Many are the issues to be faced in the upcoming 2006 legislative session, and multitudinous bills to be voted upon in committees and on the House floor. All are important, but all pale in comparison to a potential vote on the forthcoming (I hope forthcoming) gas pipeline contract.
If I’m fortunate enough to be in the legislature for the next eon, it’s likely my vote, “yes” or “no,” on the gas pipeline will be the most important vote I’ll ever cast. Every other legislator I’ve talked to feels the same.
A few legislators signed a “confidentiality agreement” that permits them to see the current state of the proposed contract, before the public sees it, and before the legislature as a whole sees it. I did not, repeat did not, sign that agreement. Therefore, at this point I don’t know anymore about the proposals that anyone else who monitors the media, or anyone else who listens to political “gossip.”
I didn’t feel comfortable participating, either directly or indirectly, in gas pipeline negotiations. I believe it’s the place of the administration, and their counterparts in the private sector, “to propose” a negotiated contract to the public, and to the state legislature as the representatives of the public.
And I do know it’s the legislature’s responsibility to dispose what is proposed, whatever it is, with a majority “yes” or “no” vote. Staying outside the negotiations, and not even having confidential knowledge of the on-going negotiations, will help me evaluate with a fresh eye – with the help of constituent and other public input – how I should vote.
When we finally see a contract (if I live long enough), I urge everyone to communicate with me on how I should vote. I cannot represent without communication to and from constituents. The “psychic network” doesn’t work very well.
I do know it will not be a “perfect” contract, for either Alaska or the producers, because there is no such thing as a perfect contract. The contract will have many plusses and minuses (depending on one’s perspective), and a change on one page could cascade into changes on other pages. I understand that the process may not have been perfect. Obviously, we must tread carefully – but not so careful as to do nothing. In both negotiations and politics, perfection can be the enemy of the possible.
I have made NO PROMISES TO ANYONE, whatsoever, as to how I’ll vote on a contract that none of us outside the negotiators has seen. I most emphatically want to vote “yes” on a gas pipeline - but that “yes” vote can only be cast if the deal makes enough sense. When the time comes, I’ll say a prayer, and I’ll do my duty.