Sen. Dan Sullivan urges Alaskans to seize economic opportunities

Published: Feb. 26, 2018 at 8:17 AM AKST
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U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan joined in the economic optimism,

, in his annual address Monday to the Alaska Legislature.

Sullivan said Alaskans have special reasons to seize the moment – the plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is newly opened to exploration, a natural gas line project is moving forward that could ship exports to China and reduce the effects of global warming, and Alaskans sit in key positions in the Trump administration or are awaiting confirmation.

Those economic stars may not be aligned forever – a shift of control of the U.S. House or Senate after the November elections could dramatically change the situation for Alaska, Sullivan warned.

"Elections have consequences," he said.

Sullivan, a former Alaska attorney general and natural resources commissioner, spoke at a joint House-Senate session set in the House chambers, crammed with nearly the full complement of 60 legislators. The addresses are annual rites of the Legislature.

In his "big picture" address, Sullivan described going back in history to find major moments for Alaska. Not since 1969, he said, when Alaskans gasped over the hundreds of millions of dollars offered for state leases in Prudhoe Bay, has Alaska’s future looked so bright.

"I’m optimistic – in fact, I’m very optimistic," Sullivan, a first-term Republican, told Legislators.

Meeting with reporters after his address, Sullivan said the similar themes sounded by he and Murkowski occurred without coordination.

"It’s not a sense of false optimism," he said.

But as a lawmaker in Washington, Sullivan also had national issues to address, including the mass shooting at a high school in Florida last week that left 17 people dead.

Sullivan said he was concerned about violent influences on society from video games and movies, and he urged research into the subject.

"When I say we should study the issue of school violence, I think we should study it broadly, which includes: Are we poisoning the minds of our children by having them watch movies and video games that glorify killing people? Just turn on any movie – those didn’t exist 20 or 30 years ago. Turn on any video game."

But Sullivan said he also accepted the idea that science could also provide answers about guns – though he said he was unaware of the so-called "Dickey Amendment," the NRA-backed rule which has effectively barred federal research into gun violence since the mid-1990s.

In talking about video-game and movie violence, Sullivan said several times that he hoped he wasn’t having a "Tipper Gore moment," a reference to the wife of Vice President Al Gore who questioned the effects of strong language in music.

Sullivan also said that disputes between the United States and China shouldn’t reduce the opportunities for Chinese investment in a gas line. But, he added, Alaskans need to be tough negotiators so the state doesn’t end up like Africa where Chinese have invested heavily – and where construction jobs have gone to Chinese nationals.The live stream of the event was provided by 360North Gavel to Gavel: