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We Build Alaska

The Sunday Minefield – March 10, 2024

We are approaching the halfway mark of the constitutional 120-day legislative session. The March 14 deadline for Governor Mike Dunleavy (R – Alaska) to act on Senate Bill 140, the omnibus education bill, is four days away. The 19 House Finance subcommittees finished their closeouts this week. Anchorage legislators were back home this weekend for Anchorage Caucus, which was held yesterday at UAA. A House Judiciary Committee went off the rails during confirmation hearings for people appointed to the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics. And ballots for the April 2 Anchorage mayoral election go out in the mail in two days.

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 in Juneau 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!

Education Deadline Approaches 

Governor Dunleavy must act on SB 140 by Thursday. At a press conference last week he indicated he would veto the bill unless the Legislature gave him something he wants, like teacher retention bonuses. But at a price tag of nearly $60 million, that does not seem likely to happen. Another problem is even if the House and Senate make some kind of deal to give Dunleavy something, they really don’t have time to do it before Thursday.

Several legislators expressed frustration that Dunleavy went to D.C. this week for meetings and to attend the State of the Union. It’s hard to negotiate with a guy who is not in Juneau, let alone the state. That could impact what, if anything, legislators decide to do.

If they do come to an agreement, they could promise him they would do it in exchange for him not vetoing the bill. But there’s not a lot of trust between Dunleavy and the Legislature, so that is probably a no go. I have a sneaking suspicion that he is going to veto the bill, and then tell them to do it again with some of his priorities included. He could let the bill go into law without signing it. But I don’t think he will do that after his pronouncement in the press conference because he will look dumb. Sources report most of his senior staff are encouraging him to veto.

If he does veto the bill, it will likely trigger a constitutional dilemma. The first sentence of Article II, Section 16 of the Alaska Constitution states, “Upon receipt of a veto message during a regular session of the legislature, the legislature shall meet immediately in joint session and reconsider passage of the vetoed bill or item.” The “shall meet immediately” part has never been tested or defined. There are varying opinions within the Legislature on what exactly that means. If Dunleavy vetoes, look for things to get very loose in Juneau.

Other Happenings 

The 19 House Finance subcommittees finished their closeouts this week. After dozens of meetings pouring over billions of dollars in spending proposed by Dunleavy, no substantive reductions were made by the Republican-led House majority. If you are interested in a full breakdown of subcommittee actions, consider subscribing to the Alaska Political Report! The next step in the budget process will be a committee substitute from the House Finance Committee. That probably won’t come out until the week of March 18 as the Spring Revenue Forecast is scheduled to be released on March 15. It will be interesting to see what the finance committee does with the Permanent Fund Dividend. Last year they reduced it to the 50/50 amount. But it seems the appetite for even that has waned.

Anchorage legislators were back from for Anchorage Caucus, which was held yesterday at UAA. Education was a big topic. Our own Paxson Woelber was there. He will have a story out with photos of the event soon.

The House Judiciary Committee met on Friday. They held confirmation hearings for public members appointed to the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics. It quickly went off the rails. I really suggest taking the time to watch the first hour. Representative Sarah Vance (R – Homer), the chair, and Representative Jamie Allard (R – Eagle River) took turns going after Joyce Anderson, who was recently reappointed by the chief justice. All five public members are appointed by the chief justice, subject to confirmation by two-thirds of the Legislature. Anderson’s long time on the committee was an issue, as well as a contract she had to become the acting administrator after the passing of Jerry Anderson last summer. They said it was a conflict for her to be taking pay while serving on the committee. She said she took a leave of absence from the committee. The political affiliations of all three members were questioned, as well as their support for supporting the recall of Governor Dunleavy. The meeting got really weird. Representative Jesse Sumner (R – Wasilla) looked like he would rather be subjected to torture than be in that meeting. There was considerable public testimony at the end, all critical of the appointees. Several said that Representative David Eastman (R – Wasilla) has been unfairly targeted by the committee. After, Eastman published this article about the meeting.

Ballots for the April 2 Anchorage mayoral race go out in the mail on Tuesday. There are ten candidates, but four real ones. The 30-day APOC reports just came out. Here is a summary for the four main candidates. It looks like Mayor Dave Bronson and Suzanne LaFrance are saving up their money for the run-off.

  • Chris Tuck started with $4,423. He reported $65,900 in income, $39,000 of which came from himself, and $58,629 in expenditures. After a $2,500 debt, he is left with $9,194.
  • Suzanne LaFrance started with $122,817. She reported $62,394 in income and $39,077 in expenditures. After $23,174 in debts, she is left with $122,959.
  • Mayor Dave Bronson started with $166,573. He reported $42,558 in income and $67,560 in expenditures. After $15,149 in debts, he is left with $126,421.
  • Bill Popp started with $13,856. He reported $22,350 in income and $20,964 in expenditures. After $4,950 in debts, he is left with $10,292.

The Anchorage Assembly passed a resolution on Tuesday (3/5/2024) calling for a cease fire in Gaza. It was amended to call Hamas a terrorist organization, which seemed to annoy the pro-Palestine lunatics who have been interrupting Assembly meetings for months. I was waiting for President Joe Biden to mention the Anchorage Assembly resolution during the State of the Union on Thursday night, but I guess it slipped his mind…

This Week’s Loose Unit 

There were a lot of deserving candidates this week, but one really stood out. This week’s Loose Unit is Representative Sara Hannan (D – Juneau). You may recall that Hannan kicked me out of a pre-session Democratic fundraiser in Juneau in January. Anyhoo, I was recently reviewing the year start APOC reports for legislative candidates. And Hannan’s did not disappoint.

Hannan reported $3,850 in income and $3,457 in expenditures. Of the $3,457 in expenditures, nearly $3,000 went to attending the Boston Seafood Show, an Alaska Airlines lounge membership, and attending Democratic Party meetings in Anchorage. Talk about loose! Even looking past the Democratic Party events, using campaign money to buy an Alaska Airlines lounge membership and taking a trip to the Boston Seafood is fucking loose! And the lounge membership likely violates state law, which says campaign funds “may not be used to give a personal benefit to the candidate or to another person.” Maximum loose behavior.

Now I know why she kicked me out of the January Democratic fundraiser for not donating – she needed that money to support her extravagant lifestyle!

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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Rat Pack
3 months ago

With Jeff and Sue it’s always about personal vendettas and retribution.

Akwhitty
3 months ago

Typical Democrat behavior.

TheDudeAbides
3 months ago
Reply to  Akwhitty

Which party’s presidential nominee has spent tens of millions of campaign-donor dollars on legal fees for 91 felonies in four jurisdictions?

Martin
3 months ago

I suggest Dermot Cole’s commentary for a more complete view of the Allard-Vance-Eastman debacle: https://www.dermotcole.com/reportingfromalaska/2024/3/10/85417mdetwcoxksg5cbid30xk3p1s6

wlmleitch
3 months ago

Jeff hid in the bushes by the Capitol for weeks, hoping to catch Sara jaywalking when she left work so he could (finally) peg her with another Loose Unit label in retribution for her refusing to let him mooch a meal at a fundraiser. When that didn’t pan out, he kept looking until he discovered this outrageous bit of extreme political corruption.

Allen
3 months ago

The Boston seafood convention is a great opportunity to see how others states and countries promote local seafood and value added seafood products. Value added seafood products are not well represented in Alaska.

floridawoman
3 months ago

I heard there is a new protest group pestering the Anchorage assembly to pass a motion asking for a ceasefire and of violence in Haiti. Oh never mind the protestors and the assembly are only concerned about promoting the rape and annihilation of Jews.

Hmmm
3 months ago
Reply to  floridawoman

All the loud and abrasive tactics aside, promoting the deaths of far more Palestinians doesn’t seem to be the answer, either. Those protestors could be doing better, but you’re not asking yourself why they’re so desperate to be heard. You don’t have to agree with them, but don’t you think you’re dangerously oversimplifying this? Especially when it’s coming to light that “heroic” Bibi didn’t stop attacks when he knew they would happen, when he’s been provocative since coming back to power? He’s been waiting for this. This didn’t start two thousand years ago and you weren’t born yesterday. Think. Usually… Read more »

Leg Vet
3 months ago

Joyce Anderson wasn’t even around when these legislators were in office. They’re just doing the bidding of others who were investigated. Weak little minds, they are. Joyce Anderson scares everyone because she functioned in this job for so long and knows a lot. However, she used her power calmly and most people in the Leg don’t understand how to do that.

Anyone who goes after Joyce Anderson is suspect.