The first full week of the Alaska legislative session is drawing to a close, the sun is finally setting after 4 p.m. in Fairbanks and it’s time again for our weekly stroll into the shady, unplowed and unsubstantiated alley of the Alaska political world.
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The long-rumored, pro-Mike Dunleavy independent expenditure committee “Dunleavy for Alaska” (side note: it’s a terrible, confusing name for an independent expenditure campaign) launched this week under the tutelage of Terre Gales and Bob Griffin. Last week we dispelled rumors that suggested some big, progressive, universal income-loving funder was backing Dunleavy’s campaign and in the week since we’ve heard more about where the group will be getting its dough.
We’ve been told by a few sources that “Dunleavy for Alaska” will be funded in large part by Dunleavy’s brother, who one source described as “a multi-zillionaire hedge fund guy.”
Either way, Dunleavy is definitely gathering momentum in the race for the Republican nomination for governor, but insiders tell us that he’ll have trouble if he’s planning on relying on independent expenditure campaigning to win. All those small-dollar, individual contributions do a lot to cement the legitimacy of a candidate.
Still, the window is fast-closing for any other Republican candidates to get in the race.
Smoke-free workplace worries
Who really knows what will happen with Senate Bill 63, Sen. Peter Micciche‘s smoke-free workplaces bill, at this point. Much has been said about House Rules Committee Chair Gabrielle LeDoux‘s opposition to the bill (the bill died in her House Judiciary Committee during the 29th legislative session) and she currently has a hearing scheduled for the bill on Monday night. Insiders tell us that there’s obviously more at play here and it could be the Anchorage Republican representative could be using it as leverage over the Senate. Still, it sounds like the bill will eventually make it to the House Floor a vote this session. It could pick up that indeterminate fiscal note LeDoux wanted to add in the House Judiciary Committee, which some concede could be justified.
Per diem chatter
Public discussion by legislators about cutting legislative per diem and pay has cooled this week (which is probably a relief to campaigners and spokespeople alike), but we’ve been chatting with legislators off the record about their thoughts on the plan. Here’s a few select, generally somewhat scrambled excerpts (the only way they’ll talk to us candidly) from those discussions:
- I think it’s a great idea.
- I’m in favor of getting this thing done in 90 days, I really am, but to put threats out there isn’t productive either.
- I did see a lot of new cars in the legislative parking lot this week. Probably nothing to do with the extra tax-free per diem everyone got!
- What am I supposed to do? Move out of the apartment because I can’t pay the rent?
- I’m not sure what they were thinking. (When asked about that Senate Finance Committee meeting)
- I think Senate Republicans seem really skeptical and don’t seem to think that there’s a problem, which is strange.
- There’s a lot of work to be done, but I think we can get it done on time this year. There’s more a feeling of agreement this year than there has been in recent years.
- I’m new enough to the legislature and I’ve done seven special sessions. That’s pretty ridiculous.
- Let’s be honest, the pay isn’t that great to start off with.
- Truthfully the budgets don’t change that much between 120 days and when it’s passed. It’s peoples’ intensity and passion for holding out that changes.
Legislative bowling league
The Alaska Legislative Bowling League will soon be underway (there’s still some shuffling going on in the league’s roster), but as the chief bipartisan activity in Juneau we’re already hearing some gossip (though we’ll spare you all the jokes about balls).
We heard Rep. Les Gara was out to a strong start at practice Thursday, and looks on track to repeat last year’s win for holding the highest season average score after rolling somewhere above 200. We’ve also been told that other renowned pin king Rep. Mike Chenault didn’t invite Gov. Bill Walker or Rep. Adam Wool back to his team this year. It is an election year after all, and he is running for governator.
The House Democrats welcomed John Lincoln as the new representative for House District 40, bringing an end to a winding appointment process, but it hasn’t come without additional gossip. We’re not talking about Walker’s decision to appoint someone not on the original applicant list, but have heard there might be something up with how the House is handling Lincoln’s staffing and it’s certainly raising some eyebrows around the building.
Additional appointment news
It’s sounded like Rep. George Rauscher is a shoe-in for the vacant seat left behind by Dunleavy’s resignation, but we’re hearing that might not be the case. Walker could be quietly shopping around for other applicants. If it’s true, we can’t see it going over particularly well.
Though not mentioned in the press release put out by Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley about the letter he and Sen. Lisa Murkowski sent to the feds in support of marijuana banking, Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan was also a signer. That makes Murkowski and Sullivan two of the only three Republicans (along with Sen. Rand Paul) to sign onto a letter that was signed by a who’s who of Democratic 2020 hopefuls.
The Walker campaign
There are “silly” rumors going around Juneau about Shea Siegert‘s performance as the interim campaign manager for the Walker/Mallott campaign. Folks are saying he either was fired or left on bad terms from the position, but we have been told that couldn’t be further from the truth. An insider set the record straight that Seigert had committed to work for Rep. Jason Grenn for the session, and the Walker/Mallott campaign was particularly pleased with his interim work.
Also, Walker is holding an Anchorage fundraiser tomorrow night, and we’ll note the guest list isn’t nearly as long as the fundraisers held under Siegert’s management.
What contraceptive bill?
Also at the House Republican minority news conference, KTUU reporter Rich Mauer asked legislators for their thoughts on House Bill 25, a bill that would require insurers to provide 12 months of birth control. The bill is currently in the House Rules Committee, and Democrats are renewing their push for the legislation after making the case that it’s not only good policy but would help combat domestic violence.
None of the Republicans said they were familiar with the bill.
“It’s been out for a year,” Mauer replied.
Their response summed up? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯