Friday in the Sun!!! (March 24)

Friday in the Sun is here

 

You Asked, So We Asked — The Koch brothers and their national network of Americans for Prosperity chapters made big news earlier in the week by pledging millions to hold members of Congress “accountable” in the elections if they vote for the Obamacare repeal and replace bill known as the American Health Care Act (AHCA).

Rep. Don Young   

One loyal reader of The Midnight Sun emailed us wondering what the Alaska branch of Americans for Prosperity would do if Rep. Don Young votes for the bill. I thought it was a good question, so I called Jeremy Price, State Director for Americans for Prosperity – Alaska.

Price said the local chapter has been working and phone banking against the bill for weeks.  When I asked ask Price if that national money would be used against Young in 2018, he said emphatically, “Yes…Yes… If Congressman Young does vote ‘Yes,’ then there are resources available at the national level to hold him accountable.”

Price contacted me later in the day to reiterate his position, but add that the group would be equally eager to use that money to protect Young from political attacks if he votes “No” on the bill, saying, “we’ll have his back if he votes against it, we’ll hold him accountable if he votes for it.”

The bill is now set for a vote later today. It will be interesting to see where Young finally does come down.

Jay Talking — The constituent meeting Sen. Cathy Giessel and Rep. Lance Pruitt held last week went pretty much according to script. That was because they largely didn’t allow folks in the crowd to ask questions directly, but rather had them submit potential questions to their staffers, who then put acceptable questions to the pair.

The two East Anchorage Republicans did get taken off message when asked about Permanent Fund reform. Instead of sticking to the talking points, Pruitt went off about how tired he is of hearing speculation about what former Gov. Jay Hammond would do if he were around today.

Sen. Cathy Giessel

Rep. Lance Pruitt

Pruitt said:

“I have heard Jay Hammond say a heck of a lot of things in the last couple of years. I just want to remind people Jay Hammond is dead. That may sound heartless, but we are the leaders now. Jay Hammond can’t do anything to affect anything we are doing now.

It is time to stop using Jay Hammond’s words. I appreciate Jay Hammond, I don’t want to diminish what he did. I get tired of hearing people say ‘Jay Hammond said this about the Permanent Fund;’ ‘no, no, this is what Jay Hammond said you are supposed to do about the Permanent Fund over here.’

The truth is we are living in a time right now we have to decide how we are going to be. We need to stop using Jay Hammond to make our argument on either side.”

Rather than walk back the sentiment, Giessel followed up with a definitive, “I agree, Jay Hammond is dead.”

Gay Days — Members of the LGBT community have been waiting all session for their brand new Democrat-led majority in the State House to introduce a gay rights bill, and last Friday it finally happened. Rep. Andy Josephson, Rep. Les Gara, and Rep. Geran Tarr sponsored HB 184, which adds sexual orientation, gender identity or expression” to the state’s non-discrimination code.

From folks I talk to, the bill’s passage in the House this year appears likely, but its prospects don’t look good in the Senate, where staunch social conservatives like Sen. Pete Kelly and Sen. Cathy Giessel hold power.

Given that nearly right now every big issue has someone talking about putting an initiative on the ballot if the legislature doesn’t do what they want, you’d think this issue would be ripe for such action. Also, it would seem to be an issue tailor-made to bring out progressive voters, so it would be good politics for Democrats. Perplexingly, it sounds like this is one of the few issues not being proposed for an initiative push. Sorry liberals.

Told You — Don’t think I’m right about an initiative- and referendum-happy mood in Alaska politics? Exhibit A is chatter I’m hearing that if the legislature doesn’t pass Rep. Jason Grenn’s HB 44, a conflict of interest bill, a group of Democrats will seek to craft a ballot initiative with the same language, along with some ideas to cut the length of the legislative session and end the ability of legislators to draw per diem after the regular session has ended. Those, along with a few other “good government” ideas, would make for quite the populist and almost-certain-to-pass item on the ballot, but a nasty pill for returning legislators to swallow.

ICYMI — News site Axios earlier this week posted a piece with the provocative headline “Lisa Murkowski‘s ideal health subsidy plan sounds like Obamacare.” You can read it here.

ICYMI 2 — After the meeting we told you about last week where former Sen. Mark Begich told a room full of Democrats in Denver the party needed more moderates, the Washington Post interviewed Alaska’s former junior senator on the subject. You can read the interview here.

Elections? What Elections? — Wondering why I’m not mentioning Anchorage’s Assembly elections more, considering they are less than two weeks away? Because there isn’t much interesting happening. In fact, one politico involved in the races told me yesterday they’re “desperately trying to get people to give a shit about this election.“ I think that tells you all you need to know about what’s happening and what kind of turnout to expect on April 4th.

Days Until The Next State Election592
Days Until Muni Election12

Pay Up — Interested in knowing what legislative staffers are making during this year’s session? You can check out all of their salaries here: House  Senate 

Midnight Sun On The Air!!!! Master of Morning Radio Rick Rydell (AM 650 KENI) has asked us to come on every week and share Friday in the Sun with his audience. So listen for our inside scoop every Friday morning at 7:35.

Rep. Tammie Wilson

On The Rise — It’s amazing how many of my sources in Juneau wanted to talk this week about the rise of Rep. Tammie Wilson. They all say she’s now considered by many as “the real” House Minority Leader after her high-profile effort to force the Majority to deal with her 243 budget-cutting amendments and offering her own Permanent Fund reform bill. That bill is separate from the one offered by the official “Minority Caucus,” but still attracted seven minority members as sponsors.

The caucus now appears fractured between those supporting Rep. Lance Pruitt’s version of the PFD bill and Wilson’s.

Regardless of who is perceived as more in control, it’s clear Wilson has made the most out of a session in the minority and is now viewed by everyone as a major power player among Republicans in the House.

On Site — The Alaska Republican Party has launched a new website. Party leaders are saying the new site will allow better fundraising tracking, more detailed information on party leaders and activities, and will make it easier for party members to look up their district and voting location. The site will also allow leaders in individual districts and candidates to have their own pages and calendars on the site, which party leaders hope will help with grassroots and campaign organizing. Most of all, the site will be able to aggregate all of the events into a master calendar so candidates and district leaders will be able to see what other events are planned for a given day before planning their own fundraisers and meetings.

The site will also allow leaders in individual districts and candidates to have their own pages and calendars on the site, which party leaders hope will help with grassroots and campaign organizing. Most of all, the site will be able to aggregate all of the events into a master calendar so candidates and district leaders will be able to see what other events are planned for a given day before planning their own fundraisers and meetings.

Most of all, the site will be able to aggregate all of the events into a master calendar so candidates and district leaders will be able to see what other events are planned for a given day before planning their own fundraisers and meetings.

The project looks impressive, but as someone who has rolled out new tools for GOP leaders before, I can tell you the remaining problem is how to get them to take full advantage of those tools. Republican partisans tend to like to do everything as they have always done it. 

Appointment Listening — Join the throngs of The Midnight Sun The Podcast listeners who wait eagerly for the latest episode to drop every Sunday morning. If you aren’t already addicted, you soon will be. This week Forrest Dunbar and I will be joined by former Sen. Mark Begich to discuss the fate of the Trump backed healthcare bill, the need for more moderates in the Democratic Party, Anchorage’s local races, and who might be running for Governor.

Mark Your Calendars — Maybe the best part of every legislative session is the annual tradition of skits put on by leggie staff mocking legislators. Mark your calendars and get your tickets.

Political Fly Into The Sun — If you have morsels you’d like shared in this column, please email us at mnsunak@gmail.com.

Here are just some of the other events you can find on our Political Calendar

Saturday, March 25

What: Alaska Make America Great Again March – Wasilla
Time: 10:30 AM-1:30 PM
Place: Iditapark, 500 W Nelson Ave, Wasilla
Link: Click Here

 

 

 

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