Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 4:31 PM on Wednesday, March 28, 2012

It's not too late to voice opinion


As the 27th Alaska Legislature roars into high gear, racing toward an April 15th adjournment, some Alaskans might be wondering if it's too late to make a difference. The answer: No.

But if you're interested in particular issues or pieces of legislation, pay close attention, because soon the Legislature will be operating on the 24-hour rule. The rule refers to the time in the session when the public notice for committee hearings is reduced to 24 hours. It occurs when the Senate and House form a conference committee to reconcile the differences in the operating budgets that each body has passed.

There's plenty of help for citizens wanting to make sure they don't miss out during the final frenzy of the session. Lawmakers' offices are happy to lend a hand. If you don't already receive newsletters from Sen. Gary Stevens and Rep. Paul Seaton and want to get them, just give their offices a call or send them an email. (Stevens' phone is 1-800-821-4925; email, Senator_Gary_Stevens@legis.state.ak.us; Seaton's phone is 1-800-665-2689; his email is Rep.Paul.Seaton@legis.state.ak.us.) The Homer Legislative Information Office also will help citizens stay on top of legislation of interest. The progress of bills also can be tracked online.

The capital budget, which includes priority projects from Alaskans across the state, is always of interest. The catch is the state can't fund everything that every community has labeled a "priority." For the southern Kenai Peninsula, the No. 1 priority should be getting natural gas, and we're hopeful legislators and Gov. Sean Parnell will agree. There is no other project on the near horizon that has the potential to create jobs, lower the cost of living and improve the quality of life in this area like this project will. If you agree, don't wait any longer to let the governor know. You can email him at sean.parnell@alaska.gov.

While you're at it let the Homer City Council know you support the steps it is taking to make sure a gas distribution system can be built so Homer residents and businesses can tie in once gas is piped this way.

The council introduced an ordinance this week that revises how special assessment districts are created; a special assessment district is an economical, efficient way to pay for a gas distribution system. A hearing on the ordinance has been set for the council's next meeting, April 9.

Rep. Paul Seaton offered encouragement to the council that it's on the right track. He said the only concerns from other legislators he has heard about the state funding the main line to bring gas to Homer is that the community would come back later and "double dip" by asking for another grant for the build-out. The community needs to show the state it's not asking for a handout here. It needs help to get the gas here, but then it's willing to do its part. Yes, there will be a cost; but the return on that investment will be rapid. No one thinks natural gas is a panacea for our energy needs, but it certainly will help.

It's a busy time in Juneau. April 15 is barely two weeks away. Don't be a stranger to the process — or to legislators and the governor.