You also might notice, as I did, that the walls in the legislative offices are rather bare. That’s because legislators and staff aren’t allowed to hang things on their walls. They have to have someone from building maintenance come and do it for them.
We trust legislators to govern our economy, manage state resources, and safeguard our freedoms, but the state doesn’t trust them to hammer a nail into a wall. That should really tell us something.
Eye Wars Are Back — This week Senator Cathy Giessel introduced SB 36, which restarts last year’s eye wars between the optometrists (lobbied for by Jerry Mackie) and the ophthalmologists (lobbied for by Frank Bickford).
The bill would allow the Board of Optometry to sign off on allowing optometrists, who aren’t doctors, to prescribe drugs and perform eye surgery. Obviously, ophthalmologists, who are doctors, see that as horning in on their turf.
Expect to hear radio ads once again pop up as this less-than-sexy battle moves its way through the legislature.
Midnight Sun On The Air!!!! — Master of Morning Radio Rick Rydell (AM 650 KENI) has asked us to come on every week and share Friday in the Sun with his audience. So listen for our inside scoop every Friday morning at 7:35.
Public Service Announcement — With the heavy snowfall in the last few weeks the predictable flood of calls to the Muni complaining about poorly maintained roads has begun. And in keeping with this great Anchorage tradition, sources tell me the vast majority of complaints are once again about roads actually maintained by the state, not the Muni.
I’m hearing it is even worse this year now that the state budget crisis has caused the State Department of Transportation (DOT) to dramatically cut their Anchorage snow removal budget. DOT has clearly realized Anchroage-ites blame the city, not them when their roads don’t get plowed.
Just to help everyone know where to direct their vitriol, here is a map of city/state roads:
(click on image to open map)
ICYMI — Earlier this week, The Midnight Sun broke the story that Governor Bill Walker‘s Deputy Chief of Staff Marcia Davis, Policy Analyst Ty Keltner, and Tribal Affairs Advisor Paulette Schuerch have all either left or are headed for the door in the next few weeks.
Lost In Transition — Last legislative session when Rep. Andy Josephson was in the minority, he pre-filed HB 19, a bill to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s nondiscrimination law. The bill would have done at the state level what the Municipality of Anchorage did with AO-96.
Surprisingly, now that Josephson is in the majority and could actually get the bill moving, he has thus far chosen not to re-file. When I asked Josephson why that is, he wrote in an email, “There are some comparisons being made to the MOA Ordinance at the present time, and modifications may be made after that process is done.”
It will be interesting to see if or when the bill makes a reappearance. If it doesn’t, expect to hear about it from folks in the LGBT community; I know I am already.
In fairness to Rep. Josephson, he did pre-file bills to remove the current straight marriage definition in the state constitution and to clean up state policies on same-sex marriage benefits, so it isn’t like he’s Wes Keller all of a sudden.
Appointment Listening — Join the throngs of The Midnight Sun The Podcast listeners who wait eagerly for the latest episode to drop every Sunday morning. If you aren’t already addicted, you soon will be. This week Forrest Dunbar and Casey Reynolds are joined by Mayor Ethan Berkowitz to discuss the Anchorage Women’s March, snow removal, and what we’ll be seeing on the municipal ballot in April.
Loopholes — No one can find election loopholes like David Nees. Nees had been signed up to run for Anchorage School Board, but changed his mind and is now running for Anchorage Assembly in West Anchorage. That move prompted APOC to send him an interesting email saying:
“Under Alaska’s campaign finance law, you are able to seek multiple offices at the same time. However, you will be required to disclose your campaigns’ finances separately. Your first two required reports will be the 2017 Year Start Reports due on February 15, 2017.”
So state campaign finance laws allow you to raise money for more than one office at a time? I contacted the Anchorage Municipal Clerk’s office and asked if anything in city code prevented someone from running for two spots at the same time. They said the issue has never come up, so it’s a bit of a gray area. Their initial feeling is that the law only says a person can’t serve in two different elected offices at the same time, not that they can’t run for more than one at a time.
That means a crafty candidate could now blow a huge hole in campaign finance laws by filing with APOC to run for Anchorage Mayor in 2018 and School Board and Assembly in 2019 at the same time. Under that scenario, a candidate could triple the amount of money they can take from each donor from $500 to $1500. So long as their campaign uses a slogan and logo that doesn’t mention a specific office, they could use all those funds to run for Mayor without running afoul of state law.
And, by the way, someone running for governor could do the same thing by opening APOC accounts for State House and State Senate runs at the same time they run to be the state’s chief executive.
I won’t even ruin your day by pointing out those candidates could go even further and simultaneously start their own PACs, ala Rep. Gabby LeDoux. Ok, I guess I just did.
Days Until The Next State Election — 648
Days Until Muni Election — 67
Cox would be the right-wing alternative to Musk Ox Republican Rep. Paul Seaton of Homer.
Marches — Last Saturday Alaska progressives made an impressive showing with their women’s marches. Now it’s conservatives’ turn. The March for Life is tomorrow in Palmer at 11 AM. Will pro-lifers be able to come anywhere near the turnout of the women’s marchers?
Words, Not Deeds — The House Majority has stated several times during its press conferences that it will be giving bills from minority members hearings and allowing them to be voted on if they make it through the committee process.
Those promises rang hollow this week when the majority offered a committee substitute to replace the guts of Rep. Andy Josephson’s HB 23 with those from Rep. Charisse Millett’s HB 5. Those bills dealt with the state offering increased benefits to the families of first responders who die in the line of duty.
The politics are smart: why let Millett and minority republicans take credit for a no-brainer of a bill that is very popular with voters and among public safety unions, and is frankly the human thing to do?
But politics aside, Millett spent the last session and most the interim working on and promoting the bill, so pushing her aside to take credit for her work does blow a pretty big hole in the new majority’s claim that “if the minority offers a good bill we’ll pass it.” What this really says is that if minority members have good ideas, majority members will just copy and paste them into their bills and take credit for them.
But that’s politics, I guess.
Political Fly Into The Sun — If you have morsels you’d like shared in this column, please email us at [email protected].
Here are just some of the other events you can find on our Political Calendar —