The 28th day of the 2018 regular legislative session is in the books. The House is back down to 39 members, the Senate is still at 19, Two Rivers musher Allen Moore has won the 2018 Yukon Quest and the NBC Olympic coverage of Alaska’s cross country skiers is just terrible. Here’s what happened and what to look forward to.
Just 62 days to go (and 30 days for Walker to pick his own replacement for House District 38).
Senate tables anti-fed, pro-pot motion
Senate Minority Leader Berta Gardner wants the Senate to take a stand against the recent action by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to roll back the protections for states that have legalized recreational marijuana, but Senate Republicans tabled the motion before it could even be discussed. The motion would have called for a Sense of the Senate, which is effectively a strongly worded letter from the Senate as a whole, that would have said “the Senate believes the decision is federal overreach that infringes upon states’ rights, violates the will of the Alaskan voters and damages a promising young industry.”
“You don’t have to be a supporter of marijuana, you need not have voted for the initiative, but we are supporters of local businesses and entrepreneurship and we need to stand up for Alaskans and our own right to regulate marijuana,” Gardner said during a special order after the motion was tabled.
The motion wasn’t officially killed, but instead tabled to be taken up by March 7 through a motion by Senate Majority Leader Peter Micciche. It’s not entirely surprising that Senate leadership would feel uncomfortable with a pro-marijuana motion like this. Senate President Pete Kelly has taken one of the hardest lines against marijuana of any legislator, putting forward an amendment in the 2015 session that would have made marijuana concentrates, a key ingredient for edibles, illegal as soon as the constitutional protection for the ballot measure expired. Still, Kelly said on the floor that he plans to bring up the motion before Feb. 19. Gardner seemed skeptical.
Here’s the full Sense of the Senate.
‘I don’t know of any educators that are looking for an increase’
In the ongoing battle to set the record straight about just what was or wasn’t in the education budget passed by the House, the Senate Majority wanted to emphatically set the record straight during its news conference on Monday. There, Senate President Pete Kelly accused the media of getting it wrong on the budget (though more headlines than not looked like the Juneau Empire’s “Alaska House approves schools budget — but not a way to pay for it“) because, surprise, the budget doesn’t contain any mechanism other than the failed $1.2 billion constitutional budget reserve vote. But when asked if the Senate is going to fix it, put the money back in and send it over to the House, the Senate Majority seemed a whole lot less firm about their plans.
“I’m not going to say at this point, education community pop the champagne cork because the Senate has the bill and can fix it,” Kelly said. “Two weeks, three weeks were wasted. The ability to early fund is now in question based on the fact that they didn’t fund it.”
Regardless of who’s to blame, it’s clear that education and education funding is not going to be settled as easily as everyone had hoped. The news conference was also going on at the same time the House Education Committee was hearing from students and educators about increasing the base student allocation, which made an interesting backdrop for this statement by Senate Majority Leader Peter Micciche:
“I think their desire is to avoid late funding that impacts them,” he said. “I don’t know of any educators that are looking for an increase.”
And the House is back to 39
Rep. Zach Fansler is officially no longer a member of the Alaska Legislature. His resignation was effective on Monday, meaning he came off the legislative roster at midnight. He’s out over allegations that he assaulted a woman. Criminal charges have yet to be filed against him.
Three bills bumped to Wednesday
Three bills–one in the Senate and two in the House–were scheduled for Monday in second reading, but will be taken up on Wednesday instead. Senate Bill 37 by Sen. Cathy Giessel deals with the licensing of wholesale drug distributors and institutes tougher standards. House Bill 215 by the House Finance Committee would allow the Department of Health and Social Services charge fees on things like training, expert consultation, inspections and certifications. According to fiscal notes, the bill would generate about $600,000 in additional revenue per year and coincide with a $200,000 reduction in undesigated general fund spending. House Bill 214 by Rep. Harriet Drummond would officially bring much of Alaska’s dating violence and abuse programs under the umbrella of “Bree’s Law,” in the memory of 20-year-old Alaskan Bree Moore who was murdered in 2014 by her boyfriend.
And one passed
The Senate passed Senate Bill 126, which would allow team doctors from Outside to legally treat their teams while visiting Alaska. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Anna MacKinnon. The Alaska State Medical Association supports the change, according to the Juneau Empire.
House Finance Committee room to be dedicated
House Finance Committee room will be officially named after the late state legislator Al Adams at an event at 4 p.m. today in the chambers.
House Bill 6
Rep. George Rauscher’s House Bill 6 has been in the Rules Committee since the end of last year, and Rep. Dan Saddler and other colleagues in the House would like it very much to head to the floor for a vote. Saddler used his special order on Monday to ask that the bill get a vote, and House Minority Leader Charisse Millett used her birthday special order to also ask that the bill get a vote. House Bill 6 would establish the Jonesville Public Use Area in the Sutton/Jonesville area, and is a long standing issue for Rauscher. The bill wouldn’t cost the state anything, according to the bill’s fiscal notes. It’s been in the House Rules Committee since May 17, 2017.
What we’re reading
- Shelves have been pretty bare at grocery stores in Alaska this week. (Fairbanks was out of chocolate milk last week!) Keeping shelves stocked is tricky business and one delayed shipment can cause big headaches for grocers and shoppers alike. Read: How one cargo ship delay sends ripples through Alaska’s food supply chain via Anchorage Daily News.
- There’s more than 150,000 pounds of human poop buried all over Denali, according to a conservative estimate by the U.S. Parks Service. It has the feds rethinking poop hauling rules for climbing North America’s highest peak. Read: Denali National Park plans to adjust poop haul-out rules via Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
- Two Rivers musher Allen Moore pulled into Whitehorse, Yukon this morning to win the 2018 Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race with 14 dogs on the gangline. Read: Two Rivers’ Allen Moore wins 2018 Yukon Quest via Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.