Speculating on rumors and gossip surrounding Alaska politics is a time-honored tradition best done with a heaping helping of salt. It’s time for our weekly trip through the grand, gross, weird, wild and wonderful world of Alaska politics. (Also if you feel like you have something good, you can always shoot me a tip via email at matt at midnightsunak dot com.)
Fast times when crime’s high
The House Majority is preparing for a turbo-mode approach to Senate Bill 54 when special session gavels in on Monday. Sources say it’s likely the House will waive the House State Affairs Committee referral on Monday and get it over into the hands of the House Judiciary Committee (it has scheduled a hearing on the bill pending referral on Monday). It’s likely the House was never all that serious about the State Affairs Committee hearing the bill because it was never all that serious about taking up Senate Bill 54, but, oh how the tides have turned.
Supporters of Senate Bill 91, which includes a lot of key leadership figures in the House Majority, are at a point where Senate Bill 54’s minor rollbacks are much preferred to the full-on repeal some are calling for.
Committee amendments are expected within the next few days and a possible vote could happen by the end of the week, which seems pretty optimistic. The plan, we’ve been told, is to get the criminal justice reform issue cleared off the table to focus on the Gov. Bill Walker’s revenue measure, which, you know, is the whole reason the special session was called in the first place.
This is really a continuation of the previous item, but all anyone wants to talk about lately is crime so here we are.
Still in the House, it doesn’t sound like there’s much of a plan for Senate Bill 54 in the House Finance Committee, which could mean they’re hoping to skirt the committee altogether. What’s interesting is the initial fiscal note from corrections was more than $4.3 million (you know, because it’ll cost money to put more people in jail and that’s what SB 54 aims to do), but the latest fiscal notes are all now down in the indeterminate.
We wouldn’t be entirely surprised if the talk about the cost of criminal justice (and for that matter how cuts have played into the current state of crime) are similarly skimmed over down in Juneau.
Dangers lurking in SB… 21?
We know parts of Alaska are crime-ridden, but we didn’t know the 2013 oil tax regime championed by former Gov. Sean Parnell is also a dangerous hotbed of lawlessness (well, I guess Rep. Les Gara has been warning us for a while).
All thanks must go to Rep. Lora Reinbold, who’ll be heading back to Anchorage the day after gavelling into session in Juneau (at least the committee she’s sitting on doesn’t have a meeting scheduled that day) to warn the public about the “Dangers Lurking in SB21.” At least that’s according to a flyer for the Americans for Prosperity event she’s hosting on Tuesday.
(Also we know it’s a typo! Proofread, people!)
Show me the bloat
A friend of the blog noted there weren’t as many legislators at AFN in Anchorage this week, even given that it’s not an election year. Maybe they got word that Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott would be guns blazing during his address to the convention.
Mallott’s main thesis was put up or shut up when it comes about talking about the bloated government (see above).
“In rural Alaska to have a young person be murdered and lay in a rock quarry covered by a tarp for four days because police could not get there,” he said. “Where is the bloated budget for that? We also hear people say–not just people, legislative leaders–they’re not going to do anything until the budget is further reduced. Tell us where. Tell us where.”
He didn’t name any legislators by name, but he did reference “right sizing,” a term popularized by Senate President Pete Kelly in his last stint as Senate Finance co-chair.
It’s a pretty fiery message that we wouldn’t be surprised if it became a key platform of the independent (or perhaps independent-in-place-of-a-Democratic ticket) next year.
Congratulations to Tara Sweeney on her appointment to assistant secretary of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The importance of having an Alaskan in this position is hard to understate, though we can’t help but be a little disappointed that Sweeney’s appointment is for assistant secretary and not under secretary.
Under secretary, which she was rumored to be in line for, would be a ground-breaking appointment. The position was created last year and has yet to be filled. The under secretary role would essentially have allowed Sweeney authority to bring BIA issues and concerns to other non-BIA parts of the Department of the Interior.
Hladick cracks a smile
Outgoing commerce commissioner Chris Hladick is having fun in his last few days on the job. On Tuesday, the normally stoic commissioner was seen cracking a smile as he shoved a pie into the face of Alaska State Parks Director Ethan Tyler. (Tyler was a manager at DCCED for three years before being appointed to head the Division of Parks in July.) The pieing was part of the state’s SHARE Campaign and raised money for Alaska Trails. We hope Commissioner Hladick has as much fun in his new job at the EPA.
There’s a lot of folks wondering if Hladick’s replacement, outgoing Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre, will bring along his Chief of Staff Larry Persily. Some are less enthused than others.
Binkley or bust
There were some fever-pitch rumors that The Midnight Sun’s favorite-to-write-about rumored republican gubernatorial candidate, John Binkley, was going to announce his candidacy for governor this week down during the Alaska Day celebrations in Sitka of all places.
It was not to be so, though, and some Republican insiders are wondering if they’ll have to settle for a candidate like former Sen. Charlie Huggins in 2018.
After taking it on the chin from members of his own caucus at the Monday House Judiciary Committee meeting, Anchorage Rep. Chuck Kopp will be hosting a tough-on-crime town hall this weekend titled “Your Rights as a Citizen to Protect Your Life and Property.” Kopp came under fire in some pretty personal attacks from Rep. Lora Reinbold, who all but blamed Kopp for Senate Bill 91 because he worked for senators who supported the measure. Judiciary Chairman Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, tried to step in, but Kopp handled the bizarre situation pretty well on his own.
— RepChuckKopp (@RepChuckKopp) October 19, 2017
The salmon habitat initiative won a court battle last week and, at least for now (it can be appealed to the Supreme Court), is on its way to the 2018 ballot. A pro-development group, Stand for Alaska, has formed to oppose the measure and there are already columns appearing that urge opposition to the measure. There are the usual names are in support of the opposition group, Marleanna Hall of the Alaska Resource Development Council and Curtis Thayer of the Alaska Chamber, but more interesting are co-chairs Doyon, Limited President and CEO Aaron Schutt and Joey Merrick of Laborers’ Local 341.
The group supporting it isn’t standing still, either. It’s now Yes for Salmon. It was Stand for Salmon, and the change came the day after Stand for Alaska registered with APOC.
Follow the filings
Rep. Lance Pruitt has filed an open letter of intent with APOC, which unless he’s planning on running for governor or Congress probably doesn’t mean much given the senate seat held by Sen. Cathy Giessel is not on this year’s ballot.
(I’m also back in Alaska. When’d it get so cold?)