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We Build Alaska

The Sunday Minefield – January 14, 2024

The second session of the 33rd Alaska Legislature starts on Tuesday! Juneau is getting absolutely dumped on with snow. So far, all the flights yesterday and today have made it. Some drama is already heating up, including whether or not there will be an attempt by the Legislature to override Governor Mike Dunleavy’s (R – Alaska) veto of half of the one-time schools funding increase. Official filing for the April Anchorage municipal election opened on Friday. It will be open until January 26. And session hasn’t even started yet and there is already a literal Loose Unit in the Capitol!

But first, check out this special message from George Santos to the Alaska Legislature!

A friendly message and reminder to all our readers. The Landmine is made possible by myself and a team of awesome Alaskans. I am back to Juneau soon for my sixth session in a row reporting on the Legislature. If you enjoy the content we provide, please consider making a one time or recurring monthly donation. You can click here to donate. We have a donation system that makes it super easy. We would really appreciate it. And thanks to everyone who has been supportive!

Journey to Juneau 

After what has become an annual pre-session trip to Hawaii to visit my buddy Forrest Wolfe and his dad Ron, I am now in Juneau. The batteries are definitely recharged! I normally fly to Juneau for session, but I opted to drive this time. I had some furniture for my Juneau office I bought in Anchorage and a buddy needed some trucks moved to Juneau. So it worked out perfect. Let me tell you that drive is awesome in the summer and not so great in the winter. First, there’s much less daylight. And second, it can be very cold. The one plus in winter is there are not any construction delays.

We overnighted in Tok on Friday and it was 26 below zero! I really don’t get how people live in the Interior, especially considering it gets much colder than that. I enjoyed a nice shot and beer at the Tok Lodge, which warmed me up a bit. The bartender was a real character.

We left early on Saturday to maximize the daylight. Even with the trucks plugged in, it still took 20 minutes for them to warm up. After driving through Canada, we got into Haines around 6 pm. The ferry did not leave until 11:15 pm. So I met up with former Representative Bill Thomas at the Fogcutter for a beer. Bill is a true legend.

The ferry from Haines was the Kennicott – the big one. It was strange because it was almost empty. It’s heading to Bellingham so I assume it will fill up along the way. It got into Juneau at 4 am. I was able to get a little sleep, but not much. I spent the rest of the day getting my stuff into my office and my new place in Juneau. I am NOT staying at the Driftwood this year because of how shitty the new owners, the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, were to everyone last session.

In fact, the new owners have continued their incompetence by not even bothering to respond to the Legislative Affairs Agency when they were contacted about session housing. Check out this recent Juneau Empire article about it. I drove by the Driftwood earlier and only saw two cars in their parking lot. If President Richard Peterson’s goal was to chase off all their non-tourism season business, he is succeeding!

Will the Legislature try to override Gov. Dunleavy’s vetoes?

The following is an excerpt from this week’s edition of the Alaska Political Report. You can click here for more information about the Political Report. A subscription is $1,299/year per organization. Discounted pricing is available for non-profits and government entities. Our coverage of the budget starts with the governor’s proposed budget, and we track everything in detail through the entire process. If you have any questions or would like to subscribe, please email jeff@akpoliticalreport.com.

The second session of the 33rd Alaska Legislature begins Tuesday, and the Alaska Constitution requires lawmakers to convene in a joint session by the fifth day to consider vetoes by the governor.

Last year, GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed a bill for electric assisted bicycles from Fairbanks Democratic Rep. Ashley Carrick, and a bill related to refrigerants from Anchorage Republican Rep. Stanley Wright.

But the major issue is Dunleavy’s veto of half of the $175 million increase to schools funding that the Legislature approved in May. Because the item is an appropriation, the Constitution requires three-fourths of legislators, or 45 votes, to override that veto.

The Legislature’s Uniform Rules say that a joint session can be called “by agreement of the presiding officers of both houses or by either house by motion adopted by a majority of the full membership of the house.”

Kodiak Republican Senate President Gary Stevens told the Political Report that the Senate majority supports overriding Dunleavy’s veto of the education funding increase, and he plans on asking Wasilla Republican House Speaker Cathy Tilton to hold a joint session. But Tilton told the Political Report she will not accept the offer without the support of a majority of the House.

The Republican-led House majority is in a tough position. They want to avoid a situation where they are forced to vote to override the veto by Dunleavy, their political ally. But it’s also an election year and education funding will be a big issue. Not agreeing to even meet to attempt the override could come back to hurt some of their members in more moderate districts in November.

What is likely to happen instead is that a member of the House minority, whose members support an override, will make a motion Tuesday for a joint session. The majority will likely try to table it, which requires 21 votes. All 16 minority members will vote no, so just five majority members would need to defect to allow the joint session to go ahead.

This will be a big issue next week. The Political Report will be in Juneau watching things closely.

Other Happenings 

The U.S. Supreme Court has granted review of the case Johnson v. City of Grants Pass. This case could potentially have bid consequences on the ability for cities to deal with homelessness in public spaces. This November Landmine article by Anchorage attorney Lee Baxter goes into more detail.

The group trying to repeal ranked choice voting turned in their signatures this week. The question is whether or not they got enough qualifying signatures from 30 of Alaska’s 40 House districts. We should know by the end of February.

Senator Dan Sullivan (R – Alaska) was on Meet the Press this week. He talked about the U.S. military attacks on the Houthis in Yemen and the growing troubles in the Middle East. But the most interesting thing he said was when host Kristen Welker asked if he was going to endorse Donald Trump. Instead of saying yes, which is what I expected him to say, he said he plans on endorsing the nominee. He did say Trump is looking good to be the nominee, but it’s odd he did not outright endorse him.

Heather Handyside is leaving her role at GCI to partner up with Jennifer Thompson and Sarah Erkmann Ward – three amazing women. What a team!

There are a lot of new legislative staffers this session as many have left. One is Portia Babcock, the wife of former Representative Ralph Samuels and sister of Tuckerman Babcock. She is now working for the House majority on corrections and public safety issues.

This Week’s Loose Unit 

This week’s designee was literally on the loose in the Capitol. This week’s Loose Unit is Representative Sarah Vance’s (R – Homer) dog, with Vance an honorable mention. Vance’s dog decided it was a good idea to take a big shit in the House Judiciary Committee room. Then someone stepped in it and tracked dog shit throughout the Capitol. I was told it took hours to clean up. In addition to being gross, this is maximum loose behavior. There is a pet policy for a reason.

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 jeff@alaskalandmine.com.

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Seth
6 months ago

For the record, ‘service animal only’ policies exist to protect the rights of people with disabilities, not expensive carpets.

Tucker
6 months ago
Reply to  Seth

If her dog is a “service” dog it wouldn’t have taken a dump indoors. The owner of a service animal must control their animal.emotional support dogs are not service dogs.

Seth
6 months ago
Reply to  Tucker

I think you and I agree on that. I’m taking issue with the suggestion that ‘service animal only’ policies are there to keep untrained animals from pooping on carpets. They aren’t. They exist to protect the rights of people with disabilities (although situations like this make it pretty clear that some people are more concerned with carpets than they are about the rights of people with disabilities). What I’d take away from this wrt policy is that they probably need one that says people will be expected to pay for damage their animals do to state property.

Dan
6 months ago
Reply to  Seth

I am sure that service animals and their beneficiaries benefit from a space not having untrained dogs running around, but dog bans are seldom for the purpose of protecting service animals. They exist to keep dogs out of a space, because dogs are messy, loud and sometimes violent.

Scott
6 months ago

95% of Alaskan’s would pay for the chance to crap all over the legislature. We let a dog do it for free. Proof positive the legislature has no idea how to manage money.

Any word on the dog’s name? I’m thinking write in candidate.

floridawoman
6 months ago

Classifying a dog as a loose unit is pretty loose. While were at it, why don’t classify crying babies on planes as loose units? Vance is fully the responsible party.