JUNEAU — Gov. Sarah Palin's biggest initiatives for this legislative session appear dead on arrival, at least for this year.
Top lawmakers say they aren't likely to pass the governor's bills dealing with an in-state gas pipeline and consolidating six utilities to pursue megaprojects like the Susitna River dam.
"They are very big issues. I personally do not believe we will complete those before the end of the session," said Senate President Gary Stevens, a Republican from Kodiak.
Stevens said the Legislature could start the work and take them up again next year.
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Lawmakers from both parties say Palin introduced the bills too late. She submitted them about halfway into the scheduled 90-day session of the Legislature. That's not enough time to deal with such complicated, significant, potentially contentious issues, legislators said.
Palin spokesman Bill McAllister said that's no excuse. “Well, what did they do last week?” he said.
The state Legislature shut down for most of the last week. About half the legislators went to an energy conference in Washington, D.C. Many of the rest went home to their districts.
“Those bills were dropped in the last week and a half here, and we believe the Legislature can move forward on those," McAllister said.
But he said Palin wouldn’t force legislators to stay in Juneau for a special session to work on the bills.
"If they simply believe there's not enough time, if they make an effort and they don't get there, we'll be disappointed but we'll move ahead on those plans to the extent possible and take up the issue in 2010," McAllister said.
Palin released a statement in which she said, "Lawmakers should not delay consideration of the agenda before them on the mistaken belief that I will call a special session to handle whatever is left on the table."
Some legislators said they are not sure exactly what Palin is trying to do with her in-state gas pipeline proposal, and whether it's the right approach. She is proposing to broaden the responsibilities of the Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority and to deal with right-of-way and regulatory issues, as well as set conditions for the operation of a pipeline.
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