AKLEG Recap, Day 30: Rep. Gruenberg remembered

Rep. Max Gruenberg. (House Majority Coalition press office)

The Legislature is a third of the way through the regular 90-day session. The 30th day featured the passage of three bills and appointment drama. Today, Senate Republicans are facing a doozy of an appointment and the APOC year-end reports are out. Here’s what happened.

Just 60 days (but probably at the very least another 90) to go.

Gruenberg remembered

Wednesday was two years to the day that the beloved Anchorage Rep. Max “The Great Amender” Gruenberg unexpectedly passed away. His colleagues took time during the House floor session to remember the lasting impact he brought to the Legislature through his unwavering attention to detail, frequent at eases to consult with law books and many, many amendments.

“I hear that the number of at eases have gone down significantly with his passing,” joked Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, who was appointed to fill his seat. “He lived life the way he wanted to. He ate bacon, maple bars and hamburgers when he wanted to. He loved his pet, he loved his wife, Kayla, deeply and passionately.”

Rep.Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, recalled that bringing a bill before the House Judiciary Committee, where Gruenberg served and whose chambers have since been named after him, was always a challenge.

“What I could never figure out is when you’d have a bill before judiciary, he would be kind of sitting back in his chair and his eyes were closed, so of course he must be asleep, right? You’d get up there, you’d start on your bill and you’re like, ‘I hope he stays asleep,'” she said. “You knew he’d ask questions that you might not be able to answer, but he’d pop up and right on ask those questions.”

As tough as it was to have a bill dismantled to have its errors laid bare, Wilson said it made the Legislature that much better.

“As much as it frustrated me, I made sure all my commas and all my periods were in the right spot because if they weren’t the bill I thought I was going to present that day on the floor was not going to happen,” she said. “Max wanted to make sure that he could keep things as perfect as he possibly could.”

While many remember Gruenberg for his attention to detail, Rep. Les Gara said it was his care for other people that he’ll remember.

“We all have reputations, but what I knew Max for the most for was what he didn’t share on the House floor very often but what he truly believed. What Max truly believed was that people born without privilege deserve the same chances in life as those born with privilege. He had a heart as big as anybody I know,” he said. “He cared for people as much as anybody I know. He was a passionate man.”

Gruenberg served from 1985 to 1992 and again from 2003 to 2016.

‘The seat belongs to the people of District E.’

After nuking the appointment of Randall Kowalke to Senate District E, Gov. Bill Walker has appointed a man who says he can remember being in the womb, called for the violent death of abortion providers and has a Facebook post explaining why dogs are better than wives. We can’t imagine that Senate Republicans are particularly pleased with the pick, but given their insistence on respecting the will of the voters it’s going to be hard to do anything but confirm appointment Tom Braund to Senate District E. It’s likely that the up-in-arms rejection of Walker’s off-list appointment Kowalke was done with the assumption that his fallback pick would be Rep. George Rauscher. Walker’s skip over Rauscher would likely be considered a huge snub if not for the whole making light of an alleged violent attack on a woman by a former legislator.

And there’s no need to speculate over whether that “BDSM FREE ZONE” sticker was the cause, Walker’s spokesman Austin Baird confirmed that’s exactly the case.

“Making light of a violent attack on a woman disqualified Rep. Rauscher,” he said.

Meanwhile, Democrats are having a serious moment of reflection over their support for Reps. Dean Westlake and Zach Fansler, who’ve both resigned over sexual harassment and assault allegations. The effort’s documented in a story by KTOO, which includes the following quote from Rep. Ivy Spohnholz:

“I think that what we know now is that in 2018, we have a higher standard for behavior than any of our processes have reflected in the past,” she said, later adding: “In the past the Legislature and political parties have been more likely to hide these problems and to sweep them under the rug.”

Bills passed

The Legislature also passed a bunch of bills on Wednesday. Here’s a quick rundown of the legislation:

  • House Bill 214: Bree’s Law and dating violence programs by Rep. Harriet Drummond passed 38-0. The legislation would formally name Alaska’s dating violence awareness and prevention programs and requirements after Bree Moore, who was murdered by her boyfriend in 2014 and became an inspiration for the existing laws.
  • House Bill 215: Department of Health and Social Services fees by House Finance passed 30-8. According to the House Majority Coalition, the legislation would “expand the Department’s authority to include collecting fees for services such as radiological and other equipment inspections, data extraction and analysis, and training and expert consultation.”
  • Senate Bill 37: Oversight of wholesale drug distributors by Sen. Cathy Giessel passed 18-0. The bill does a lot, but its main focus is creating a licensing system to oversee out-of-state wholesale drug distributors. It also brings the state in line with the federal Drug Quality and Security Act, which was passed in response to an outbreak of fungal meningitis caused by a drug manufacturer.
  • Senate Resolution 8: Recognizing February as Black History Month by Sen. Tom Begich passed 18-0.

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