Friday in the Sun (May 5): The Conference or Concur edition

Friday in the Sun is here

Welcome to the latest edition of Friday in the Sun, the sometimes greatest roundup of political gossip and rumor. After a few weeks of solely being focused on our Legislator rankings, we’re getting back to good ol’ gossip today, but we’ve got you covered if you’re looking for one last round of legislator ranking content.

As always, take everything with a grain of salt and have a nice weekend.

To Conference or Concur

The Senate pulled off an impressive feat this week when it passed out its version of the operating budget on a 19-1 vote Wednesday with a floor session that ended with everyone thanking each other. It was a vast departure from the deeply bitter scene in the House.

The day got high marks from Sen. Scott Kawasaki, a recent graduate from the House to the Senate.

“I’m new, obviously, to this body. I anticipated we’d have somewhere between 100 or 300 amendments. We didn’t have that,” he said, thanking Senate President Cathy Giessel for running a tight ship with minimal at-eases and no procedural bickering.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt when the minority is the Senate Minority, which not only files fewer amendments than Rep. David Eastman but also does not contain Rep. David Eastman.

But really, at the end of the day, it turns out that paying out a $3,000 PFD while not making a bunch of draconian cuts is pretty popular—even if you don’t have a way to pay for it figured out quite yet.

That’s why there’s been plenty of talk that the House could simply concur with the Senate budget and send it off to the governor, showing a strong solidarity to the governor by… accepting the most popular part of his budget and ignoring the incredibly unpopular parts? Hmm.

Under this plan, little issues like, oh, the funding of the budget and more material differences like Medicaid funding and ferries would be hashed out in the operating budget over the next few weeks, which sounds like exactly the sort of can-kicking everyone has come to love the Legislature for.

They’d also be sending off the budget with the $12 billion permanent fund transfer but, as Sen. Bert Stedman reminded us this week, that transfer wouldn’t happen until the end of next year. Plenty of time and opportunity to get it right. We’d be a little skeptical about the Legislature’s ability to come back around and lower that number after it’s in law. It’s not like it’s a legislative ethics law.

While the whole concurrence may sound like a lot of fun and the kind of chaos everyone thrives on, we wouldn’t count on it. The latest talk seems to suggest that they’ll go with a traditional conference committee process. It seems like optimism has made way for a healthy bit of skepticism.

The House has concurrence on its agenda today, so we’ll find out soon. If they reject it, the conference committee should be appointed by Monday and we’ll be back under the nemesis of planning: the 24-hour rule.

Walkout or talkout?

Rumor was rampant this week that Rep. Tammie Wilson, the North Pole bipartisan hero of the House Finance Committee, walked out on the bipartisan coalition over a disagreement on the crime bills. As some might have expected, it didn’t ultimately amount to anything when she appeared the following morning to run the House Finance Committee.

“It’s just drama and she’s good at drama,” one insider said of the incident.

It does, however, underline the growing problem with trying to rush through crime legislation in the House. While everyone over in the Senate is singing kumbaya over the budget, the House has been busy tearing itself apart over a crime bill. The House vehicle for the crime bill is ever shifting and after multiple attempts, there’s still concern that there’s not a winning version.

With the governor itching to call a special session anyway, there’s a least a few people wondering if all the trouble is worth it. If the House does manage to find its legs and push ahead with crime, there could be something on the floor as soon as Monday.

Constitutional clash

Opposition seems to have pretty much fully hardened against Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy’s slate of constitutional amendments. While it may be politically advantageous for everyone to blame the Democrats in the House, there’s few Republicans in the Senate who are all that eager to essentially hand over a big share of the Legislature’s power.

What should be particularly concerning about the tax amendment—the one that would require all taxes passed by the Legislature to be approved by a vote and vice versa—is that, as written, it would give the Legislature a pocket veto over any voter-approved initiatives. This came up during the House State Affairs Committee meeting this week, where the administration acknowledged that all it would take for the Legislature to block a voter-approved tax would be to never take up legislation authorizing it. Ah, Democracy!


That’s the salary of the state’s new labor relations manager, the 25-year-old Jared Goecker who brings two-and-a-half years of real estate experience to the job. It also doesn’t hurt that, as Alaska Public Media’s Nat Herz highlighted, Goecker’s resume also includes working on Republican Party politics and as executive assistant to Tuckerman Babcock.

No labor relations experience? No problem.

Alaska Press Club

This past weekend marked Alaska Press Club’s annual press club in Anchorage. It was a great and, particularly for your hermit-y bloggers, a refreshing time to see what everyone else is doing around the state. While people can gripe about the decline in journalism, there are many, many dedicated people doing great work in communities around the state. It’s a good reminder, too, that there are many smaller outlets out there doing important reporting.

KYUK took home the first-place award for investigative reporting for its four-part series on policing safety and public health in Mountain Village. The Arctic Sounder’s Shady Grove Oliver took home best crime reporting for reporting an largely overlooked angle in “Alaska Native women respond to Schneider sentencing.” The students at The Northern Light took home a ton of awards, including best media website.

The Midnight Sun also took home a couple of awards, including best blog and best small-media government reporting for this story looking into the money being spent on initiatives in 2018 (there were no accolades for headline writing).

As for the site itself, we can’t help but toot our own horn with the following judges’ comments on the site: “Smartly written, informative, irreverent, humorous. Everything I want a newsroom blog to be. I wish ours was so good.”


We put out our legislative rankings last week and Rep. David Eastman was once again at the very bottom of the barrel. If there was any doubt about the ranking, Eastman brought the receipts on Thursday when he cast the solo “no” votes against Senate Bill 40, honoring Black History Month, and Senate Bill 78, establishing Katie John Day.

Here’s what Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson, the sponsor of Senate Bill 40, had to say about it according to The Associated Press:

Gray-Jackson said she watched the House floor vote and was moved to tears. Eastman, who frequently speaks on the House floor, did not speak on the bill before voting Thursday. Gray-Jackson said she was glad he didn’t speak.

“The only thing I cared about, because I knew he was going to vote no, was him getting up, talking and wasting people’s time and making people feel uncomfortable by his comments,” she said.

She said she feels sorry for him after he voted no “because he doesn’t get it.”

Legislator rankings continued

As promised, here’s the full and complete rankings of all 60 legislators compiled from more than 140 surveys taken by you dear readers. So it’s entirely scientific, completely accurate and totally impervious to popularity or brigading. (Seriously, stop taking this thing so seriously!)

NameOfficePartyIntelligenceEthicsEffectivenessOverallOverall rank
Rep. Bryce Edgmon37-DillinghamInd4.224.0154.34.181
Sen. Bert StedmanR-SitkaRep4.23.6753.9653.952
Rep. Matt Claman21-AnchorageDem4.3953.93.493.933
Sen. Jesse KiehlQ-JuneauDem4.3054.272.9953.864
Sen. Cathy GiesselN-AnchorageRep4.033.3154.043.85
Sen. Natasha von ImhofL-AnchorageRep4.193.2753.833.776
Rep. Ivy Spohnholz16-AnchorageDem4.13.7753.4053.767
Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky38-BethelDem43.6653.353.678
Sen. Click BishopC-FairbanksRep3.5653.973.4553.669
Rep. Dan Ortiz36-KetchikanInd3.783.773.383.6410
Rep. Andy Josephson17-AnchorageDem4.0853.8352.973.6311
Rep. Chuck Kopp24-AnchorageRep-Coalition3.5753.753.5753.6312
Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins35-SitkaDem4.273.662.9653.6313
Sen. Lyman HoffmanS-BethelDem4.012.734.153.6314
Sen. Tom BegichJ-AnchorageDem3.983.6553.123.5915
Sen. John CoghillB-North PoleRep3.643.613.4653.5716
Rep. Andi Story34-JuneauDem3.573.7653.2153.5217
Rep. Neal Foster39-NomeDem3.593.453.5053.5218
Rep. Tammie Wilson3-North PoleRep-Coalition3.253.3953.9053.5219
Rep. Laddie Shaw26-AnchorageRep3.533.9053.0553.520
Rep. Gary Knopp30-SoldotnaRep-Coalition3.383.533.4453.4521
Rep. Jennifer Johnston28-AnchorageRep-Coalition3.7653.3453.2253.4522
Sen. Gary StevensP-KodiakRep3.6453.692.9653.4323
Rep. Steve Thompson2-FairbanksRep-Coalition3.583.353.333.4224
Rep. Zack Fields20-AnchorageDem3.8053.3253.073.425
Rep. Harriet Drummond18-AnchorageDem3.6153.7952.7553.3926
Sen. Elvi Gray-JacksonI-AnchorageDem3.5353.792.7453.3627
Sen. Bill WielechowskiH-AnchorageDem4.0453.4852.543.3628
Rep. John Lincoln40-KotzebueDem3.513.353.233.3629
Rep. Sara Hannan33-JuneauDem3.5053.6152.813.3130
Rep. Louise Stutes32-KodiakRep-Coalition3.383.2053.3153.331
Sen. Scott KawasakiA-FairbanksDem3.693.362.8153.2932
Rep. Grier Hopkins4-FairbanksDem3.363.5652.863.2633
Sen. Donny OlsonT-GolovinDem3.672.953.123.2534
Sen. Peter MiccicheO-SoldotnaRep3.6552.53.353.1735
Rep. Bart LeBon1-FairbanksRep-Coalition3.363.182.783.1136
Sen. Mia CostelloK-AnchorageRep3.2352.8353.0153.0337
Rep. Adam Wool5-FairbanksDem3.282.842.9253.0238
Rep. Geran Tarr19-AnchorageDem3.3553.0852.5052.9839
Rep. Chris Tuck23-AnchorageDem3.0652.8652.962.9640
Rep. Dave Talerico6-HealyRep2.9553.0752.642.8941
Sen. Mike ShowerE-WasillaRep2.7853.1352.562.8342
Sen. Chris BirchM-AnchorageRep2.932.72.6552.7643
Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux15-AnchorageRep-Coalition3.281.8852.92.6944
Sen. Shelley HughesF-PalmerRep2.5552.62.722.6345
Rep. Kelly Merrick14-Eagle RiverRep2.5452.672.2752.546
Rep. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard7-WasillaRep2.5652.752.042.4547
Rep. Mark Neuman8-Big LakeRep2.5352.6451.992.3948
Rep. Lance Pruitt27-AnchorageRep2.6951.7852.452.3149
Rep. Cathy Tilton12-WasillaRep2.1652.5852.0652.2750
Rep. DeLena Johnson11-PalmerRep2.2652.482.072.2751
Rep. Josh Revak25-AnchorageRep2.3652.2652.042.2252
Rep. Sara Rasmussen22-AnchorageRep2.0852.4352.0252.1853
Rep. Sharon Jackson13-Eagle RiverRep2.0452.241.862.0554
Rep. George Rauscher9-PalmerRep1.9952.251.882.0455
Rep. Ben Carpenter29-NikiskiRep2.0152.191.721.9856
Sen. Lora ReinboldG-Eagle RiverRep1.7052.351.6851.9157
Rep. Sarah Vance31-HomerRep1.92.1351.581.8758
Sen. David WilsonD-WasillaRep1.851.7651.731.7859
Rep. David Eastman10-WasillaRep1.8351.541.131.560

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2 Comments on "Friday in the Sun (May 5): The Conference or Concur edition"

  1. Well, you’re not in a newsroom. You’re a journalist but alter your writing to include bloggy things like analysis and judgement—something that newsrooms really aren’t a) qualified to give and b) especially not in this state. Bill McAllister’s analyses were always weak and dependent upon who flattered him that week, like any other newsroom prisoner. Shame to the newsroom leader who said that they’d like their newsroom blog colored with opinion and analysis that no journalist here is qualified or ethically able to deliver. Your blog is great, but it’s not a newsroom blog. That feedback came from someone who feels constrained and wishes to shed a responsibility to leave their opinion out of what’s presented.

  2. Suggested new legislative nickname: “NESSE KIEHL.”
    You should of looked up Nesse before poking fun at Sen Kiehl, since Nesse Godin was a Lithuanian American Holocaust survivor, who dedicated her adult life to teaching and sharing memories of the Holocaust.

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