The “Blue Wave” swept through Anchorage last night with big (likely) wins for progressive candidates and causes, and there’s already plenty of speculation about how Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s 21.73-point lead over the GOP-backed candidate might translate to this year’s legislative races. But that’s all months away.
Back in Juneau, the Legislature is continuing to grind through personal legislation and work on the capital budget is starting to take shape. Here’s what happened and what to look forward to.
12 days left (and four to Wrestlemania!)
Kelly’s contraceptive study advances
Senate President Pete Kelly’s Senate Bill 198 advanced from the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday. The bill directs the University of Alaska Anchorage to conduct a study on the effectiveness of providing long-term contraception to women with suffer from substance abuse and are at risk for unintended pregnancies. It’s part of Kelly’s ongoing efforts to combat fetal alcohol spectrum disorder though the bill is not specifically targeting FASD, but the impacts of substance abuse on babies in the womb.
There’s pretty broad support for the measure, but there’s warnings about it potentially coercing women into making decisions about their contraceptives without fully informed consent.
The study will cost the state $500,100 in undesignated general fund spending spread out over three years. That amount also happens to be roughly what Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, inserted into the operating budget to study the benefits of broader vitamin D education and awareness programs.
The fiscal note wasn’t attached to the bill as it moved from the committee (which is why it’s not online currently). Sen. Anna MacKinnon, R-Anchorage, explained that some work on the wording was still needed and mentioned there could be a change in fund source.
LeDoux in leadership?
Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, is still in the good graces of the House Majority Coalition after casting a vote against the operating budget earlier this week, a break that would typically boot a member from a caucus but the House Majority Coalition is not a binding caucus.
Reporters asked why she’s still part of the caucus, noting that they understood it being non-binding for rank-and-file members but wondered if the majority would want a little more unity out of its leadership. House Speaker Bryce Edgmon had this to say:
“I’ll be very frank. I was disappointed by her vote against the budget yesterday, but in her defense she’s been very clear and open about her intentions. That did not catch us by surprise,” he said. “Looking forward, we’re working hard to keep our caucus together. We’ve been a real strong unit, she’s a part of the caucus and I expect her to be a part of the team moving forward.”
Packed House floor
There are a grand total of 11 items on the House floor today, making for one of the longest floor schedules we’ve seen this session.
There’s a few notable items on the agenda, including Rep. George Rauscher’s House Bill 6. House Bill 6 is the bill designating the Jonesville public use area in Sutton, a long-held priority for Rauscher that’s sat in the House Rules Committee since last year. His fellow minority House Republicans have pushed for the measure to be heard to no avail. The Senate has actually already passed its own version of House Bill 6 last week as Sen. Mike Shower’s first bill.
Here’s a full list of the legislation on the floor. (All items could be bumped, but the House Majority Coalition can bring debate and a vote on any item in third reading.)
- HB 6 Jonesville public use area
- HB 38 Workers’ compensation: death benefits
- HB 267 Release of hunting and fishing records to municipalities
- HB 318 Extend the Board of Social Work Examiners
- HB 323 Extend the Board of Pharmacy
- HB 342 Land sale practices
- HB 25 Insurance coverage for contraceptives (in third reading)
- HJR 17 Hmong veterans military burial rights
- HJR 33 Develop Arctic infrastructure and defense
- HCR 2 Respond to adverse childhood experiences
- SCR 15 March 27, 2018: Alaska Education and Sharing Day
House Bill 75 vanishes
After weeks of interest and hearings on House Bill 75, the bill to implement gun violence protective orders, the bill has vanished from the schedule of the House Judiciary Committee. The Anchorage Daily News checked in on the change of heart and, surprise, it turns out the NRA is involved. Judiciary chair Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, is continuing to push for the bill but with five Republicans between minority and majority members to just two Democrats, it’s not looking good.
Bipartisan bill sponsorship
The House (thank you to everyone who quickly grabbed a screenshot of the earlier typo and sent me a message about it) Finance Committee heard House Bill 41 by Rep. Les Gara on Wednesday. The legislation would allow additional co-prime sponsors to sign on when a bill is introduced. Current rules limit co-prime sponsorship of bills to a narrow window at the start of session.
The committee was generally supportive of the measure across the board with members saying it’d be a way for majority and minority members to work together on a bill with both legislators holding ownership of the bill. Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, had a point when he sponsorship is largely inside baseball, but in my experience as a local newspaper reporter the direct ownership of legislation is a meaningful thing that constituents care about.
Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, offered a few friendly amendments to the bill that were accepted without opposition. One amendment struck the phrase bipartisan from the bill out of concern it overly focused on relationships between Republicans and Democrats to the expense of independents, and another amendment removed the limit on the number of co-prime sponsors a bill can have.
The bill is now in the House Rules Committee.