- Associated Press - Thursday, April 3, 2014

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The chair of the Legislative Council on Thursday withdrew from consideration the potential purchase of a legislative information office in downtown Anchorage.

Rep. Mike Hawker, the council’s chair, provided details on the proposal during a council meeting last month. It was seen as an alternative to a 10-year lease agreement for remodeled and expanded space, the cost of which critics have questioned.

Some senators openly expressed misgivings with the purchase option, which would have applied to the building but not to the ground and parking, or wanted more time to consider other options. Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, the council’s vice chair, said he could not say what future councils might do or what the council might even do later this year.

He told reporters the cost of doing business in downtown Anchorage is prohibitively expensive and at some point, lawmakers might need to consider alternatives. He said the goal right now was to focus on impending issues in what are scheduled to be the Legislature’s last weeks in session.

Senate President Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla, had told reporters earlier this week that he would recommend keeping the lease for at least a year, with the option to purchase. But no such option was raised or discussed at Thursday’s meeting.

Inaction on the purchase option means the lease remains in effect.

“The lease is the lease is the lease,” Hawker, R-Anchorage, told reporters. He said he would note that that was approved by the council.

Hawker has taken heat for the lease, which House Speaker Mike Chenault has called unfortunate. During a council meeting last month, Chenault, R-Nikiski, said Hawker, as chair, has done the council’s bidding - what it has asked of him. Chenault also said past councils have done Alaskans a disservice by putting off decisions.

Also on Thursday, the council agreed to move forward with $5.8 million in work this year on the aging state Capitol building. It is part of a larger plan to reinforce the building.

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