Another tumultuous week in the Alaska Legislature is drawing to a close with a relatively quiet Friday. That means it’s time for the latest and sometimes greatest in gossip and rumors from the Alaska political world.
As always take everything with your dietary recommended intake of salt and send all tips, suggestions and hate mail to [email protected].
Just 48 days to go.
It appears the Senate Democrats‘ main strategy this session is to force politically popular, ultimately doomed floor votes. This week, we got a second run at bumping Sen. Bill Wielechowski‘s dividend-in-the-constitution resolution from the Senate Judiciary Committee and two attempts to revive Sen. Berta Gardner‘s Sense of the Senate on marijuana (cannabis to those who care about those sorts of things) that both failed to even bring a vote on the Sense of the Senate itself. It’s political theater of the highest kind, but it’s hard to argue with the results so far.
Wielechowski’s action on the dividend has baited out Senate Majority positions on the PFD that likely won’t play all that well come election time, including calling the dividend a “government check” and an editorial by Sen. John Coghill (who’s not up for election this year).
On the marijuana votes, yesterday we saw a forceful special order by Sen. Cathy Giessel arguing why Alaska voters were wrong to legalize marijuana because, as she argued, marijuana falls under the interstate commerce clause (medical marijuana actually does thanks to a 2005 court ruling) so it should be up to the feds.
“The state of Alaska crossed the line. The voters crossed the line,” she said.
Like we’ve pointed out before, resolutions and floor votes don’t materially amount to much, but bad looks galore can.
Get well, Guttenberg
Rep. David Guttenberg stayed overnight at a hospital in Juneau after a scary medical incident on Thursday afternoon. It’s believed that Guttenberg may have had a bad reaction to some medication and is expected back in action next week.
Still, it’s one more illness to add to the problems facing the House Majority Coalition. Though they’ll be swearing in Tiffany Zulkosky as the Legislature’s 60th legislator (and 19th female legislator as was pointed out in Sen. Berta Gardner‘s special order Thursday), don’t expect the still-stuck measures like the fast-track supplemental budget to make progress today.
Speaking of issues surrounding the dividend, we can’t help but think that a lot of what’s playing out right now concerning the dividend in the constitution was given new life with former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich‘s editorial on this precise issue. We reported on a sighting of Begich with Wielechowski a few weeks before the floor vote was renewed.
Now, we’ve heard of more spottings between the Republicans’ favorite boogeyman and political players. This time, Begich has been spotted meeting with former Anchorage Mayor Rick Mystrom at Barnes and Noble as well as with Gov. Walker’s chief of staff Scott Kendall at Steam Dot. At this point, we’ve given up on trying to divine just what Begich is up to, but it’s gotta make anyone involved with the race for governor nervous.
Speaking of dividend politics, the House Majority Coalition is openingly toying with the idea of adding the let’s-add-the-dividend-to-the-constitution resolution to its platform after the Senate Majority spiked Wielechowski’s efforts. It seemed mostly like talk, but Rep. Chris Tuck’s House Joint Resolution 23, which also puts a guaranteed PFD with a minimum of $1,250 into the constitution, has now been scheduled for two hearings in the House Finance Committee next week. There’s public testimony at the 1:30 p.m. Monday hearing and a second hearing scheduled for Tuesday.
Let’s hope that he’s better at running this resolution than he was with House Bill 152, which failed a floor vote this week (We’ve heard plenty about why this might have been, but suffice it to say it’s hurt his stock).
Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee will be holding multiple hearings on multiple pieces of legislation relating to abortion next week. It’ll be hearing Sen. Cathy Giessel‘s SB 124, the bill that would force women who are considering an abortion to give birth if a doctor believes the fetus is viable and could be eligible for adoption, three times and another hearing on Sen. Donny Olson‘s Senate Joint Resolution 15, which would amend the constitution to specifically allow parental notification laws for abortions.
While the Senate Judiciary Committee will be delving into abortion next week, the House Judiciary Committee will be returning to the gun violence protective order bill. The bill got a round of positive public testimony during its first hearing, showing the legislation is just as much about suicide, if not more, as it is about mass shootings. It also answers the call to address mental health in the wake of mass shootings.
We’ve only caught bits and pieces of confirmation hearings, but speaking of abortion, pregnancy and women’s health the confirmation hearing of Kenni Linden as a public member for the Board of Certified Direct-Entry Midwives. Forget that she was recommended by her midwife for the position because Rep. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard brought up Linden’s previous work for Planned Parenthood, noting that such experience is incompatible with the midwifery profession and perhaps Linden should consider a different position.
This is the same nasty political attacks that Linden endured during her race for Palmer City Council last year. Linden stood up to the representative, saying that she was involved in Planned Parenthood because she’s interested in sticking up for women’s health.
Still, the anti-abortion presence is strong in the capitol so mark down Linden’s confirmation as one to watch for.
Nothing but net for Navarre
At the same hearing, the committee interviewed Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development commissioner designee Mike Navarre. As the former mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, Navarre got rave reviews from the committee, including Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, who said while he didn’t always agree with Navarre he appreciated his commitment to transparency. The former mayor’s ownership of multiple Arby’s franchises was, sadly, not brought up.
We’ve heard that things for GOP-endorsed (still, right?) Anchorage mayoral candidate Rebecca Logan haven’t been going so well since the KTVA story brought to light her legal troubles (which, still, we’re baffled that no other Anchorage media has picked up on this issue). Add to wariness of folks to hold fundraisers the latest rumor that folks were planning a big ad buy on her part in the final weeks but have since pulled up stakes.
$8,006.38 to $94,463.32
Those are the cash on hand totals for Logan and Mayor Ethan Berkowitz according to the financial disclosure reports released this week, a month out from the Anchorage election. Berkowitz is dominating in the fundraising department, making a big surge in his already-existing lead after the KTVA stories. To date Berkowitz has totaled $185,394.30 to Logan’s $71,321.29. The cash-on-hand figures paint a particularly grim picture for Logan.
Sham Jam appearance
We hear that retired and beloved Sen. Johnny Ellis will be back in Juneau in two weeks for the annual Sham Jam fundraiser that he’s helped organize for years as a fundraiser for the Canvas Art Center.
Vape bill passes
The Senate unanimously approved a bill on Thursday that would tighten laws on e-cigarettes and vaporizers, banning sale of such devices to anyone under 19, regardless of their nicotine or tobacco content.
More of a shrug than dismay
Sen. Mike Shower made the surprising move on Monday of not joining the Senate Republican Majority that fought so hard for the right of local party officials to pick their representation. He said it’s over the budget (and we wouldn’t be surprised if the PFD was part of his calculus, too) and that he can’t promise his vote on the budget when Gov. Bill Walker and the House Majority Coalition have a say in its size. The move might be seen as a snub, but from what we’ve heard is the general response from the Majority is more of a shrug than consternation or dismay.
One observer points out the relatively good treatment Sen. Shelley Hughes has received after departing the majority last year over similar concerns (she still holds a seat on Senate Education). Shower, who’s still very much a conservative can still be counted on for a vote on most matters.
The Majority has got along pretty alright with 13 member so far anyways.
Alaska Native language for everyone?
The House Community and Regional Affairs Committee spent much of Thursday’s meeting reviewing House Concurrent Resolution 19, which would ask Walker to declare an emergency for the state of Alaska Native languages and urge the promotion and preservation of those languages. Rep. Dan Saddler, R-Anchorage, spent most of the meeting offering ill-advised amendments that would have done things like urge everyone to to practice and preserve Alaska Native languages, urging everyone–not just Alaska Natives–to teach their children in their own language and clarify that the resolution isn’t putting Alaska Native languages over others.
Rep. Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan, found himself explaining why the seemingly well-intentioned amendments were not acceptable. English speakers have never faced the same kind of problems teaching their children in English that Alaska Natives have had, he said. Such amendments diluted the message and intention of the resolution.
All of the amendments were voted down with even fellow minority Republican Rep. George Rauscher voting against the suggested changes. Saddler seemed to get a feeling of what his amendments were saying, and backtracked a bit toward the end of the meeting and eventually offered the motion to advance the bill–without his amendments–from committee.