The first day of the 2020 legislative session contained a little bit of everything. Lengthy guest introductions, points of order, more lengthy guest introductions and a heated exchange over the balance of power. This time, though, it was the Senate and not the House that was the source of conflict.
The first day of session was capped off with fireworks when the Senate doled out punishments to Sens. Lora Reinbold, Mike Shower and Shelley Hughes for breaking caucus rules requiring members to vote for budget bills and other procedural votes. While Reinbold broke earlier in the process, both Shower and Hughes reportedly ducked out of the building to avoid a vote on a budget bill that contained the $1,606 dividend. All three supported the full dividend.
The changes had been expected as breaking caucus rules typically results in the loss of clout. Reinbold lost her committee assignments in the House for refusing to vote for the budget in 2015.
For their efforts, all three lost their committee chairmanships and most of their committee positions. Sens. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, and Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, who lent their support to the Wasilla special session and supported the full PFD also saw their power diminished in the reassignments.
Reinbold, Hughes, Shower and Costello cried foul on the Senate floor, calling the changes a significant upheaval of the Senate power. Reinbold said she didn’t interpret the binding caucus rules to cover all appropriation bills and that the changes amounted to a “shift to the left” by putting the likes of Sen. John Coghill in charge of additional committees.
Not one to be outdone in the field of hyperbole, Shower equated the changes to the death penalty.
“I think it marginalizes and minimizes voices of the legitimate elected officials,” he said. “I think has become beyond punitive and has become almost capital punishment for some of us.”
Minority Democrats all voted in favor of the changes, which gave them two positions previously held by Republicans. Minority Leader Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, got Costello’s seat on Legislative Council and Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, got Micciche’s spot as an alternate on Legislative Budget and Audit.
The changes were approved on a 13-7 vote with Hughes, Costello, Shower, Micciche and Reinbold being joined by Sens. Revak and Wilson.
In addition to those changes, both Micciche and Shower were removed from the Senate Finance Committee without replacements. That takes the committee from the inflated nine members down to seven, which effectively gives minority Democrats a larger share of the votes while also taking two full-PFD votes off the committee.
Here’s a full rundown of the changes:
- COMMUNITY AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS: Replace Sen. Costello with Sen. Shower. Appoint Sen. Micciche as vice-chair
- EDUCATION: Appoint Sen. Coghill. Name Sen. Hughes as vice-chair
- FINANCE: Remove Sen. Micciche and Sen. Shower
- HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICE: Replace Sen. Coghill with Sen. von Imhof (new vice chair). Replace Sen. Stevens with Sen. Shower.
- JUDICIARY: Replace Sen. Shower with Sen. Coghill (new chair). Name Sen. Micciche as vice chair.
- LABOR AND COMMERCE: Name Sen. Bishop as new chair. Appoint Sen. Revak. Replace Sen. Reinbold with Sen. Stevens (new vice chair).
- RESOURCES: Appoint Sen. Micciche as new chair. Replace Sen. Reinbold with Sen. Revak.
- STATE AFFAIRS: Replace Sen. Shower with Sen. Revak (new chair). Replace Sen. Reinbold with Sen. Costello. Replace Sen. Micciche with Sen. Wilson.
- TRANSPORTATION: Replace Sen. Shower with Sen. Costello (new chair). Sen. Wilson as vice chair.
- JOINT ARMED SERVICES: Replace Sen. Shower with Sen. Revak (new chair). Replace Sen. Hughes with Sen. Olson
- LEGISLATIVE BUDGET AND AUDIT: Replace alternate member Sen. Micciche with Sen. Wielechowski.
- LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL: Replace Sen. Costello with Sen. Begich.
‘My First Sigh of the Session’
That was House Speaker Bryce Edgmon’s response to a lengthy back-and-forth over objections raised by Minority Rep. Ben Carpenter that a reshuffling of committee assignments in the House had Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, an Anchorage Republican without a caucus, taking the vacancy on the Joint Armed Services Committee left by Rep. Josh Revak’s appointment to the Senate.
Carpenter argued that a veteran—specifically Rep. Sharon Jackson—should get the seat. Several other minority Republicans chimed in, with Rep. Tammie Wilson noting that there was “nothing personal” aimed at LeDoux.
It was after either the fourth or fifth speaker that Speaker Edgmon let out a heavy sigh—a signature of his oversight of an unruly House Minority—and called an at-ease.
When it came to a vote to adopt the new committee assignments, the vote was along caucus lines with LeDoux joining the bipartisan majority. None of the other changes seemed controversial and were expected following the departure of Revak and the appointment of Rep. Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks, to a spot on the House Finance Committee.
Here’s the rundown:
- Community and Regional Affairs: Replace Rep. Revak with Rep. DeLena Johnson
- Education: Replace Rep. Revak with Rep. Wilson
- Judiciary: Replace Reps. Wool and Steve Thompson with Reps. Harriet Drummond and LeDoux
- Labor and Commerce: Replace Reps. Wool, Revak and Dave Talerico with Reps. Ivy Spohnholz, Mel Gillis and Rasmussen. Spohnholz is new chair.
- State Affairs: Replace Rep. Wool with Rep. Thompson
- Transportation: Replace Reps. Wool and Rasmussen with Speaker Edgmon and Rep. Gillis. Rep. Louise Stutes is now the chair.
- Health and Social Services: Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky is now the chair. Rep. Spohnholz is vice chair.
Tweet of the Day
A bunch of bills were officially filed today, including Rep. DeLena Johnson’s proposal to name the giant cabbage as Alaska’s official vegetable. But if you were hoping for an opportunity for some bipartisan kumbyah-ing, keep looking because this one quickly devolved into giant cabbage vs. delicious carrots.
Though the raven isn’t savage
And can enjoy a giant cabbage
Just as much as anyone and maybe even more,
It must be said it’s not in keeping
To see that Brassica is creeping
Up to catch unwary votes upon the legislative floor.
Should be carrots, and nothing more.
— clsmithak (@clsmithAK) January 22, 2020