin Meyer called the veto “troubling.”
“AGDC President Keith Meyer has stated publicly that the relationship with the Legislature needs to improve and that there needs to be greater transparency when it comes to building the AK LNG Project,” Kevin Meyer said.
Lawmakers can overturn a governor’s veto with the support of two-thirds of the full legislature (40 of its 60 members). According to the state constitution, it must be done within the fifth day of a special session.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Senate Bill 125 would allow two legislators on the AGDC board. The story has been corrected.
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