Senator Peter Micciche was back on the Kenai Peninsula over the weekend, taking advantage of the halfway point in this year’s legislative session to re-connect with constituents. Micciche held a town hall-style meeting in Homer Friday night.
Micciche’s town hall meeting in Homer proved to be quite popular, with a standing-room-only crowd filling the Cowles Council Chambers and lining the back wall for a chance to hear the senator speak.
Micciche gave about a 30-minute-long slideshow presentation, discussing some of the bills and issues that have been under discussion so far this session.
He said he went to Juneau with three top priorities in mind – responsible spending, reducing the drop in production of North Slope oil and developing a statewide energy plan that works for all Alaskans.
He pointed out that oil production funds more than 90 percent of state government and without a plan to slow the decline of oil production on the North Slope, the legislature is going to have some tough choices to make in the coming years.
Micciche stopped short of pledging support for Senate Bill 21, a proposal that would overhaul ACES, the state’s current tax regime on oil production.
"We actually evaluated other global producing areas and found that government take around 66 percent was competitive," said Micciche. "Which is interesting because that's the percentage that Jay Hammond talked about as being fair."
Micciche said that percentage would be his guiding principle as he helps to hammer out what oil tax reform looks like at the end of the legislative process.
Micciche found himself in trickier waters when he brought up Senate Bill 69, a controversial proposal that would define “medically necessary” abortions.
"As you know, I'm pro-life," said Micciche. "But I also don't believe in laws in Alaska that are going to harass someone. The law of the land was decided in Roe versus Wade."
Still, many members of the Homer audience found Micciche’s support of Senate Bill 69 unsettling.
He countered that Senate Bill 69 is not about whether the state would pay for abortions – it doesn’t – but what constitutes a “medically necessary” abortion under Medicaid rules.
During a question-and-answer session that went on for more than an hour, Micciche took tough questions from the Homer audience – on the abortion issue, his vote in favor of a recent bill on cruise ship wastewater discharge and his support of another bill that would encourage nullification of federal gun laws.
When asked about his potential support for the Pebble Mine, Micciche said he has yet to make up his mind.
"Am I willing to trade the reason why we all live here for (the mining) industry? No, I'm not," he said. "But I also don't believe in throwing unreasonable obstacles in front of industries when we're all trying to figure out if we can support what they want to do."
Micciche said proponents of the Pebble Mine deserve a chance to go through the state’s regulatory process and prove that their project would not be trading one resource for another.
Micciche’s conversation with Homer constituents was at times heated and many of his positions seemed unpopular with the crowd but he stayed and answered questions until there were none left.
Micciche held a similar town hall style meeting in Kenai Saturday before returning to Juneau. This year’s legislative session is set to gavel out April 14th.