Welcome to Friday in the Sun, where everything might be made up and the points don’t matter.
As always, take everything with a grain of salt, use your brain and, please, have a nice weekend.
First special session
The Legislature kicked off the special session on Thursday with a speedy resolution on the crime bill before taking a break for the rest of the weekend. The Senate is out ‘til 10 a.m. Monday and the House is set to be back at 3 p.m. that day.
Judging by the exodus of legislators from Juneau on Thursday afternoon flights, the Legislature still has quite a way to go to settle the size of the dividend and there’s not really even a path to a resolution at this point. There are factions behind pretty much any amount, but none seem to have enough support to get their number through both chambers.
At this point, it honestly seems like a debate about how much they’ll take out of the earnings reserve account as an unstructured draw. At the 121-day news conference, Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy was unconcerned about making an extra draw from the earnings reserve as long as it went to the dividend.
Of course, such a draw puts the future of the account at risk—particularly if there are down market years in the near future—and would mean legislators would be breaking the rules for making draws out of the account just a year after they approved them. But, hey, that’s the Alaska way, right?
We’ve heard talk that the operating budget might get moved along on Monday or soon thereafter, leaving the dividend to be taken up separately.
That’s pretty much been the plan so far, but with the Legislature limited to what it can act on during the special session the dividend will likely make an appearance in the capital budget, which is currently in the House Finance Committee and open to amendments.
The House Finance Committee has already published its schedule for the upcoming week with daily double meetings every day. The agendas for the 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. meetings all include the capital budget and House Bill 1001, which is the governor’s “Forward funding of education is unconstitutional—but not my forward funding of PFDs bill” bill.
Suffice it to say, don’t expect every one of those meetings to take place and certainly don’t expect a whole lot of action on House Bill 1001. The Legislature is still just as uninterested in the governor’s attempt to box in the Legislature’s power of appropriation as it was during the height of the red pen frenzy.
The crime bill vote is expected Monday pending the drafting of the bill and updated fiscal notes. There’s been some chatter, however, that it may take longer than initially expected to draft the legislation in order to prevent any drafting errors like the kind that Jeff Landfield has been pointing out with how the House bill actually did repeal the controversial marriage as a defense of rape in the crime bill due to a drafting error.
1/2 So House Republicans and the Gov. are very angry and saying the House Majority voted to leave marriage as a defense of rape in the crime bill. One problem, the bill the House passed actually repealed that language. Did any of them bother to actually read the bill? #akleg pic.twitter.com/tPr17NWiWj
— The Alaska Landmine (@alaskalandmine) May 15, 2019
There could also be a delay in the updating of fiscal notes because, after all, you need a bill to write a fiscal note. It will be interesting to see where the cost lands. The compromise is a slightly blunted version of the Senate version of House Bill 49, which would have cost nearly $60 million a year once fully implemented.
That’s how many bills passed the Legislature this session, a record low since the Legislature went to the 90-day session in 2007. Other years’ counts include special sessions held in a given year, so this year is on track to at least tie 2017’s low with the eventual passage of the operating budget, the crime bill, the mental health operating budget and the capital budget.
Some of the notable bills from this session include: House Bill 14, which aims at closing the Schneider loopholes; House Bill 126 establishing November as Alaska Native Heritage Month; and Senate Bill 40 establishing February as Black History Month.
Also, what do all three of those bills have in common? Lone “no” votes cast by none other than Rep. David Eastman because of course. At this point, it almost feels pointless to point out the latest ways The Midnight Sun’s two-time worst-rated legislator is earning his third bottom-of-the-barrel ranking.
But then Eastman goes and introduces a bill on the heels of Alabama’s sweeping abortion ban with his very own that would make abortion a felony in all cases. It would make sweeping rewrites to Alaska law, changing all references to “unborn children” to “preborn children” and grant them full state residency.
It hasn’t gotten a lot of local media attention so far, mostly because it was introduced at the end of the session and the special session is only limited to what’s on the call. Also, it’s Eastman, who has little support even from the own members of his caucus on just about anything.
Among Eastman’s other last-minute filings this year include a resolution calling pornography a public health crisis, a work requirement for food stamps and a variety of PFD bills.
Still, don’t let the Eastman-ness lead you to believe that anti-abortion legislation has no chance in the Legislature. The Senate is very much anti-abortion with Sen. John Coghill as its Rules Committee chair and Sen. Cathy Giessel as Senate President. There’s certainly a world where anti-abortion legislation could gain traction in the Senate.
The House is far less clear. There’s still a majority of Republicans over there, and it’s there that the House included anti-abortion language in its budget (which survived the conference committee, by the way).
Still, there are opponents to anti-abortion legislation in key positions in the House. Namely, you have Reps. Ivy Spohnholz and Tiffany Zulkosky at the head of the House Health and Social Services Committee and Rep. Matt Claman, who’s regularly sponsored legislation that would require insurance companies to cover 12-months of birth control at a time.
Spohnholz told the Associated Press that she has no intention of hearing the bill, adding she has “no interest in making it illegal for women to get an important health care procedure.”
Over the protests of the pro-alcohol industry legislators, the House added in a provision that would grant Juneau’s Eaglecrest Ski Resort an alcohol license for its bar. It would join the Alaska State Fair and Juneau’s Taku Lanes as getting grandfathered in under the law.
The one organization to lose out, though, is the Chickenstock Music Festival. Word is there was supposed to be an amendment to rescue the event’s music license, but something happened and it was never offered.
Blue Loon burns
Speaking of places that serve alcohol, Fairbanks Rep. Adam Wool’s Blue Loon was heavily damaged by a fire on Thursday. Wool is no longer the owner of the venue, having sold it less than a week prior.
The place was peak Fairbanks and home to many a progressive gathering in recent years.
It’s a loss for the Fairbanks area.
With the slog that was the 2018 elections and the “fun” that has been the 2019 legislative session, you might be surprised to find out that we haven’t put a whole lot of thought to the 2020 election where dear ol’ U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan will be up on the ballot. Who’s going to run? Is he vulnerable? All the sorts of exciting speculation to make 18 months out.
Well, we had that answered for us this week when Dr. Al Gross announced the formation of a 2020 exploratory committee. Nathaniel Markowitz is running the campaign, and the group just announced a statewide listening tour that is decidedly coastal. Additional road system stops are in the works.
We presume the leading question on Alaskans minds will be: “Who?”
But jokes aside, we hear that his roll out this week in Petersburg went really well with a broad political spectrum in attendance ranging from, as one source says, “everyone from Greenpeace hippies to people in MAGA hats.”
Here’s the stops:
|MAY 17: Coffman Cove
MAY 18: Thorne Bay
MAY 20: Juneau
|MAY 24: Ketchikan
MAY 27: Prince of Wales
MAY 29: Ketchikan
MAY 30: Meyers Chuck
MAY 31: Metlakatla
|JUNE 1: Point Baker
JUNE 2: Port Protection
JUNE 3: Petersburg
JUNE 4: Sitka
JUNE 8: King Salmon
|JUNE 9: Naknek
JUNE 11: Bristol Bay
JUNE 16-18: Lynn Canal
JUNE 17: Kenai
JUNE 20: Nikiski
And it sounds like Alyse Galvin is getting back in the game with another possible bid against U.S. Rep. Don Young. Galvin’s been active since her loss last fall, continuing work with Great Alaska Schools and sounding off here and there about other issues.
She recently cut a video calling for action against anti-abortion legislation everywhere.
Word is Ship Creek Group’s Allie Banwell will be joining Galvin after a short stint with the Gross campaign.
Also speaking of Ship Creek Group, we hear that John-Henry Heckendorn is moving down to San Francisco to work at Airbnb, the famed landing spot of many a young progressive.
Of course, federal races aren’t the only ones beginning to take shape.
The rumblings are that Sen. Natasha von Imhof may not run for reelection. In that case, Rep. Chuck Kopp would be the likely successor to the seat.
Senate President Cathy Giessel isn’t rumored to be considering retiring anytime soon, but there’s been chatter that Rep. Lance Pruitt is considering forcing the issue with a primary challenge. If that’s really the case, she might even get the support of 2016 independent challenger Vince Beltrami.
And checking with APOC letter of intent reports, there are a few people with the paperwork already in place to start campaign work. Lyn Franks, the Democrat who ran against Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, has filed a letter of intent. Ron Gillham, who nearly unseated Sen. Peter Micciche in the Republican primary, has also filed, along with former state Rep. Kelly Wolf. Both are expected to challenge Rep. Gary Knopp in the Republican primary.
Republican Kevin McKinley, who lost to Rep. Adam Wool in 2018, has also filed a letter of intent.
‘Ugly and dumb’
“They tell each other that they look good and they’re really smart, and so sometimes they need to get back out to the public, where the public can tell them they’re still as ugly and dumb as they were before,” is what Rep. Lance Pruitt told reporters about the possibility of a special session on the road system.
With that kind of charm, we’re still baffled as to why he couldn’t pull together a majority.
The House Majority’s spokesman Austin Baird also wasn’t keen on letting the whole thing slide.
ADN + ProPublica
The Anchorage Daily News unveiled the first in its series with investigative nonprofit ProPublica this week with an in-depth investigation into public safety in rural Alaska. The takeaways are alarming: More than 70 communities in Alaska have no local police protection and that budget cuts are exacerbating long-running challenges to provide public safety throughout Alaska.
It’s the most comprehensive look at how Alaska is failing to make rural Alaska safe and worth everyone’s time to read. We look forward to whatever is next for the reporting team.
Tiny Desk Concert Winner
Finally, we want to say congratulations to Anchorage’s Quinn Christopherson. He’s the winner of this year’s NPR Tiny Desk Contest with the fantastic “Erase Me.”
Here’s what NPR had to say about the work: “Quinn’s entry astounded our judge panel from start to finish. His powerful song ‘Erase Me’ is a nuanced take on his experience as a transgender man coming to terms with the power of his voice. Standing in front of a majestic painting of Denali, Quinn and his bandmate, Nick Carpenter, created their own work of art.”
We wholeheartedly agree. Congratulations.