Welcome to the final edition of Friday in the Sun before legislators will gavel into the general disorder that will be the 31st Legislature. Here at The Midnight Sun, we’re gearing up for more regular coverage with a return of the AKLEG Recaps that we did pretty much every day recapping the news.
Friday in the Sun will continue in a legislature-focused manner, and we’ll keep up with the tradition of forgetting about a third of things we hear during the week. As always, use your brain.
A House without a rudder
Unless there’s a major surprise over the next few days (you never know with everyone heading out to the bars), the general expectation is the House will gavel in on Tuesday without a majority as the stalemate between the 20 party-line “Majority” Republicans, bipartisan-minded Rep. Gary Knopp and everyone else continues to drag on with no end in sight. We’re not even hearing much about behind-the-scenes talks at this point, but at least that ought to make for prime Gavel Alaska viewing if a nomination fight breaks out on the floor.
Like Trump with his demand for wall funding, it doesn’t sound like the Republicans are offering much in their bids to woo moderate Republicans or rural Democrats to bolster their numbers. It’s quite the opposite with attacks in comments and social media. That Rep. David “Pornography is a Public Health Crisis” Eastman has reportedly conditioned his vote for speaker on getting the chairmanship of the House Health and Social Services Committee probably doesn’t help either.
Of course, there’s not a heckuva lot that the House can do without a speaker: Bills can’t be assigned to committees, committees can’t even be formed, House District 13 nominee Sharon Jackson probably can’t be seated (which knocks the Republican “Majority” down to 19, so let’s call it the Republican ““Majority””), and office assignments as well as hires can’t be done without a Rules Chair.
The latest turn of the screw is that legislative staff can’t be paid if the House isn’t organized by Jan. 16. A legislative memo from HR manager Skiff Lobaugh goes so far as to warn legislative aides they shouldn’t continue to work even without pay as they’re not considered to be employees and as such don’t have the same kind of protections. Perhaps this will provide the break the House needs, but perhaps not.
It’s also not great news for the many folks who’ve been circling the building hoping to land jobs in the House. We’ve heard them described as vultures, which is becoming increasingly apt considering the House is starting to look more and more like a carcass every day.
Maybe House staffers can get in on the benefits for federal employees in the shutdown.
Representatives-turned-senators Scott Kawasaki and Chris Birch probably all have to be feeling pretty good about jumping down the hallway, even if it meant Lora Reinbold tagged along.
Who could have possibly seen this coming?!?
Of course, the HR memo isn’t the only thing this week contributing to the fast-developing headache that is the House organization.
The other being that House District 13 Sharon Jackson can likely only be seated once a speaker is elected, which means that she can’t even take part in the election of said speaker. The theory sounds like it’s becoming to be more accepted thinking down there and there’s likely a legal opinion floating around on the matter, though we have yet to get our greasy mitts on it (firstname.lastname@example.org).
What’s interesting, however, is that it doesn’t sound like this was a brand-new revelation made in the past week or two, and that if Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy and crew had thought to ask around before the decision to sweep Nancy Dahlstrom up to work in the administration there were a few Republicans familiar with the Legislature’s uniform rules who would have been able to tell them it’d be a problem.
Classic Rookie Mistake™.
But then again…
Afternoon update: As a friend of the blog adds, there’s no direct mention of the nominee confirmation process in the Legislature’s uniform rules so it’s not entirely clear where the seating of nominees needs to take place in relation to the election of a speaker. With that in mind, you could certainly make the argument that it could happen without the involvement of the speaker as long as 12 of the 22 elected Republicans approve of her appointment and communicate that to the clerks.
Appointments have taken place during the interim before.
If it’s a fight that even ends up happening, it’s probably the sort of thing that would land in the courts and then judges would be faced with the question of weighing the representation of House District 13 against the Legislature’s uniform rules that don’t explicitly forbid the action anyways.
Either way, who knows how that’ll go–or if we’ll even reach that point–as the House’s stalemate was caused by more than just this nomination.
Second pre-file release
Today marked the second release of pre-filed bills for the upcoming session and, well, there weren’t very many. Where’s all the bills?!? It’s as if half of the Legislature isn’t sure if they’ll get paid or something wild like that.
The release did, however, include House Bill 25 by Rep. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard that proposes PRIVATE POLICE ORGANIZATIONS. Private police officers would, under this proposal, be “vested by law with a duty to maintain public order or to make arrests.”
Hoo boy, we thought Rep. George “Teenagers having sex is A-OK as long as they’re married” Rauscher has some wild bills.
But don’t worry about your private police force violating the constitution or anything as House Bill 25 says they “shall” follow the constitution and law. Whew.
Maybe the entire session being a complete mess isn’t such a bad thing after all.
And then there’s the Senate
If you were hoping that at the very least the Senate would have its act together, I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath. If you’re a fan of underhanded attacks, sleights and toxic staffers from the Mat-Su Valley, then get your popcorn out.
The Alaska Landmine had a rundown of some of those questionable hires in their Sunday Landmine and we can say we’ve pretty much heard the same thing.
There’s been a fair amount of rumblings around Sen. Mike Shower’s hiring of Scott Ogan, who seems to be very concerned about false accusations during the orientation meetings. As for Ogan, who was given the boot from the Legislature for a conflict of interest in 2004, another person had this to say: “If the Legislature was able to find you had a conflict of interest, then you sure fucking had a conflict of interest.”
Plenty of those hires have social media attacks going after other legislators—Sen. Peter Micciche being a favorite target—which might explain why valley senators didn’t seem to be particularly keen on defending Senate President Cathy Giessel against claims she’s essentially a terrible, inhuman RINO (which, really?) by a constituent at a recent town hall.
Also, apparently the capitol building has a vermin problem and, no, it’s not on the third floor or down the hallway.
At least Anchorage Daily News columnist Charles Wohlforth has the wherewithal to attend Sunday morning appearances by Chief of Staff Tuckerman Babcock at Anchorage Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, which is apparently where you need to go to know what’s going on with the restoring-public-trust administration.
While the whole thing is worth a read, especially if you have any interest in the budget, the following line is worth hitting pause on for a second:
“Dunleavy will make few public appearances as governor, said his chief of staff, Tuckerman Babcock.”
But then again, who could have seen that coming after his sterling debate performances?
But then again after this week’s lawsuit challenging Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy’s “loyalty pledge” firings, perhaps Babcock’s time on the third floor will be limited. It is, after all, his gleeful comments to the Anchorage Daily News that serve as the foundation for the ACLU of Alaska’s lawsuit (TL;DR: It’s not the firing, it’s the pledge that’ll get ’em in trouble).
And if you’d argue that Babcock’s comments shouldn’t breach into the unconstitutional ground because he made them before getting on the state’s payroll, we’ve also heard from employees that questions like “Do you agree with Dunleavy’s political agenda?” are making appearances in retention meetings.
With Michael J. Dunleavy’s penchant for mimicking the early days of the Donald J. Trump administration in everything from some uniquely unqualified cabinet members and a campaign promise with an dubious payment method down to a chief of staff with a silly name, the only question is at which airport will Tuckerman be left?