On Alaska day, lawmakers and staff met on oil and gas taxes

Anchorage Democratic Rep. Geran Tarr, co-chair of the House Resources committee, gestures during a House floor session earlier this year in Juneau. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

Wednesday was Alaska Day, a state holiday, but some lawmakers and their staff meting for an all-day crash course on oil taxes.

It’s somewhat of a habit for Alaska’s Legislature to wade into a fight over the state’s oil and gas tax system. There have been seven major changes to the tax system over the last 12 years. And each time, the issue has been bitterly divisive.

Lawmakers are gearing up to go at it again in January. But first, members of the House and Senate are trying to make sure everyone is speaking the same language.

Anchorage Democratic Rep. Geran Tarr led the oil and gas tax working group. Her office helped coordinate the meeting.

“The point is, the more everybody is on the same page, the more productive the conversations can be,” Tarr said.

To that end, they planned to hear from consultants and an advisory board made up of members of the industry, analysts and state regulators.

And the meeting was public — sort of.

It wasn’t easily accessible. There was no way to call in. The legislative information office, or LIO, was closed for the state holiday. So the meeting wasn’t streamed like others are during the legislative session.

And while the LIO technically serves at the pleasure of the Legislature and could be opened for a meeting, a spokesperson for the office said it would be uncommon to do that outside the regular legislative session.

Instead, they held the meeting at the BP Energy Center.

A staff member from Anchorage Republican Sen. Cathy Giessel’s office said about 40 legislative staffers registered to attend.

There was a webinar, but lawmakers didn’t share how to register. The meetings were recorded and will be made available for viewing at a later date.

Tarr said she didn’t think anyone would mind if members of the general public showed up, but the meeting wasn’t geared toward them.

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Rashah McChesney is a photojournalist turned radio journalist who has been telling stories in Alaska since 2012. Before joining Alaska's Energy Desk , she worked at Kenai's Peninsula Clarion and the Juneau bureau of the Associated Press. She is a graduate of Iowa State University's Greenlee Journalism School and has worked in public television, newspapers and now radio, all in the quest to become the Swiss Army knife of storytellers.