Friday in the Sun (March 23): It’s all–unfortunately–about the budget

Friday in the Sun is here

The House seems to be stuck in an unending floor session debating unending legislative intent amendments this week, so much of my attention has been spent this week just trying to stay awake and tweeting. That’s all just to say this week’s roundup will be on the more anemic side of things.

Just 20 something days to go.

Budget amendments

The House’s budget amendment process has gone in fits and starts this week. Thursday’s amendment process fell apart once again and an evening session was abruptly cancelled.

It likely had something to do with another anti-abortion amendment being offered by minority Republicans, perhaps after they told the majority they wouldn’t offer it. A previous amendment on abortion, one by Rep. David Eastman that would have added intent language for the state to “promote alternatives to abortion,” was tabled before it reached a vote.

With a slim 22-member majority, it’s likely an uncomfortable vote that the House Majority Coalition would rather not battle over.

We’re also hearing rumblings that there’s much more going on behind the scenes and there’s not a lot of confidence that things will be done before the weekend (and perhaps similar confidence that things won’t be done this weekend either).

It could be, we’ve heard, complicated by an amendment to put a fully funded dividend in the budget.

Vitamin D

The House Majority Coalition stood by House Finance Co-Chair Rep. Paul Seaton’s operating budget amendment that would set aside $500,000 for a University of Alaska study on Vitamin D. Minority Leader Rep. Charisse Millett offered an amendment to remove the funding, making a pretty convincing argument what the ideal outcome the House is planning for the Vitamin D study. Even if Vitamin D supplements have all the healing power that Seaton insists what’s the state going to do? Force people to take Vitamin D?

If it wasn’t Seaton’s pet project, this wouldn’t have made it in the budget.

John Sturgeon

House minority Republicans have been loudly trying to “hold the line” on spending this year, offering a flurry of cuts and even more intent language amendments (that don’t actually cut anything), but they’ve also put forward a handful of things that would increase the budget.

Chief among all the amendments was one by Rep. George Rauscher that would have just given John Sturgeon a cool half-million dollars for bringing his waters case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

It was rejected 22N-18Y.

Undermining initiative

The Senate State Affairs Committee amended Gov. Bill Walker’s update bill for the automatic voter registration initiative that passed last year. As it stands, you’ll be automatically be registered to vote when you file for your dividend. An amendment by Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, would make that an opt-in. The state’s legal counsel said this undermined the voter initiative and would likely be ruled unconstitutional.

Coghill’s never been stopped by warnings about constitutionality before so he pushed ahead with the amendment, saying it’s just a difference of opinion.

What’s particularly interesting about the amendment is that it was opposed by Sen. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, out of the constitutionality issue, but got the support of Sens. David Wilson, Cathy Giessel (both no-brainers), but also got the support of Juneau Democratic Sen. Dennis Egan. Huh?

Sour Giessel

We’re not really sure what prompted the latest Alaska Landmine piece on Anchorage Republican Sen. Cathy Giessel, but it’s an entertaining Jeff Landfield-style story about his early foray into the Alaska political world. It involves a leaked email from the senator asking for pre-screened questions to be fed at a candidate forum and then a clandestine meeting with a kook with a fake dossier. You might see why the two don’t get along. Read: The Time Cathy Giessel Needed my Help over at The Alaska Landmine.

Congressional turnover

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski ranks among the top ten U.S. Senate offices for turnover, according to the long-range ranking by LegiStorm–a website that tracks workforce issues in Congress. Murkowski has the sixth highest turnover for a period running from 2001 to 2016. She doesn’t make an appearance in the list covering just 2017.

March Sadness update

Speaking of the Alaska Landmine, it doesn’t sound like there’s any plan to out the staffers responsible for tattling on the Legislature’s bracket league. Probably because most people in the know, as we wrote last week, already know.

Another spotting

Almost everything this week has revolved around the operating budget amendments on the floor, but there’s always a few things that can break that shell. The latest gossip we’ve heard from the political world is yet another interesting spotting of former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich. This time it’s with former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell. The two were spotted having lunch at Crush.

We’ve stopped asking ourselves about what Begich is up to. Perhaps he’s just a good conversationalist.

Standing legislators who have yet to raise any money

This week, Rep. Sam Kito finally announced that he won’t be seeking reelection in 2018, putting to rest long-standing rumors and his own public admissions that he was considering stepping aside out of personal financial concerns (also that beard). Kito’s intentions have been hinted at for a while.

Here’s the other sitting legislators who’ll be up for election this year that have yet to file any fundraising documents yet.

  • Sen. Anna MacKinnon, R-Eagle River.
  • Sen. Mike Shower, R-Wasilla (recent appointment)
  • Sen. Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage (She’s announced her retirement)
  • Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Anchorage (He’s announced his retirement)
  • Rep. David Talerico, R-Healy.
  • Rep. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River.
  • Rep. Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage.
  • Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky, D-Bethel (who was recently sworn in and has yet to commit to running for reelection).
  • Rep. John Lincoln, D-Kotzebue (same as Rep. Zulkosky).

Other interesting takeaways from skimming the financial disclosure reports are that Rep. Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks, has yet to raise a single dollar during this cycle though he brings in about $12,000 of cash on-hand and Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake, who’s raised $202.

Enjoy your day off

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