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September 18, 2021

Parnell Kills His Own Special Session. Blames Senate. Pouts.

Things aren’t going well for Sean Parnell.

It all started last week when he called the legislature into special session to talk about three things, the most difficult and contentious of which was oil and gas production taxes.

The governor sent his team to Juneau with a bill. For purposes of readability, we’ll refer to this bill (SB3001) as what it is metaphorically – a cow pie.

Hatching the Idea

What the governor wanted in this new “hybrid” bill was to give all kinds of breaks to big oil companies for fields that are already producing, and not so much to the little guys who would like incentives for new production. If you’re thinking that it makes no sense to “incentivize” someone for something they’re already planning to do, and not do it where it counts, you’re not alone. And, of course, this bill gave away just as much as the last one did – almost $2 billion a year in no-strings-attached money right out of our treasury.

So Sean Parnell sat in his office, channeling the spirits of BP, Exxon and Conoco, and he conjured … a cow pie. He exhaled through his mouth onto the cow pie, lovingly polished it with his sleeve so it would be nice and shiny, proudly handed it to his Revenue Commissioner Bryan Butcher, and sent him to Juneau to sell it to the Senate Resources committee.

Cow Pie for Sale – Only $2 billion!

“Isn’t it beautiful?” Bryan Butcher beamed hopefully as he placed the cow pie on the conference table.

“But it’s a cow pie,” noted Lesil McGuire. “Who wants a cow pie?”

“Where did you even GET this cow pie?” asked Bill Wielechowski.

“Don’t think of it as ‘a cow pie’,” offered Butcher. “Think of it as kind of a hybrid of grass, and digestive enzymes. Everyone loves grass, right?”

“That doesn’t look like grass to me.” Joe Paskvan rubbed his chin, and stared skeptically.

“If I wanted a darn cow pie, I sure as heck could find one cheaper than THIS,” declared Bert Stedman. You think it’s bad here, you wait until the Finance Committee gets a hold of that cow pie!”

“So, you’re asking the state to pay $167,000 an hour for a cow pie, is that correct? Because that’s my understanding,” inquired Hollis French after thoughtfully scribbling some numbers on a piece of paper.

“Explain this cow pie, Sir,” demanded Chair Paskvan with furrowed brow.

“I’d like to call on the Deputy Revenue Commissioner, Bruce Tangeman, to explain the cow pie,” Butcher said as his face got red and damp.

“Sure, I can do that,” Tangeman said confidently as Butcher began drinking water compulsively from a Styrofoam cup.

“So, who doesn’t like cows, right? We all appreciate cows. Without cows, we wouldn’t have things like milk, and leather, and hamburgers. Now, we can go away and find out exactly how this cow pie was made if you really want, but the ultimate thing to remember here is that we can work with you on the cow pie. We can maybe make it into some kind of shape other than a pie. We’re pretty open to talking about how this cow pie can best serve the state’s cow pie needs.”

“But, why does the state need a cow pie in the first place?” said Bill Wielechowski. “That’s what I’m asking.”

(a terrible pause)

“I don’t have that information with me right now…” stammered Butcher. “But I’m pretty sure I can most likely ask the cow, and get that answer to you in the next couple of days. Will that work?” Butcher tried to smile while shooing away an interested fly.

“Seriously? You’re telling us you’re going to ask the cow? Aren’t you supposed to know this already? You guys kind of look like idiots,” said McGuire. “And I hope you know that I’m telling you this for your own good, because frankly, I just feel sorry for you.”

After a couple days of this, the headlines were brutal – “Idiot Governor tries to sell cow pie to senate” blared the Anchorage Daily News. “Administration, Senators gets testy about cow pie,” said the Juneau Empire. “Um. You know this is a cow pie, right?” editorialized the News Miner.

And the governor stood in the corner with oily egg on his face.

The Governor Quits (That sounds familiar…)

And so it went, until a proclamation came from the governor, which stated that “in the public interest,” he was bringing Butcher and Company home, and they were taking the cow pie with them, thank you very much.

That’ll teach those senators. They should have been on their knees, THANKING that cow for the pie, but no. They had to be big bullies with their “questions,” and their “need to know,” and their demand for “answers.” The nerve. Well, they won’t have the Parnell administration to kick around any more. Humph.

The Scuttlebutt

So what happened, and why did the governor pull the bill? An awesome birdie in the Capitol had an explanation. Apparently Exxon has been talking to certain legislators, and trying for several days to get them to “gavel out”. It seems that Exxon (you may remember them from that Valdez thing a while back) didn’t like the way things were going, and they certainly didn’t want a bill that would give tax breaks to the smaller oil companies for new development, and not to the “Big Three” (Exxon, Conoco and BP) for large, already established legacy fields.

That’s where things were headed, and there was no indication the senate was going to blow up the session and gavel out, so the governor being a good little Conoco man, blew it up himself. And that means that the oil companies who really want incentives that will help with new exploration, and the senate who wants to incentivize people who actually need incentive, and the people of Alaska who just want a fair deal, got chucked under the bus.

And that brings us to yesterday, in which Sean Parnell also gets thrown under the very same bus for once again making a bad call, because he’s too busy doing the oil companies’ bidding, and can’t be bothered to figure stuff out. He didn’t see this one coming.

The Short, Eventful Meeting

It all happened in a meeting of the legislature that took less than half an hour. Doug Gardener, who is paid to give the legislature legal opinions, gave them one. In a nutshell, what it said was that the governor just made a giant boo-boo. What he did had never happened in the history of the state. The Constitution states that the governor can call a special session, and decide what it’s going to be about. But it doesn’t say he can just up and cancel one when the issue he wanted everyone to talk about isn’t going the way he wants. Once the legislature convenes, the bill is no longer just an idea from the governor, it actually belongs to the legislature, and the governor has no authority to pull it. Death by petulance is not an option.

If it was OK for the governor to say “oh, nevermind” to one thing, then what’s to say he couldn’t do that to everything, all of them, any time he wanted – effectively creating and killing special sessions and legislation on his own whim, and being allowed to back out of anything the legislature might do that he didn’t like, without the accountability of actually having to veto it in public.

What this means is that Sean Parnell, by withdrawing part of the agreement, ended up legally killing the whole thing. The session was done, and that was that.

The Sense of the Senate

Then the senate did something called the “sense of the senate,” which is a way for members of the senate to go on the record as supporting or opposing a particular policy or concept. The bipartisan working group (Republicans and Democrats who choose to work together) put forth their sense of the senate. Using the legal opinion given to them by Gardener, they had this to say, which summed up everything quite clearly:

The senate convened at the request of the governor in special session to consider the subjects in the governor’s proclamation dated April 16, 2012. Included in the proclamation was the subject related to oil and gas production taxes. The Senate Rules Committee by the request of the governor sponsored a bill, which was introduced for the Senate’s consideration as SB3001. SB3001 was referred to the Senate Resources Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.

The Senate Resources committee was in the process of holding hearings on SB3001, when the governor announced by way of a supplemental proclamation that he was withdrawing from his call the subject relating to oil and gas production taxes. The Senate rejects the governor’s asserted authority to withdraw the subject relating to oil and gas production taxes, and SB3001 introduced by the Senate Rules Committee by his request concerning that subject. The Senate takes the position that once the legislature convenes and introduces a bill on the subject in the governor’s special session proclamation, the governor has no authority to withdraw that subject under consideration by the legislature. The senate intended to continue to hold hearings to consider SB 3001, and the senate believes that progress was being made on the subject relating to oil and gas production taxes. Due to the governor’s sudden, unauthorized and unprecedented withdrawal of the subject of SB3001, the senate has no realistic alternative except to adjourn the third special session of the 27th Alaska Legislature in accordance with uniform rule 52, and article 2 section 10 of the Alaska Constitution sine dei.

The Minority

Only two senators voted against it – both Republicans of the senate minority. That’s the group of four Republicans (Huggins, Dyson, Coghill, and Giessel) who decided they don’t want to work with icky Democrats, or with Democrat-tolerant Republicans. They’d rather be left out of everything so they can pout, and whine, and not have power. Coghill stated that he really hadn’t had time to look at it, and didn’t understand it, but just felt pretty sure that the governor could do whatever he wanted. He then added:

“We can call ourselves into special session any time we want. All’s we need is a vote of the body to do that. So, if we want to take up the bill, we just can take up the bill by our own vote. So, if we want to continue on with the oil and gas tax, I’m in favor of that …”

In Coghill’s world, apparently, he’s expecting two-thirds of the legislature to call themselves back into special session again, so they can talk about oil and gas production taxes. Just one problem. Even if that happened, the administration won’t be there! Butcher and Co. are gone, remember? Parnell called them home. So have fun ruminating about tax legislation while you talk to an empty chair, Senator Coghill. You wouldn’t get any questions answered then either.

Senator Hollis French, who is also the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, reminded Coghill that they had gotten a legal opinion from someone whose job it is to give the senate a legal opinion. And Coghill said he respected the guy that gave the opinioin, but that he wasn’t going to vote for it anyway.

So, the sense of the senate was passed 14-2. John Coghill and Cathy Giessel looked up from polishing the governor’s boots briefly to vote no. The other two minority members weren’t present – out for more boot polish, I guess.

Then, there was a motion to adjourn. Guess how the vote went. I’ll give you a hint – 14-2.

After the session was gaveled out, there was a press availability, and that’s where the good stuff really happened. Senate President Gary Stevens (R) and Senator Joe Paskvan (D) stole the show with quotable quotes, and said some things that, frankly, made me feel kind of warm and fuzzy about our bipartisan working group – and to feel warm and fuzzy about anything in Juneau these days, is really saying something…

Press Availability – Behold the awesomeness!

“Alaskans are not quitters,” Stevens began. (Well… except for the governor, and that other governor, but I know what he means) “…and I regret having to call an end to this special session, but since the governor has removed oil tax legislation from his call, I see little option other than to bring this session to an end.”

He then went on to explain the opinion from the attorney stating that the governor had no authority to withdraw the subject once he’d handed it over to the legislature. He said he thought the Senate “had been asking important questions of the administration that were not, frankly, being answered.” He pointed out that the House had been holding hearings too, and was also learning that many questions were not given the attention from the administration that they deserved.

“Unfortunately, because of the governor’s sudden, unprecedented and unauthorized withdrawal” they would never get any answers. Stevens stated that he was disappointed in the governor’s decision to end the session and in the administration’s performance during it.

He viewed the bill as “a historic giveaway of state resources” that needed a more careful analysis. “We kept hearing, ‘Just ask the industry,” he said. “It is the governor’s job to know what’s going on.” The senate was committed to rewarding companies for doing more, not for doing what they were already planning on doing, he explained, and that the administration had “never proved that giving away $2 billion a year from the state’s treasury was good for Alaska’s budget shortfall.” Pow.

Stevens said he was offended by some of the governors comments. He said he believes that civility is important, and blaming the Senate is not productive. “We are being blamed for asking tough questions. That’s our job. Saying that anyone in the senate doesn’t believe that production is declining is simply deceptive.”

He was referring to Parnell’s snarky and factually incorrect press release that said, in part:

“There are some in the Senate who believe that Alaska’s oil production decline is a myth. This is an irresponsible disregard for the facts and Alaskans deserve much better.”

“We all know it’s in decline. We want to see more oil in the pipeline,” Stevens said, and went on to explain that what the senate wants is “expert testimony, an adequate defense of the governor’s bill, and answers to basic questions.”

So, who was Parnell talking about when he said “some in the Senate.” A certain Co-chair of Senate Resources, Joe Paskvan, that’s who. He explained exactly what he did say, and meant, which was clear to anyone watching the meeting, except some ham-handed, truth-optional wordsmith in the governor’s office.

Paskvan’s comments came at the end of an April 19 hearing in which Parnell’s top tax aides took a bruising over their inability to provide justification for tax cuts even though some of the senators’ questions were provided in advance.

Paskvan said Thursday he was referring largely to the theory that the oil-tax system put in place in 2007, which significantly raised taxes at times of high oil prices, had led to a decline in oil production. That’s the myth, Paskvan said. Oil production has been declining since 1989, including a period when taxes were extremely low.

Paskvan said he and his committee have been studying oil tax issues and declining production for more than a year. Among other issues, there’s not enough conventional, or easy flowing, oil remaining on state lands on the North Slope to reverse the decline, he said.

The governor’s comments appear desperate, Paskvan said.

“I think it borders on the unhinged,” he said.

And there you go. All that remains is for those with eyes and sense to rake the governor over the coals as he deserves.


The right wing radiobots (including Dan Sullivan’s Party Planner) have been openly hoping that the governor calls everyone in the legislature back into another special session just to punish them so they can’t campaign for re-election. Did I mention that it costs about $30,000 every day to have one of those? We spent over a quarter of a million dollars so far, so the governor could kill a special session he just didn’t like. Good to know the “fiscal conservative” self-appointed pundits put no price on petty gubernatorial revenge.

Special Session? $30,000 a day. Oil giveaway? $2 billion a year. Sweet, stupid, right wing revenge? Priceless.

So what happened to the controversial, and now stranded gas line bill? According to Stevens, there were not enough votes to move the bill out of Community and Regional Affairs. So, now it’s collateral damage.

Is it over?

Chenault, R-Nikiski, said the GOP-led House majority would meet Friday to decide whether to gavel out as well. If they decide to continue working — without any bills before them — senators would have to reconvene within three days, as required by the state Constitution.

Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, said they would handle that with a “technical session” that could include just himself and Sen. Dennis Egan, a Democrat whose hometown is Juneau.

As for Parnell, he sent a statement by email today saying that he’s “very disappointed.”

Perhaps next time, he’ll do his homework and avoid wasting everyone’s time and money. Just a thought.



21 Responses to “Parnell Kills His Own Special Session. Blames Senate. Pouts.”
  1. Polarbear says:

    Parnell fails on his largest legislative proposal for, really, the third year in a row. Reudrich is out. Ron Paul is in. Hello! Anybody at the Alaska Democratic Party listening? Knock..knock. Opportunity calling… Neighborhoods calling… Anybody home?

  2. mike from iowa says:

    For non-farm folks,the first visual delight shows you the main reason why eggs must be cleaned before you consume them. This could make a good consumer protection advertisement. Bossie in visual aid number three,is giving rwnj a good tongue-lashing. Actually it is subliminal psychology and explains why Parnell is upset and quit. He is “cowlicky” and anyone who has had a baby(Parnell is one) with colic knows how they suffer. A spoonfull of sody would sweeten his disposition and stomach nicely. Just don’t bother to tell him. Having the cowlick can unhinge anyone. ‘Cept mikey.

  3. tallimat says:

    I saw what looked like a cow pie on the lawn outside the BP building.
    Parnell must of returned it to the original owners.

  4. Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

    Nicely done! AKM you have a clear and unambiguous talent for humorous but very effective ridicule which is, at least by some estimations, a little overly generous towards your ‘beholden to constituents’ elected officials.

    In response to a few comments, I think it is pretty clear that many many elected officials have no interest at all in trying to do anything constructive unless it has direct benefits for their pocket books or electoral future. This is a critical flaw in the system of representative democracy. Until elections are refined to relatively brief periods of campaigning, funded universally from taxes alone on an equal basis, and “lobbying” (legalized bribery) is banned, all we can expect is government of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations,

    • Zyxomma says:

      Loved the illustrations in this excellently written tale. $30,000/day — that’s some per diem.

      KN, just a heads-up: I started a new thread in The Forum about Brazil, and thought you might want to post there on occasion.

      • Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

        Zyxomma – would love to but so far I have not figured out how to make my pre-cambrian laptop work on the forum. I’ll try again and see if I can come up with some new tweaks that will make a difference. If not, there may be other alternatives, like being liberated from Mato Grosso sometime in the near future, but that may be a forlorne hope or unrealistic expectation. Thanks for the tip though and feel free to communicate off line, I hereby grant AKM permission to share my email with you.


      • Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

        Zyxomma – update, for the first time I may have successfully registered for the forum, but I don’t have confirmation yet.

      • Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

        No cigar, signup sez I should get an email notice back that I have been accepted tothe forum but so far none is forthcoming.

  5. mike from iowa says:

    From the only Pulitzer Prize winning novel I ever remember reading(The Way West by A B Guthrie Jr.) ……”a heap of doings over a cow dab.” Once again-simple but effective visuals for rwnj to choke on. Great job Mudflats staff.

  6. Millie says:

    Bryan Butcher should be fired! He answered questions horribly in front of the Legislators! Too bad we can’t impeach Parnell! He’s doing a horrid job!

  7. Moose Pucky says:

    I hope everyone has a nice vacation because no one can campaign for reelection anyway due to the Supreme Court scheduling a listen to the Redistricting Board’s lame excuses for not producing a fair and legal redistricting plan yet once again on May 21, one whole week and a few days before the candidate filing deadline.

    Can the citizens of Alaska just petition the courts for no more legislative sessions for a year or two until the court appoints a non-partisan entity to give Alaskans a fair and legal redistricting plan?

    In the meantime, I’ll see you that cow pie, and raise you a moose pucky.

  8. Alaska Pi says:

    I’m sorry.
    I laughed so hard over the cowpie dealie, the whole thing seems funny now.
    I know it’s not but right now it sure seems to be.
    I’m going to go away and sober up and come back and take it seriously.
    after awhile, after some time, tomorrow or next week… maybe.

    (thank you AKM for the laugh- it’s been grim lately- I really needed that )

  9. Bigtoe says:

    Don’t his advisers ever tell him that portraying himself as a loser is not conducive to good politics? How ’bout decent policies–can’t he even imagine how much respect he could get with good policy? I’m astounded at the lack of common sense.

    But of course, if you’re driven by the almighty dollar and are willing to sacrifice you’re constituents well being for personal gain, …well then…that’s not very “christian” now is it?

    What a hypocrite—what a loser he is.

  10. AKblue says:

    With the House starting to weaken it’s support of the governor, and the Senate holding firm, it would have been a massively embarrasing failure for Parnell to lose again. The oil companies will probably think twice before supporting their ineffective employee (oops–I meant governor) for any higher office.

  11. luckycharms says:

    Awww. The governor didn’t get his way. Nobody believes him any more. Call a Waaaahmbulance! STAT!

    Didn’t take him too long to get the king complex, did it. Our last three governors have all had the same problem – massive ego and contempt for the legislature and the people that elected them.

    • leenie17 says:

      I was going to suggest that there is some kind of strange toxin in the Governor’s mansion that’s turning your governors into egotistical megalomaniacs, but then I realized it wouldn’t have affected the previous governor since she was never there! 😉

      • mike from iowa says:

        gotta be the tanning bed. People have been warned about the dangers of tanning beds. Now it is rwnjobbery that has become the plague on everyone’s house.

  12. Moose Pucky says:

    Legislators didn’t do what I want. I’m calling a special session. So there.

    Legislators still aren’t doing what I (the big oil companies) want, so I’m pulling the bill I called the special session for.


  13. AKMagpie says:

    Quitty pants pal pouts publically, pathetic… and with no clothes! For shame.

  14. David Otness says:

    The Governor has no clothes.

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