15 May 2007

Testing the governor

The ADN is making the imminent demise of SB80 a story about the influence of the oil industry on Mike Chenault:

But here we are with less than two days to go in the session, and the bill appears dead. At last report, it was stalled in the House Finance Committee, caught in the annual end-of-session legislative logjam.

Ordinarily, the bill would be handled by Finance co-chair Kevin Meyer. But he's employed by Conoco Phillips, the state's largest oil producer. He turned the bill over to his co-chair, Kenai Rep. Mike Chenault.

That's the same Mike Chenault who has taken thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Veco during his political career. In his most recent election cycle, Rep. Chenault collected $5,000 from five Veco executives, including the two who admitted to a bribery scheme, Bill Allen and Rick Smith.

This is a compelling critique, I have no doubt, but I wonder what this end-of-session struggle says about the power of the governor. She has sky-high approval ratings and has had two of her major legislative priorities (ethics and AGIA) passed almost without opposition. And yet none of that apparently transfers into the necessary impetus to get a bill co-sponsored by a majority of both bodies passed.

Is it because
  • a) she's not pushing as hard as she could be because it's not as big a priority as she makes it out to be?
  • b) she doesn't have the political skills to get it through?
  • c) legislative leaders have decided to give her two accomplishments but are otherwise unimpressed with her and prefer to ignore and/or minimize her importance in the capital?
Obviously, there's tons of factors that affect whether or not a bill passes, particularly this late in the session. But I've been wondering lately if the governor is as strong as she seems and I'm wondering if this is an example of the relatively limited extent of her power.

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