Politics & Government

Energy conference in D.C. shuts down Alaska legislature

JUNEAU — Twenty-one Alaska lawmakers, including half the state Senate, are heading to Washington, D.C., this week for an energy conference that some go to year after year.

Nearly all are traveling at state expense.

The Legislature is essentially shutting down midday Wednesday. By the time lawmakers return on Monday, March 8, the 90-day legislative session that many complain is too short will have reached its 49th day.

Hundreds of bills are still awaiting action including proposals to create a college scholarship program, ban drivers from talking on cell phones, and give oil companies big tax breaks. Most bills are doomed anyway, but legislators say others just need debate and testimony to smooth out kinks.

Not everyone likes the fact the Legislature shuts down -- a practice that may be unique to Alaska among the 11 energy-producing states that belong to The Energy Council, the conference's host.

But then, Alaska usually sends the biggest contingent of state legislators to the March conference, which focuses on federal issues, according to the council's executive director, Lori Cameron.

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