Alaska lawmakers begin special session

August 11, 2009 2:01:15 PM PDT
The Alaska Legislature voted to override former Gov. Sarah Palin's veto of roughly $28 million in federal stimulus funds intended for energy projects during a special session Monday. A three-fourths majority in each chamber was needed to override Palin. The House voted 30-9 to accept the stimulus funds, while the Senate voted 15-5.

Also during the one-day session, lawmakers confirmed Craig Campbell as the new lieutenant governor on a 55-4 vote.

Palin initially said she would not accept about one-third of the $930 million designated by President Barack Obama for Alaska, citing "strings" that could bind the state to federal mandates and increase the size of government.

But lawmakers found few such strings, and accepted the federal money.

Palin eventually signed off on all but $28.5 million in energy cost relief, insisting that accepting it would require a state energy code - she said communities should decide their own codes. Critics said she was grandstanding and trying to appeal to fiscally conservative national voters.

Palin reiterated her claims in a Facebook posting Sunday.

"As governor, I did my utmost to warn our legislators that accepting stimulus funds will further tie Alaska to the federal government and chip away at Alaska's right to chart its own course. Enforcing the federal building code requirements, which Governor Parnell and future governors will be forced to adopt in order to accept these energy funds, will eventually cost the state more than it receives. There are clear ropes attached," she wrote.

Lawmakers had hoped to consider an override in January, but the federal Department of Energy needed an answer by September.

Palin in February designated Corrections Commissioner Joe Schmidt as second in line of succession after Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, and the Legislature confirmed him for that spot. However, when Palin announced last month she was stepping down with 17 months left in her term, she said Campbell, the commissioner of military and veterans affairs, would move up to lieutenant governor.

That raised the question of whether the outgoing governor could legitimately switch the succession line. The uncertainty was enough for lawmakers to address it in the special session.

Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, said Campbell could not take the position without prior confirmation by the Legislature.