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We Build Alaska

The Sunday Minefield – March 12, 2023

Ballots for the seven Anchorage Assembly races go out in the mail on Tuesday. I spent the week in Anchorage hosting debates for all the races. I go back to Juneau tomorrow. The operating budget is making its way through the House finance process, but won’t make it to the House floor until late March or early April. Governor Mike Dunleavy (R – Alaska) introduced a parental rights bill for education that some legislators are unhappy with. And some outlets are reporting that the Biden administrations intends to approve ConocoPhillips’ Willow project but limit other drilling in federal areas in Alaska.

A friendly message and reminder to all our readers. The Landmine is made possible by myself and a team of awesome Alaskans. We worked hard on all of our election coverage. I am back in Juneau for the fifth session in a row to report 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!

Operating budget update

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 in mid-December 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.

Closeouts for the 18 House finance subcommittees are happening this week. We will have a summary of all of those next week. Once the committees closeout, which could include amendments or suggestions to the full finance committee, each subcommittee presents their closeouts to the full finance committee. Those are scheduled for next week. Next, the finance committee will roll out their committee substitute (CS) of GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s amended operating budget. That is scheduled to happen on March 20. Once the CS is out, there will be public testimony on the budget. That could take several days.

Once public testimony is concluded, the amendment process will begin. This is the first time this Legislature will debate the amount of the dividend. Dunleavy has proposed a full statutory dividend, which would be approximately $3,900 per person and cost $2.5 billion. But as we noted in our Jan. 26 edition, “Republicans only hold five of the 11 seats on the committee. Two of the majority members, Dillingham independent Bryce Edgmon and Nome Democratic Neal Foster, were part of the bipartisan coalition that controlled the House for the past six years. They are now two of the finance committee’s three co-chairs.”

Foster supports a full dividend, while Edgmon in the past has not. Fairbanks Republican Rep. Will Stapp, a freshman who sits on the finance committee, has said he’s not inclined to support a full dividend that requires a large CBR draw. Anchorage Republican Rep. Julie Coulombe, another freshman who sits on the finance committee, has been quiet about her position. Six votes are required to pass an amendment in the House Finance Committee. A vote for a dividend smaller than the statutory amount is possible, but it will likely come down to one vote.

Once the amendment process and debate are concluded, the finance committee will send their version of the budget to the House floor. That should happen at the end of March or early April. Then the full House will hear budget amendments and debate the budget. The dividend amount will come up again. Depending on what comes out of the finance committee, there could be amendments on the House floor for a smaller or larger dividend. Like the finance committee, the vote in the House over the amount of the dividend will be close. When they are finished with amendments and debate on the budget, the House will send the budget to the Senate.

Meanwhile, Senate finance subcommittees are still meeting. They traditionally wait to do their closeouts until after the House passes their version of the budget, but nothing requires them to. Once the Senate passes their version of the budget, it will go back to the House for a concurrence vote, which rarely happens. Then the budget will go to a conference committee. Expect this legislative session to go into May, likely to the 121-day constitutional limit. The Senate is also working on the capital budget, which they traditionally pass first and send to the House. We are tracking all of this closely and will provide updates as things happen.

Anchorage Assembly Debates 

I spent the week in Anchorage hosting debates for the upcoming seven Anchorage Assembly races. Thanks to all the candidates who participated, our sponsors, and our team for making the debates possible in our Anchorage studio. You can see all the debates in this Landmine article or on our YouTube channel. The only candidates who did not participate were John Trueblood and Scott Myers. In a phone call, Treublood, who is running against Assembly member Chris Constant for the Downtown seat, was very rude, claiming I “hate conservative.” Myers, who is running for the open Eagle River seat, declined to participate. However, we did get cardboard cutouts for each of them! Check out the “debates” for each of those races to see.

I was delighted by the respectful nature of all the debates. The 12-member Assembly is going to look very different in April as five of the seven seats have no incumbent running. If conservatives pick up two seats, the Assembly will lose the veto proof super majority they have had since Mayor Dave Bronson took office in July 2021. Turnout will be low and most of these candidates have never run for office before, so anything is possible. Ballots go out in the mail on Tuesday and are due by April 4, when the election concludes.

Controversial Education Bill

Governor Dunleavy introduced a parental rights bill for education this week. According to his press release on the bill,

The bill clarifies existing statute requiring parental notification prior to discussing human reproduction or sexual matters to include gender identity and requires written permission for the child to participate in the activity, class or program. The bill requires written permission from a parent before the name or pronoun used by a public school to address to the parent’s child is changed. It also requires school districts to inform parents in writing of the right to pursue legal action against a school district if the parent’s rights have been violated.

The bill was immediately criticized by many progressives, saying its aimed at and will harm LGBT students. The bill is dead on arrival in the Senate. Senator Löki Tobin (D – Anchorage) (she/her), who chairs the Senate Education Committee, tweeted this after the bill was introduced:

But it will get some play in the House. Representative Jamie Allard (R – Eagle River), who co-chairs the House Education Committee, called the bill “outstanding.” She also recently posted that she bought some SheHer and HeHim candy bars, a response from the Daily Wire to a Hershey ad featuring a transgender woman for International Women’s Day. Those hearings are going to be lit.

Other Happenings 

The Biden administration appears to be on the verge of approving ConocoPhillips’ Willow project, but not without some strings. On Friday, this Bloomberg article came out saying that sources in the Biden administration confirmed the project would be approved. But then this Reuters article came out saying the White House had not made a decision. Then, a Washington Post article came out saying the project would be approved but would declare several federal areas of the North Slope off limits to oil drilling. This seems to be a compromise to appease the radical, anti-development environmentalists. The final decision should be out this week.

Mike Barnhill, who had been working out of state, is back working in Alaska for the Permanent Fund Corporation. Welcome back, Mike!

This Week’s Loose Unit

A House committee hearing on Tuesday made this week’s designee clear clear. This week’s Loose Unit is Representative Laddie Shaw (R – Anchorage). On Tuesday, Shaw heard Representative Andy Josephson’s (D – Anchorage) bill for a defined benefit pension for public safety workers. But where it got loose was not around the bill itself, but the scheduling of the bill. Josephson had undergone an emergency appendectomy days before the hearing. He asked Shaw to delay the hearing, but Shaw refused. Classic Loose Unit behavior.

Nonetheless, Josephson made it to the hearing. At the end of his testimony, Shaw actually said, “Hopefully we don’t send you back to the hospital after that. Job well done.” Very loose. Shaw then referred the bill to a special subcommittee he created. Shaw also referred the Senate pension bill to that subcommittee. But there’s one small issue. The Senate pension bill was just introduced and has not even had a hearing yet. A Senate bill cannot be referred to a House committee until it passes the Senate and is sent to the House. Very loose. And to top it off – regardless of how you feel about defined benefit pensions – according to Shaw’s public financial disclosure, he receives a PERS pension form the state and a military pension, and his wife also receives a PERS state pension. Which is great for them. I just hope Shaw wants others to enjoy a good retirement!

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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rod
1 year ago

“…radical, anti-development environmentalists.” You mean those jerks who want a cool planet?

Tim
1 year ago
Reply to  rod

I agree that Landfield’s use of the term “radical” here is editorializing something that does not need to be editorialized.

Worse, even if the editorializing was fair game, calling people “radicals” in this context is just pretty lame and lazy.

Mark Kelsey
1 year ago
Reply to  Tim

Very brave of you to level a malicious accusation from behind an anonymous online ID.

Floridawoman
1 year ago

It is interesting that a person who claims to be “different” than other journalists and “boundary pushing” and proud of wearing whatever he feels like is so bothered by diversity. Jeff what is your beef with people self-identifying? With folks with purple hair? Like I get Alaska is the last frontier of ignorance- but between SD’s blatant anti-semitism and the trend of the Landmine towards anti-clean air, anti-diversity one has to wonder where our homegrown journalism is headed.

Lynn Willis
1 year ago

The defined benefit is necessary to compete for qualified persons. The Wall Street “Casino” approach to funding your own retirement is failing. Whoever was anywhere near retirement age and remembers what their 401K, SEP, or IRA looked like at the end of 2008/2009 can relate. While I believe that we should tax ourselves to pay for the government goods and services we demand Senator Shaw is not practicing fiscal conservatism. No, Laddie Shaw is not a “fiscal conservative” more than he is an adherent to “Maga Republicanism” clinging to power by practicing the populist politics of division, divisiveness and outright… Read more »

Grateful Alaskan
1 year ago

Laddie “what’s good for me and mine is too good for you” Shaw. So much for looking out for those who serve… Public safety employees can get bent (or go to any other state and get a pension :’D)

Really disappointed in his lack of leadership. Used to hope he could be a part of bringing sanity to the State House, but turns out he’s a craven snake too.

TheDudeAbides
1 year ago

McCabe is also in that “I’ve got mine, you can’t have yours” camp. His contempt for working people was clear last month when HB 22 was heard in Community and Regional Affairs.

There are surely a few others in that group who also think grinding selfish personal axes is better than serious governing. It’s almost as if they think public safety personnel don’t vote, and that shaky coalitions are indestructible.