It’s almost May! A major windstorm hit Anchorage this week, causing damage to some houses and knocking out power to thousands of Anchorage residents. On a positive note, it knocked down a lot of political signs, so there’s that. The legislature continues to meet in Juneau while a deal on the budget is being worked out.
The Senate Finance Committee heard public testimony on the capital budget on Thursday (4/26/2018). All kinds of people called in asking for all kinds of different things. The capital budget continues to be much smaller than in years past. In fiscal year 2013 it was $2 billion, last year it was just $132 million. This is just the money from the State of Alaska, federal spending makes it much higher.
The conference committee is still trying to work out a deal on the operating budget. The main issue seems to be the need for a 3/4 vote on drawing money from the Constitutional Budget Reserve. This means 30 in the house and 15 in the senate. The House Majority is 21 and the Senate Majority is 13. The House Minority wants House Bill (HB) 331, Governor Bill Walker’s bill to pay off the owed oil tax credits by issuing bonds. The Senate Majority wants the draw on the permanent fund, known as percent of market value (POMV), to pay for state government. But everyone definitely wants to get out of session. Look for a deal on the operating budget soon.
The senate passed HB 43, known as the “Right to Try” bill, 20-0 this week. The bill allows terminally ill patients who have exhausted all FDA-approved treatment options and do not qualify for clinical trials to gain faster access to safe but experimental drugs in an effort to save or extend their own lives. It was introduced by Representative Jason Grenn (I – Anchorage). The house passed the bill 40-0 last year. Damn, a bill that passed 60-0! If only the budget was that easy. It will now go to Governor Walker for his signature.
Representative Chris Birch (R – Anchorage) had a win this week. His bill, HB 333, passed the house 37-2 this week. According to a Facebook post he made, “This is a piece of enabling legislation that provides municipalities with the tools they need to adopt an ordinance prohibiting the use of cell phones while driving within a school zone or on school property.” Birch is a member of the minority. It’s not that easy for minority members to get bills passed. Good on him. Next stop, state senate!
Representative Sam Kito (D – Juneau) is still really mad about the decision to reduce the per diem of Juneau legislators. So this week he proposed that the Legislative Council, which he chairs, reduce per diem for all legislators by 75%! That is next level, Sam. The proposal was voted down 13-1. Can’t win em all.
Former Redbook contributor and current State Senator Natasha von Imhof (R – Anchorage) spoke at the Anchorage Chamber’s ‘Make it Monday’ forum this week. She spoke about our fiscal situation and her ideas on how to deal with it. I have to say, and this is not easy for me to say as her former opponent, she did a really good job. She was funny and articulated her ideas well. However, at the end she mentioned a contributing factor to our crime problem is the Bloods and Crips coming to Alaska. Not sure about that one, Natasha. Maybe she confused the rowers on Campbell Lake wearing red and blue shirts.
Representative Chris Tuck (D – Anchorage) was in Las Vegas earlier this week. Was he there to gamble? No. He was there for Waste Expo 50! I have a feeling he was there with his lady friend, Bernadette Wilson, who owns Denali Disposal. Which you may recall was recently involved in the bizarre Spenard palm tree situation. I don’t know much about Waste Expo, but I do know their promo video is very high energy!
Maybe Bernadette can get a palm tree in Vegas and bring it back with her.
Brad Keithley, budget hawk and Managing Director Alaskans for a Sustainable Budget, came out with an interesting article on Saturday. It is titled, “Notes from the Alaska Fiscal Cliff: Alaska’s legislators adopt fiscal measures that are better for themselves than other Alaskans …” Agree or disagree with his perspective, the interesting thing is he collected all of the income data of the legislators and put it into an Excel file. Some of those folks are doing VERY well.
The Alaska Press Club held their annual conference last week. Saturday (4/21/2018) night was the awards banquet. The big takeaway – the list of awards takes up 20 pages! Click here to see. Participation trophies for everyone!
Senate President Pete Kelly (R – Fairbanks) was absent from the senate floor session on Friday (4/27/2018). I wonder if that has anything to do with that day being the scheduled release of his son from prison? If you are unfamiliar, here is an article about it.
First Governor’s Debate
The first debate of the governor’s race was held on Thursday morning (4/26/2018). It was put on by the Alaska Support Industry Alliance. Candidates present were Mike Dunleavy, Scott Hawkins, and Bill Walker. The meeting started out with a boring safety moment that got a bit weird. When he was done with the briefing, the guy informed the crowd he was also the time keeper. He said he came up with a unique way to enforce time. He activated an extremely loud sound of an electric shock that played over the speakers. He then said he wired the candidates chairs to shock them if they go over. A safety briefing followed by a joke about electrocuting the candidates. Now that is high energy! He was immediately nominated for this week’s Loose Unit by a few of the attendees.
Dunleavy and Hawkins made it clear they aren’t a fan of Walker or his policies. Walker talked about, you guessed it, the gas line. They all agreed on Walker’s plan to pay off the owed oil tax credits by issuing bonds. At one-point Walker talked about tourism and agriculture, odd topics for that crowd. Dunleavy was reading from notes and sounded very scripted. Hawkins kept referring to Alaska as a Banana republic because of constant changes to our oil taxes. He should look up the definition of what a Banana republic is. It’s going to be a long five months.
This Week’s Loose Unit
Some week’s it is tough to pick from all the choices. Others the winner is clear. This week it’s clear, and a tie. This week’s Loose Unit is Robert Edwardson and Justin Parish. Edwardson filed a letter of intent to run for the state legislature this week. Normally not a big deal. But in this case it was for the seat of his former boss, Representative Justin Parish (D – Juneau). Classic Loose Unit move. Edwardson, up until recently was the chief of staff to Parish. Not anymore!
Not long after he filed, Parish came out with a video on Facebook in which he said he has decided to not run for re-election and that he is endorsing Edwardson for his seat. Very loose. Then, a Juneau Empire story came out that said a woman had accused Parish of acting inappropriately in the past, although not at the Capitol. That likely played a factor in his decision not to run for re-election. It is unclear what exactly happened because the woman is remaining anonymous. All around a pretty bizarre situation and definitely Loose Unit level.
If you have a nomination for This Week’s Loose Unit, or if you have any political news, stories or gossip (or any old pics of politicians or public officials) please email me at [email protected]