Welcome to the latest edition of Friday in the Sun, the sometimes greatest roundup of political gossip and rumor. After a few weeks of solely being focused on our Legislator rankings, we’re getting back to good ol’ gossip today, but we’ve got you covered if you’re looking for one last round of legislator ranking content.
As always, take everything with a grain of salt and have a nice weekend.
To Conference or Concur
The Senate pulled off an impressive feat this week when it passed out its version of the operating budget on a 19-1 vote Wednesday with a floor session that ended with everyone thanking each other. It was a vast departure from the deeply bitter scene in the House.
The day got high marks from Sen. Scott Kawasaki, a recent graduate from the House to the Senate.
“I’m new, obviously, to this body. I anticipated we’d have somewhere between 100 or 300 amendments. We didn’t have that,” he said, thanking Senate President Cathy Giessel for running a tight ship with minimal at-eases and no procedural bickering.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt when the minority is the Senate Minority, which not only files fewer amendments than Rep. David Eastman but also does not contain Rep. David Eastman.
But really, at the end of the day, it turns out that paying out a $3,000 PFD while not making a bunch of draconian cuts is pretty popular—even if you don’t have a way to pay for it figured out quite yet.
That’s why there’s been plenty of talk that the House could simply concur with the Senate budget and send it off to the governor, showing a strong solidarity to the governor by… accepting the most popular part of his budget and ignoring the incredibly unpopular parts? Hmm.
Under this plan, little issues like, oh, the funding of the budget and more material differences like Medicaid funding and ferries would be hashed out in the operating budget over the next few weeks, which sounds like exactly the sort of can-kicking everyone has come to love the Legislature for.
They’d also be sending off the budget with the $12 billion permanent fund transfer but, as Sen. Bert Stedman reminded us this week, that transfer wouldn’t happen until the end of next year. Plenty of time and opportunity to get it right. We’d be a little skeptical about the Legislature’s ability to come back around and lower that number after it’s in law. It’s not like it’s a legislative ethics law.
While the whole concurrence may sound like a lot of fun and the kind of chaos everyone thrives on, we wouldn’t count on it. The latest talk seems to suggest that they’ll go with a traditional conference committee process. It seems like optimism has made way for a healthy bit of skepticism.
The House has concurrence on its agenda today, so we’ll find out soon. If they reject it, the conference committee should be appointed by Monday and we’ll be back under the nemesis of planning: the 24-hour rule.
Walkout or talkout?
Rumor was rampant this week that Rep. Tammie Wilson, the North Pole bipartisan hero of the House Finance Committee, walked out on the bipartisan coalition over a disagreement on the crime bills. As some might have expected, it didn’t ultimately amount to anything when she appeared the following morning to run the House Finance Committee.
“It’s just drama and she’s good at drama,” one insider said of the incident.
It does, however, underline the growing problem with trying to rush through crime legislation in the House. While everyone over in the Senate is singing kumbaya over the budget, the House has been busy tearing itself apart over a crime bill. The House vehicle for the crime bill is ever shifting and after multiple attempts, there’s still concern that there’s not a winning version.
With the governor itching to call a special session anyway, there’s a least a few people wondering if all the trouble is worth it. If the House does manage to find its legs and push ahead with crime, there could be something on the floor as soon as Monday.
Opposition seems to have pretty much fully hardened against Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy’s slate of constitutional amendments. While it may be politically advantageous for everyone to blame the Democrats in the House, there’s few Republicans in the Senate who are all that eager to essentially hand over a big share of the Legislature’s power.
What should be particularly concerning about the tax amendment—the one that would require all taxes passed by the Legislature to be approved by a vote and vice versa—is that, as written, it would give the Legislature a pocket veto over any voter-approved initiatives. This came up during the House State Affairs Committee meeting this week, where the administration acknowledged that all it would take for the Legislature to block a voter-approved tax would be to never take up legislation authorizing it. Ah, Democracy!
That’s the salary of the state’s new labor relations manager, the 25-year-old Jared Goecker who brings two-and-a-half years of real estate experience to the job. It also doesn’t hurt that, as Alaska Public Media’s Nat Herz highlighted, Goecker’s resume also includes working on Republican Party politics and as executive assistant to Tuckerman Babcock.
No labor relations experience? No problem.
Alaska Press Club
This past weekend marked Alaska Press Club’s annual press club in Anchorage. It was a great and, particularly for your hermit-y bloggers, a refreshing time to see what everyone else is doing around the state. While people can gripe about the decline in journalism, there are many, many dedicated people doing great work in communities around the state. It’s a good reminder, too, that there are many smaller outlets out there doing important reporting.
KYUK took home the first-place award for investigative reporting for its four-part series on policing safety and public health in Mountain Village. The Arctic Sounder’s Shady Grove Oliver took home best crime reporting for reporting an largely overlooked angle in “Alaska Native women respond to Schneider sentencing.” The students at The Northern Light took home a ton of awards, including best media website.
The Midnight Sun also took home a couple of awards, including best blog and best small-media government reporting for this story looking into the money being spent on initiatives in 2018 (there were no accolades for headline writing).
As for the site itself, we can’t help but toot our own horn with the following judges’ comments on the site: “Smartly written, informative, irreverent, humorous. Everything I want a newsroom blog to be. I wish ours was so good.”
We put out our legislative rankings last week and Rep. David Eastman was once again at the very bottom of the barrel. If there was any doubt about the ranking, Eastman brought the receipts on Thursday when he cast the solo “no” votes against Senate Bill 40, honoring Black History Month, and Senate Bill 78, establishing Katie John Day.
Here’s what Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson, the sponsor of Senate Bill 40, had to say about it according to The Associated Press:
Gray-Jackson said she watched the House floor vote and was moved to tears. Eastman, who frequently speaks on the House floor, did not speak on the bill before voting Thursday. Gray-Jackson said she was glad he didn’t speak.
“The only thing I cared about, because I knew he was going to vote no, was him getting up, talking and wasting people’s time and making people feel uncomfortable by his comments,” she said.
She said she feels sorry for him after he voted no “because he doesn’t get it.”
Legislator rankings continued
As promised, here’s the full and complete rankings of all 60 legislators compiled from more than 140 surveys taken by you dear readers. So it’s entirely scientific, completely accurate and totally impervious to popularity or brigading. (Seriously, stop taking this thing so seriously!)
|Rep. Bryce Edgmon||37-Dillingham||Ind||4.22||4.015||4.3||4.18||1|
|Sen. Bert Stedman||R-Sitka||Rep||4.2||3.675||3.965||3.95||2|
|Rep. Matt Claman||21-Anchorage||Dem||4.395||3.9||3.49||3.93||3|
|Sen. Jesse Kiehl||Q-Juneau||Dem||4.305||4.27||2.995||3.86||4|
|Sen. Cathy Giessel||N-Anchorage||Rep||4.03||3.315||4.04||3.8||5|
|Sen. Natasha von Imhof||L-Anchorage||Rep||4.19||3.275||3.83||3.77||6|
|Rep. Ivy Spohnholz||16-Anchorage||Dem||4.1||3.775||3.405||3.76||7|
|Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky||38-Bethel||Dem||4||3.665||3.35||3.67||8|
|Sen. Click Bishop||C-Fairbanks||Rep||3.565||3.97||3.455||3.66||9|
|Rep. Dan Ortiz||36-Ketchikan||Ind||3.78||3.77||3.38||3.64||10|
|Rep. Andy Josephson||17-Anchorage||Dem||4.085||3.835||2.97||3.63||11|
|Rep. Chuck Kopp||24-Anchorage||Rep-Coalition||3.575||3.75||3.575||3.63||12|
|Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins||35-Sitka||Dem||4.27||3.66||2.965||3.63||13|
|Sen. Lyman Hoffman||S-Bethel||Dem||4.01||2.73||4.15||3.63||14|
|Sen. Tom Begich||J-Anchorage||Dem||3.98||3.655||3.12||3.59||15|
|Sen. John Coghill||B-North Pole||Rep||3.64||3.61||3.465||3.57||16|
|Rep. Andi Story||34-Juneau||Dem||3.57||3.765||3.215||3.52||17|
|Rep. Neal Foster||39-Nome||Dem||3.59||3.45||3.505||3.52||18|
|Rep. Tammie Wilson||3-North Pole||Rep-Coalition||3.25||3.395||3.905||3.52||19|
|Rep. Laddie Shaw||26-Anchorage||Rep||3.53||3.905||3.055||3.5||20|
|Rep. Gary Knopp||30-Soldotna||Rep-Coalition||3.38||3.53||3.445||3.45||21|
|Rep. Jennifer Johnston||28-Anchorage||Rep-Coalition||3.765||3.345||3.225||3.45||22|
|Sen. Gary Stevens||P-Kodiak||Rep||3.645||3.69||2.965||3.43||23|
|Rep. Steve Thompson||2-Fairbanks||Rep-Coalition||3.58||3.35||3.33||3.42||24|
|Rep. Zack Fields||20-Anchorage||Dem||3.805||3.325||3.07||3.4||25|
|Rep. Harriet Drummond||18-Anchorage||Dem||3.615||3.795||2.755||3.39||26|
|Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson||I-Anchorage||Dem||3.535||3.79||2.745||3.36||27|
|Sen. Bill Wielechowski||H-Anchorage||Dem||4.045||3.485||2.54||3.36||28|
|Rep. John Lincoln||40-Kotzebue||Dem||3.51||3.35||3.23||3.36||29|
|Rep. Sara Hannan||33-Juneau||Dem||3.505||3.615||2.81||3.31||30|
|Rep. Louise Stutes||32-Kodiak||Rep-Coalition||3.38||3.205||3.315||3.3||31|
|Sen. Scott Kawasaki||A-Fairbanks||Dem||3.69||3.36||2.815||3.29||32|
|Rep. Grier Hopkins||4-Fairbanks||Dem||3.36||3.565||2.86||3.26||33|
|Sen. Donny Olson||T-Golovin||Dem||3.67||2.95||3.12||3.25||34|
|Sen. Peter Micciche||O-Soldotna||Rep||3.655||2.5||3.35||3.17||35|
|Rep. Bart LeBon||1-Fairbanks||Rep-Coalition||3.36||3.18||2.78||3.11||36|
|Sen. Mia Costello||K-Anchorage||Rep||3.235||2.835||3.015||3.03||37|
|Rep. Adam Wool||5-Fairbanks||Dem||3.28||2.84||2.925||3.02||38|
|Rep. Geran Tarr||19-Anchorage||Dem||3.355||3.085||2.505||2.98||39|
|Rep. Chris Tuck||23-Anchorage||Dem||3.065||2.865||2.96||2.96||40|
|Rep. Dave Talerico||6-Healy||Rep||2.955||3.075||2.64||2.89||41|
|Sen. Mike Shower||E-Wasilla||Rep||2.785||3.135||2.56||2.83||42|
|Sen. Chris Birch||M-Anchorage||Rep||2.93||2.7||2.655||2.76||43|
|Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux||15-Anchorage||Rep-Coalition||3.28||1.885||2.9||2.69||44|
|Sen. Shelley Hughes||F-Palmer||Rep||2.555||2.6||2.72||2.63||45|
|Rep. Kelly Merrick||14-Eagle River||Rep||2.545||2.67||2.275||2.5||46|
|Rep. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard||7-Wasilla||Rep||2.565||2.75||2.04||2.45||47|
|Rep. Mark Neuman||8-Big Lake||Rep||2.535||2.645||1.99||2.39||48|
|Rep. Lance Pruitt||27-Anchorage||Rep||2.695||1.785||2.45||2.31||49|
|Rep. Cathy Tilton||12-Wasilla||Rep||2.165||2.585||2.065||2.27||50|
|Rep. DeLena Johnson||11-Palmer||Rep||2.265||2.48||2.07||2.27||51|
|Rep. Josh Revak||25-Anchorage||Rep||2.365||2.265||2.04||2.22||52|
|Rep. Sara Rasmussen||22-Anchorage||Rep||2.085||2.435||2.025||2.18||53|
|Rep. Sharon Jackson||13-Eagle River||Rep||2.045||2.24||1.86||2.05||54|
|Rep. George Rauscher||9-Palmer||Rep||1.995||2.25||1.88||2.04||55|
|Rep. Ben Carpenter||29-Nikiski||Rep||2.015||2.19||1.72||1.98||56|
|Sen. Lora Reinbold||G-Eagle River||Rep||1.705||2.35||1.685||1.91||57|
|Rep. Sarah Vance||31-Homer||Rep||1.9||2.135||1.58||1.87||58|
|Sen. David Wilson||D-Wasilla||Rep||1.85||1.765||1.73||1.78||59|
|Rep. David Eastman||10-Wasilla||Rep||1.835||1.54||1.13||1.5||60|