AKLEG Recap, Day 16: House swears in Rep. Lincoln

Rep. John Lincoln shakes hands with House Speaker Bryce Edgmon after being sworn in on Jan 31, 2017. (Photo by House Majority Coalition press)

There were plenty of committee meetings going on in the Alaska Legislature on Wednesday, but the news was dominated by disciplinary action of two Wasilla Republicans. The House also is back to 40 members, at least for now.

Just 74 days (and 277 days until the November elections) to go.

Rep. John Lincoln

Kotzebue Rep. John Lincoln became the newest member of the Alaska House when he was sworn in on Wednesday, making the House whole for the time being.

The swearing in ceremony took place nearly 45 minutes after the House gaveled in thanks to a particularly long list of guest introductions, which included Lincoln’s friends and family. Before finally bringing in Lincoln for the swearing in, House Speaker Bryce Edgmon joked that Lincoln might be having second thoughts.

Eastman gets the boot

Rep. David Eastman has been removed from the Legislative Ethics Committee on a 31-6 vote. The committee found Eastman violated ethics rules by disclosing a confidential complaint, and recommended Eastman be removed from the committee in a report dated Jan. 12, 2018.

“The committee recognizes the importance of confidentiality in the complaint process. Confidentiality is essential to assure the trust and respect of the people in the fairness of the complaint process under the Legislative Ethics Act,” explained the report. “The integrity of the committee depends on the members of the committee upholding the provisions of the Legislative Ethics Act and avoiding improper conduct such as an unwarranted disclosure of a complaint during the confidential stages of the complaint process.”

Eastman opposed the vote on the floor, garnering the sympathy of five other Republican representatives (Chenault, Neuman, Rauscher, Sullivan-Leonard and Tilton). Eastman said he wanted a formal hearing and that kicking him off the committee was premature.

Letter of responsibility

Sen. David Wilson’s December news conference where he cleared himself of wrongdoing with a female legislative aide (who never claimed wrongdoing in the first place) and called for the resignation of her boss was found to be a “very serious case of retaliation” the day after the press conference. It took the Senate until yesterday to release the report.

The Associated Press asked about the disparity in timing, and this was the explanation:

Senate Majority press secretary Daniel McDonald said the report was not released at the Dec. 12 Senate Rules Committee meeting because there hadn’t been enough time to review the findings and discuss potential options.

Part of the discipline was writing a “letter of responsibility” to the legislative aide, which would explain why it doesn’t read like an apology.

Former Senate Minority spokeswoman Jeanne Devon has some suggestions on how to spruce up the letter on The Mudflats: Epic Non-Apology for ‘Serious Retaliation’ from Wasilla Senator.

Senate Finance learns about Medicaid

The Senate Finance Committee has spent much of the session so far demanding answers about an additional $100 million of Medicaid spending in the administration’s supplemental budget, suggesting that the Legislature might just not fund it to send a message. (We’ll point out, again, that Legislative Finance Division Director David Teal said this is essentially all because the Legislature intentionally underfunded it last year). Anyways, Wednesday featured a hearing with the Department of Health and Social Services to get some answers on the state’s Medicaid spending.

There were a lot of questions that seemed to suggest the committee is considering Medicaid work requirements, capping Medicaid spending and tightening the eligibility requirements, and featured quotes like: “We want children to be healthy, but… ” and “Medicaid is an open pit, I mean that with all respect. It’s a black hole, maybe that’s better.”

The committee seemed surprised to find out that there are, in fact, work requirements for adults receiving help from the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which has a big overlap with the Medicaid population, and that 8 in 10 Medicaid recipients live in working households. It appears that it’s news to the Senate–which has regularly opposed any kind of progressive income taxes while supporting a cut to the permanent fund dividend to fund state government–that having a job doesn’t guarantee you’ll have health insurance.

Still no answer from Fansler

The House still hasn’t heard back from Rep. Zach Fansler on calls to resign. Charges have yet to be filed.

Meeting TBA

The House Rules Committee is scheduled to meet at some point today. It’s the rescheduled meeting that was planned for Monday on the smoke-free workplace bill Senate Bill 63. Finally.

What we’re reading

Ohio Republicans are pushing Trump to change Denali’s name back to Mt. McKinley. Trump said via Tweet in 2015 that the change was a “great insult to Ohio” and he would change it back (he almost immediately dropped those plans once in office). Read: Ohio GOP lawmakers want to make Denali great again. ‘Call it McKinley again.’ via DermotCole.com.

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