Welcome to Friday in the Sun, the latest and sometimes greatest round-up of political rumor, gossip and junk.
With the sun shining, the dogs restless and life too short, it’ll be a short one this week. We’ll see you on Tuesday.
As always, wear a helmet on a bike and a life jacket if you’re on the water.
Never ever enough
The Legislature will wrap up its first full week of the special session today. The House has been busy this week, having passed the crime bill, publicly shamed the governor over his invented constitutional crisis of forward funding education, turned the page to what’s next on crime and introduced a new proposal on the PFD.
The Senate… well the Senate had a single hearing on the governor’s education bill and has been in technical sessions otherwise. We expect they’ll take up the crime bill sometime next week, likely in conjunction with the operating budget.
All in all, it’s been one of the busier special sessions given that at least there were some hearings (even though our readers have been spotting a lot of legislators hanging around Anchorage this week). Senate President Cathy Giessel told reporters on Thursday that there’s still work going on behind the scenes with the governor to reach an agreement on the budget and the dividend.
Still, it’s almost as if Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy didn’t learn a whole heckuva lot during his time in the Senate—where, because this bears reminding, he never passed a bill while being in the majority with a seat on the Senate Finance Committee—because he sent out a very helpful email accusing the Legislature of sitting on its ass this week.
It might play well to the base, but whatever strategy there is in this beyond getting through the day and owning the libs (as well as moderate Republicans and conservative Senate Republicans) is lost on legislators.
Same goes for the minority Republicans’ ham-fisted attempt to shame Republicans with Radiohead’s “Everything in Its Right Place.” The video has since been taken down by YouTube, but Facebook doesn’t seem to care quite as much as copyright infringement.
Especially when the angry, threatening emails and calls have an uncanny similarity with each other (check out the hearing on House Bill 1005), it seems legislators are about as likely to take them seriously as Dunleavy is with all the not-Real Alaskan™ testimony the House heard on its roadshow.
Still, we suppose it’s the sort of statement you’d make if you’re just waiting to end the special session early and call another one with all the Real Alaskans™ out in the Mat-Su Valley.
One political observer noted that the public testimony on House Bill 1005, which would pay out one last full dividend and require that future ones be reduced, was just about the nasty they’ve ever heard.
I half-jokingly asked on Twitter if the special session is held in Mat-Su if there would need to increased security. I’ve since heard that’s actively being discussed if a session is called there. After hearing that testimony, it’s hard to blame them.
A lot of the vitriol focused in on Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole. She’s the co-chair of the House Finance Committee and was the force behind House Bill 1005. Not only did the governor’s text message line send out alerts to have people call in, but it also sent out an alert naming Wilson directly.
Wilson is no stranger to whipping up meeting, specifically when it comes to air quality. Your humble editor was a witness to quite a few of them while working up in Fairbanks, but it’s gotta be different to be on the receiving end of it for once.
It’s hard to say whether any of this would make Wilson, who’s stubborn, tough and unlikely to take shit from anyone, alter course. Remember, she reportedly booted Chief of Staff Tuckerman Babcock from her office when he was talking down to her and spoke out about the treatment she received from Bill Stoltze. Tammie Tough.
That’s allegedly what one senator called Dear Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy in a conversation with a testifier this week. The testifier tantalizingly told the House Finance Committee that a senator had called the governor a seven-letter word, but didn’t elaborate on it until the third round in front of legislators. We would’ve guessed A-S-S-H-O-L-E, another politico suggested D-U-L-L-A-R-D.
Where things stand
From what we understand, the House has the votes to pass out an operating budget with a reduced dividend. That’s not sounding like it’s the case for the Senate, though, which still has the votes for a dividend… just not the amount.
There’s real interest in the House for putting more money into substance abuse treatment through the capital budget, but it’s unclear if there’s traction for such a move in the Senate or with the governor. We guess it’s the “War on Criminals,” after all, and not the “War on Crime.”
There’s zero interest to back down to the governor over education funding. Legislators this week made it clear they’re willing to settle the issue in court. What’s interesting, though, is the administration’s plans to withhold education funding until a hypothetical lawsuit is resolved because the courts have weighed in that move. Spoiler warning: The governor doesn’t have the power of appropriation.
Of course, without an operating budget, state employees will soon have another round of layoff warnings to look forward to. The administration has been tight-lipped on this in an interview with KTOO, but the warnings are required under union contracts and they’re coming soon.
Last year, the first round of layoff notices went out at the end of May.
With the earliest possible time the operating budget could be sent off by the Legislature being Tuesday, that’s the maximum per diem legislators will have missed out on thanks to last year’s House Bill 44. That legislation cut off per diem for legislators if they failed to pass a fully funded operating budget by the end of the 121-day session.
So, 57 legislators (the three in Juneau aren’t eligible) x the $302 per diem rate x 13 days. Add another day and an additional $17,214 to the total if the Legislature lets the 24-hour rule for operating budget reports stand.
Of course, not all legislators would be eligible to collect per diem during the session and not all who are eligible could, but hey! Fiscal responsibility or something!
Speaking of House Bill 44 author former Rep. Jason Grenn, he announced this week that he’s heading off to a new job with the United Way of Anchorage as its senior director of communications and marketing.
When we talked to him last week about House Bill 44’s per diem provisions kicking in, he said he does not miss session.
‘I’m not going to let this stop me’
KSRM reporter Jennifer Williams was assaulted this week while covering the #StopTheBan rally in Soldotna because that’s apparently what happens in 2019 now.
She returned to Twitter the following day with this update.
“Don’t let this deter you from standing there and voicing your opinion and just be a good human,” she said. “Treat people with respect.”
Just an update and a huge thank you for all of the kind words and support ❤️ pic.twitter.com/sVCpWrUBHB
— Jennifer Williams (@JenniferKSRM) May 23, 2019
Charges have been filed, according to the radio station.
Anchorage Climate Action
The Anchorage Assembly this week approved its 100-page plus climate action with goals to reduce the city’s carbon emissions by 80 percent over the next 30 years. The city’s other proposed ordinance that would keep the cap on marijuana smoke emissions by limiting marijuana cafes to only edibles was postponed.
Last week, Dr. Al Gross launched his exploratory committee to explore running against U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan with a coastal listening tour for the remainder of the month.
We’ve since heard some rumors about other names that might consider giving it a shot in 2020. We won’t want to spoil the surprise as a lot of the talk seems super early right now, but we will say that our first response wasn’t “Who?”
There have been no new entrants into state races since last week.
Meanwhile, however, Americans for Prosperity is reportedly hiring.
Wear a helmet!
And probably a PFD while you’re at it.
Sen. Murkowski Sen. Murkowscoot pic.twitter.com/SLT6mtIoLd
— Pat Ward (@WardDPatrick) May 23, 2019