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Murkowski Engages Alaska State Lawmakers in Annual Address

February 23, 2012|By Jason Lamb | Channel 2 News

JUNEAU, Alaska — U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski delivered her annual speech to the Alaska State Legislature on Thursday, but some of her most powerful comments came after her prepared remarks during a question-and-answer session with Alaska lawmakers.

Murkowski answered questions on everything from military spending and energy priorities to concerns over the prosecutorial misconduct during the trial of the late Sen. Ted Stevens.

On the latter point, brought up by Sen. Lesil McGuire (R-Anchorage), Murkowski says she's proposing a law in the U.S. Senate that would require prosecutors to turn over evidence that favors the defendant -- something that judges ruled didn't happen in the charges that faced Stevens nearly 4 years ago.

"Prosecution is supposed to be about bringing about justice, not just bringing about a conviction, but they failed in that -- and our government failed," Murkowski said.  "And it tipped the balance of power in the United States Senate."

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Regarding Alaska's energy future, Murkowski said the state can't be timid about seeking oil company investments, even if some of them may not put new oil in Alaska's pipeline for another decade.

"If we have that attitude that we can't act today because it doesn't yield immediate benefit today, we're never going to get anywhere," Murkowski said.

Murkowski also responded to concerns from Rep. Charisse Millett (R-Anchorage) that the federal government has neglected to clean up some 130 abandoned well sites last used in the early 1980s in the National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska, leaving some of them spilling diesel onto the tundra.

"Lets raise hell," Murkowski responded.  "I mean, this is just wrong -- it's just wrong."  She continued: "(The federal government) just can't handle the fact that they've turned their head to the responsibility, and yet...they won't let you walk up there without 15 permits."

Murkowski also addressed the lack ofU.S. Coast Guardpresence in Alaska's arctic, calling it an "embarassment."  She said the Obama administration's $8 million appropriation in 2013 to plan for a Coast Guard icebreaker to be stationed there, was not enough.

"$8 million?," Murkowski asked,  "Ladies and gentleman, that doesn't get you the porthole."

Murkowski also answered questions about the federal government's cost-cutting plan to move the F-16 fighter squadron from Eielson Air Force Base to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage.  Murkowski and other critical of the decision say it's one step closer to Eielson's closure, though military officials have denied that.

She pointed out that it simply costs more to keep military equipment in the state.

"If the military is going to go down this road about 'it's all about how much it costs,' we're not in a good position," Murkowski said.

She said the legislature needs to take quick action to advocate for the funding to keep the F-16's at Eielson.

"We can't wait till you guys get out of here in April, this is important." she told the legislature.

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