Ah, it’s Friday and the governor is another step closer to reshaping Alaska into the natural resources warehouse he pledged to President Donald Trump.
Might as well usher in a redesigned flag while we’re at it.
This about sums up the feelings around here. pic.twitter.com/AYkmzRiqIH
— Kristin Timm (@kmftimm) July 11, 2019
The vetoes stand
Thanks to the 22 legislators who chose their allegiance with Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy and his campaign promise of $3,000, the vetoes will stand. After two days of hoping, speeches and some finger-pointing, the Legislature in Juneau adjourned the joint session into a technical session today where they adjourned until next Wednesday.
There’s plenty of talk from Dunleavy’s legislators that they’re interested in some sort of compromise to restore funding because, after all, they say they don’t really like the vetoes either. (Just not enough to buck Dear Leader and show up in Juneau to, you know, do something about it.)
The Juneau legislative session took up the vetoes in whole, but if there was a real hope that the vetoes could have been overridden you bet they would have taken up individual items like funding to the eliminated Senior Benefits Program, which is literally making seniors go hungry as we speak.
But, yes, without a timeline, without any specifics and sure as hell under the direction of Dear Leader, the holdouts are pledging to work out some kind of compromise—as long as it delivers their boss a $3,000 PFD.
Of course, we can probably expect the majority of legislators to come to the table because, sure, anything is better than nothing.
The recall’s off to the races
A long-simmering effort to organize a recall petition against Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy stepped out of the shadows on Thursday afternoon when it became clear that the Alaska Legislature would not be overriding the governor’s vetoes. The group plans to meet Monday to kick off its signature-gathering effort, which will require the group to collect 28,501 signatures to even reach the level of consideration by the Division of Elections.
They’ll need to make the case that the governor has done something that shows his lack of fitness, incompetence, neglect of duties or corruption. Not liking his vetoes, alone, isn’t enough.
Look to things like his refusal to appoint judges on time, his vetoes of the court system’s funding over its rulings, his state-funded campaigns targeting legislators and perhaps the veto of several programs while leaving the statutes on the books as more material cases for a recall.
And even if it’s approved, the group will then need to collect a staggering 71,252 signatures to actually call the recall election.
It’s a herculean task ahead of the organizers, but stranger things have been known to happen under the Midnight Sun.
Though there’s plenty of grassroots enthusiasm for the effort, it will be critical for the group to fall behind a unified effort that can corral money and stay laser focused on its goal. What’ll be interesting is to see if any of the dozens, if not hundreds, of organizations and business groups that oppose the vetoes get behind the effort.
It’ll be hard for those groups to get on board with an effort that doesn’t look legitimate and it’s hard to look legitimate—at least in those kinds of big groups’ eyes—without some of that support. Who might jump on board first?
But then again, it’s still less than 24 hours since the announcement was made. What happens in the following days, including at the Monday kick-off will be critical to determining whether the effort is successful.
They’ll particularly need a talented legal mind to put together a bulletproof 200-word recall statement that’s required of the effort. There are quite a few people that come to mind on this front, perhaps one of the nearly 200 women lawyers who signed this letter about the veto of the court system funding would be a good candidate.
‘You come for our jobs; I come for yours.’
That’s the message Anchorage Democrat Liz Snyder had for the smarmy Rep. Lance Pruitt in her announcement that she would give unseating him another go. Where other Republicans scrambled to the right in the wake of close primaries, Pruitt didn’t seem to be rattled at all after Snyder came within 181-votes of unseating him in 2018.
In addition to saddling up to Dunleavy for lunch and smiles during Wednesday’s veto overrides, Pruitt met protestors at the Wasilla “special” session with shitty sneers and a selfie. Great.
By the way, legislators can also be targeted by recall petitions, too. Just be sure to file your petition with the Division of Elections, not the Municipality of Anchorage like these brain geniuses did in 2018.
‘Jesus is Lord’
Then he looked up at his disciples and said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of the PFD. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for Alaska will be open for business. Blessed are you who weep now, for we will laugh.’ Dunleavy 6:7
There’s plenty to say about whatever that’s going on in Wasilla, but my doctor has told me to start watching my blood pressure, so it’s probably best summed up with what one reader spotted on the 2019 Second Special Session Facebook page:
With an outpouring of Alaskans pleading with their legislators to have a heart and restore some of the vetoes, there’s been plenty of reports of some legislators—we’re looking at you Sen. Mia Costello—just straight up not answering phones, emails and perhaps even giving their staff the day off. Well if you flip through #akleg Twitter you might stumble across some legislators’ personal phone numbers.
It’s dumb and won’t accomplish much but also, like, screw it.
Or you can be more reasonable like Twitterer Max Quill and channel your anger and frustration away from harassing legislators and their families and put it into something productive.
I know this is obvious to most but please let’s not terrorize elected officials or their families. It’s not going to serve any reasonable end goal & to act out like that only injects further ugliness into an already ugly situation. That’s not the Alaska I want to live in. #akleg
— Max Quill (@North2DFuture) July 13, 2019
That’s how much the Dunleavy administration is willing to shell out for yet another analyst to help dismantle Alaska’s Medicaid system at an accelerated pace. In following in the governor’s hiring practices, the group doesn’t have to be in Alaska. Columnist Dermot Cole has the details (as well as a load of other must-read content this week).
Larry Persily made an appearance in front of the House Finance Committee on Thursday afternoon, where among many other topics he touched on the state’s credit rating. He noted that credit rating agencies stepped Alaska away from the brink with the passage of revenue from/spending limits for the Alaska Permanent Fund’s earnings reserve in the form of Senate Bill 26.
“They saw Alaska was starting to act like adults,” he said.
What’s in store for the future? Who knows, but Persily said the bond raters, which help determine the kind of interest rates Alaska is eligible for when it bonds, likely won’t appreciate breaking those rules and dipping into savings to pay out a $3,000 PFD.
But from what we’ve heard, banks are already downgrading the creditworthiness of employees of the University of Alaska over the pending doom for the university system.
One source says banks are opting to play it safe and either halt or cancel loans for UA employees over the pending uncertainty of furloughs and coming layoffs.
A living nightmare
“But before he could get new teeth, the plan was vetoed,” explains a KTUU story about a man who had all of his teeth extracted with the plan to get dentures after July 1.
“I cried. I still cry. I wake up and I cry at night,” Michael Shelden said. “I tried to eat a hamburger the other day. That didn’t work. I was driving down the road going, ‘Man I can’t wait to get my teeth, I want to go to Carl’s Jr.'”
This is one of the starkest, most horrifying examples of the impacts of Dunleavy’s vetoes, but far from the only. Here’s a quick selection:
- Anchorage’s biggest homeless shelter closes during the day, braces for drastic budget cuts
- Dunleavy budget vetoes, legislative turmoil hitting Alaska’s education system hard
- Frozen scholarship funds leave UAF students in limbo
Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, was shown the door from the House Majority after showing up in Wasilla and then returning to Juneau to refuse to stand up for the budget that she helped create, pitching the lame plan to restore funding through some kind of negotiated deal. Guys like the toothless Michael Shelden can wait a couple months, right?!?
Still, the Majority apparently wanted to play nice for whatever reason and gave her the option of stepping down to vice chair of the House Finance Committee. She refused and was given the boot.
Today, Rep. Jennifer Johnston will take over Wilson’s spot and Rep. Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks, will
take over Johnston’s old job as vice chair join the committee and Rep. Dan Ortiz will take over Johnston’s old job as vice chair. Now that’s how you represent your district.
As for the Senate…
There’s been plenty of rumblings of an imminent reorganization in the Senate, but our sources say it’s mostly just wishful thinking at this point. We’re told, however, to stay tuned as things could easily shift once/if the Legislature finally reunites next week.
And a positive note…
Lately, I’ve been trying to end these things with a positive note. This week has been a tough one, so here’s a picture of my dog Scout, the dumbest scheming toy thief the world has ever known.
Also, it’s not blisteringly hot anymore. Have a nice weekend, everyone. I’m off fishing.