AKLEG Recap: The Legislature is off to a shaky start after Week One

Gov. Bill Walker and legislators applaud a person in the gallery during the Walker's annual State of the State address on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2018. (Photo by Senate Majority Press)

The first week of the 2018 legislative session is in the books. It featured a handful of budget overview hearings, mandatory sexual harassment training for legislators, Senators complained about per diem and Gov. Bill Walker’s final State of the State address before this year’s elections.

Here’s a highlight of a few things not covered in the last few recaps (battles brewing on day one, legislators highlight new budget worries on day two and Walker’s State of the State on day three) and what to look forward to.

Just 84 (valued at $24,780 in legislative per diem) days to go.

House Judiciary

The House Judiciary Committee is still just as entertaining as it was during the October special session. Rep. Lora Reinbold spent most of the Friday’s hearing battling committee Chair Rep. Matt Claman over procedure. Claman just wanted Reinbold to stick to questions during the hearing and not foray into questionless statements. Reinbold called him a dictator. It appeared to be a pretty frustrating meeting for everyone involved, with Reinbold going on the attack against fellow minority Republican Rep. Chuck Kopp’s House Bill 216, which reprioritizes how the state spends the PFDs of the incarcerated. The bill didn’t far enough for Reinbold.

The committee also heard Rep. Andy Josephson’s House Bill 15, which would update state law to conform with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage. Reinbold spent much of the meeting arguing that the Supreme Court was wrong and that the state should still be standing by the 1998 ballot measure that amended the state constitution to ban same sex marriage.

And if you thought that Friday meeting was interesting, the week ahead will have the committee hearing a bill that would bar state funds from being spent on what would essentially be an immigrant registry and the Senate’s smoking ban (which, if we’re being honest, are surprised it’s getting traction in the House this year).

House Majority to push oil taxes

The House Majority coalition is getting the session started on a very House Majority-esque foot this week by scheduling hearings on House Bill 288, which yet another attempt to ramp up taxes on the oil and gas industry. There’s no appetite for such a change in the Senate and probably not even with Gov. Bill Walker, who’s in the middle of negotiating a gasline deal with China and needs the cooperation of the major producers to sell the project at home (we’ll get an update on the project at a joint Senate Resources/Finance meeting on Thursday morning as well as a lunch and learn later in the day). It’s well-intended policy (at least in their own specific worldview) by the House, but likely won’t amount to much more than some strongly worded statements about stability from the industry.

Budget rolling (doing great)

The House is getting its budget subcommittees rolling this week with departmental overviews. We haven’t heard much about the direction the subcommittees are getting, but expect them to be producing budget proposals sooner than later.

Education funding

The Legislature may balk at Walker’s plans to turn Alaska’s budgeting into a biennial process or institute punishments for turning in the budget late, but Sen. Gary Stevens’ proposal for a reworking of education funding seems to be gathering momentum. The proposal would require the legislature to pass a separate budget for local education funding earlier in the year. The Senate Education Committee is taking testimony on the bill at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday.


There’s still no official announcement on the two legislative vacancies. Multiple sources thought Walker would take care of both at the same time by appointing Rep. George Rauscher to the Senate and rejecting the three candidates to fill House District 40. The deadline for House District 40 to be filled is this week.

What we’re reading

  • Senate President Pete Kelly is waging a war on government and state spending, but don’t forget that he’s been collecting government checks for years. “The warring camps that Pete describes—government on one side arrayed against freedom-loving private-sector Alaskans on the other—exist only in his imagination.” Read: Sen. Pete Kelly and the discipline to spend every last dime via Dermot Cole.
  • There’s a salacious story out there about House District 40 finalists Sandra Shroyer-Beaver and Eugene Smith, perhaps shining some light on why House Democrats are “not super impressed.”  Read: A Drunken Mayor, Blackmail, Kivalina and District 40 via Alaska Landmine.
  • The Juneau Empire has discovered the Alaska Department of Law has been failing to disclose when it taps the phones of Alaskans. In 25 years since the Legislature began allowing wiretaps, the Department of Law has never filed the annual wiretap report required by law. Read: Quiet wires: Alaska illegally fails to report its wiretaps to the public via Juneau Empire.

Coming up


  • 9 a.m. Senate Finance – Revenue Comm. Sheldon Fisher presents 2017 fall revenue forecast
  • Noon Lunch and Learn – Economic Development in Alaska and Pacific Northwest
  • 1 p.m. House Judiciary – Regulation of Smoking
  • House Resources – House Bill 288, oil and gas production tax
  • 1:30 House Finance – Overview of the Alaska Permanent Fund by Angela Rodell, CEO
  • 3:15 House Labor and Commerce – HB 273, Extend Marijuana Control Board; HB 274, Extend Board of Psychologists; House Bill 275, Extend Board of Massage Therapists; House Bill 180, Alaska Money Services Act by Rep. Fansler
  • 3:30 Senate Resources – Alaska’s Mining Filing Claim Process by Department of Natural Resources


  • 8 a.m. HFIN. Corrections subcommittee – Department overview
  • 9 a.m. Senate Finance – Overview of the Alaska Permanent Fund by Angela Rodell, CEO
  • 10 a.m. House Fisheries – HB 199 fish habitat protections by Rep. Stutes
  • Noon HFIN Military and Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee – Department overview
  • 1:30 House Finance – HB 286, operating budget; HB 285, mental health budget
  • Senate Labor and Commerce – How are Alaskans innovating?
  • 3 House Health and Social Services – Testimony on HB 25, insurance coverage for contraceptives by Rep. Claman (currently in Rules); House Bill 162, background checks for by Rules by request of Governor.

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