Welcome to an evening edition of Friday in the Sun, the latest and sometimes greatest roundup of political rumor gossip and other happenings from the week.
The special session came to an end this week and it feels like all the exhaustion of session caught up in one day, hence the later-than-usual edition today. With the Legislature not due back until July 8, we’ll probably be slowing down a bit and taking tome time to dive into a long list of issues we’ve not had the time to fully explore.
There’s plenty of suggestions that are sitting in our inbox unexplored, but if there’s anything that you’re wondering about that we could help shed some light on, let us know: [email protected].
‘I think it has avoided a shutdown’
That is what Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy said about the budget and pending July 1 government shutdown at a press conference outside Wasilla Middle School today. The budget was transferred to him on Thursday and he has two weeks to make decisions about line item vetoes before a budget needs to be in place.
Still, without a budget actually in place there’s some question about what will happen with a whole bunch of things that are contingent on the budget being approved.
There’re the notices to employees that are required by the union contracts to go out within 10 of being furloughed or laid off. It’s our understanding that the deadline for that would be next Tuesday because the layoffs would be expected to happen on the second day of the fiscal year to give employees a month of health care coverage.
The pink slips would be expected to automatically go out then, but we’ve heard the administration has put the kibosh on sending out any layoff notice without a direct order. It creates a problem, though, as to what might happen if the governor’s line item vetoes result in layoffs themselves.
There’s also the supplemental funding for this year’s Medicaid payments. The state is running out of money for the program but announced that things are all good with the passage of the budget. There, the money isn’t actually available until a budget has been signed. Could Medicaid providers still not get paid on time? It looks like a possibility.
‘A whole lot fewer fast food options’
That’s what Rep. David Eastman thinks of the capital city compared to Juneau when he got to close out the governor’s press conference.
Well, he’s not wrong and, hey, perhaps this explains a lot?
Perhaps the best way to appease the capital movers is supplemental deliveries of crunchy tacos, chocolate frostys and whatever people get from Sonic.
But, also, really zero judgement to the fast-food lovers out there. When I was relocating to session every year, my last stop in the Fairbanks area on my drive down to catch the Haines ferry was at the North Pole Taco Bell.
A better way
With plenty of legislators less than thrilled about the Wasilla special session, there’s been talk about ways to get around it. For now, it doesn’t sound like any firm decision has been made and, like all things, “everything’s on the table.”
The Legislature could, of course, gavel out entirely and hold a new session in a different location or just hold a majority of the hearings in Anchorage or Juneau.
The valley is certainly doing what they can to make it welcoming just check out the comment section of a post by Sen. Lora Reinbold:
The working group
That’s what the PFD working group will do with its meeting next Wednesday, which is scheduled to be held at the Anchorage Legislative Information Office. The hearings so far have been generally in the informational, setting-the-stage end of things, but the most interesting takeaway from them has been an across-the-board acknowledgement that the full PFD can’t last forever. Even hardliners have acknowledged that it’ll need to be reworked. But is that just talk? Are they boxed in and starting to get on board? Probably depends on who you ask.
The Legislature may be done with the special session but legislators made sure to take care of one last thing before leaving: Retroactively paying themselves the per diem they couldn’t collect because they didn’t pass a budget on time.
We, along with quite a few political observers, thought it wasn’t the best look, particularly when you’re heading to Juneau. Why not do a more tailored reimbursement of costs for the special session and not the blanket $302 payment?
But after thinking about it some, I guess there’s kind of a “We’re all in it together” sort of thing. For any group—the minority Republicans, for instance—to capitalize on this politically they would all need to reject the payments.
The crap-ital budget
There were plenty of creative things that senators came up with to describe the mostly unfunded capital budget sent over by the House. Sen. Chris Birch said, “a quarter-loaf is better than no loaf.” Sen. Tom Begich said it was more like “two moldy crusts.”
But the award has to go to Sen. Lora Reinbold, who said, “I don’t know if this is potpourri or poopourri.”
Kudo. Now of only if the esteemed senator from Eagle River could remember that the Senate has 20 members, not 40.
We’ve heard through the grapevine that a reporter was considering a job with Rep. Sharon Jackson starting next January, which would be obviously problematic. But we’ve since heard that a job with Jackson is not in the cards.
Early in the session, we wrote about how Sen. Mike Shower’s legislative hire Scott Ogan wasn’t going over all that well in capitol building. There’s the fact that he was booted from the Legislature in 2004 over a conflict of interest, which is saying something if you’ve been paying any attention to legislative ethics rules, and his behavior during legislative aide training—namely talking up false accusations over sexual harassment—sent plenty of bad vibes.
Well, we’ve heard that he’s not getting an invite back.
From what we’ve heard, Senate President Cathy Giessel didn’t particularly appreciate Ogan taking it upon himself to throw a wrench into the negotiations between the Senate and the House at various points this session and forbid Shower from hiring him back on for next session.
There were a lot of questionable hires legislators made this session, favoring Facebook commenters and trolls for their staff.
It’s been quite the session.