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We Build Alaska

The Sunday Minefield – March 3, 2024

I hope everyone in Anchorage has been enjoying Fur Rondy! We are more than halfway through the “90-day” statutory session, but for those paying attention, count on it going much closer to the 120-day constitutional limit. The clock is ticking on the March 14 deadline for Governor Mike Dunleavy (R – Alaska) to act on the Senate Bill 140, the education omnibus bill. Another clock is also ticking, the March 16 (or 15) deadline for the Legislature to act on Dunleavy’s proposed executive orders. Representative Mary Peltola (D – Alaska) addresses a joint session of the Legislature. The House is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a proposed constitutional amendment that would enshrine the PFD in the Alaska Constitution. And things got wild at Tuesday’s Anchorage Assembly meeting after an ordinance calling for a cease fire in Gaza was quickly tabled by a majority of members.

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 Bill Still an Issue

Things are dragging as the House and Senate try to figure out something to give Governor Dunleavy to prevent him from vetoing SB 140. On Tuesday, Dunleavy held another lit press conference where he made it clear he was unhappy with what the in the education bill passed by the Legislature. Specifically what was not included in the bill. He was really pushing for teacher retention bonuses, a large increase in the correspondence program, and a statewide charter program. With the exception of a small increase in the correspondence program, his other priorities were not included.

Rather than just veto the bill, Dunleavy basically gave the Legislature a chance to give him something. The constitutional deadline for Dunleavy to act on the bill is March 14 (15 days after it was transmitted to him, excluding Sundays). If he does not sign or veto it by then, it becomes law. If he vetoes it, 40 votes in a joint session would be needed to override the veto. Sources tell me Dunleavy ultimately does not want to veto the bill as it would create chaos in the Legislature, further strain his relationship with many legislators, and hurt vulnerable House Republicans in November. But if he gets nothing and lets the bill go into law, he will look kind of ridiculous.

Some legislators think he’s bluffing on vetoing the bill. But others are taking it serious. There are conversations about what could be done to placate Dunleavy, but time is a factor. Several legislators are leaving Juneau on Friday as Anchorage Caucus is scheduled for March 9 at UAA. Things can move fast in Juneau, but a deal would have to come together first. It’s hard to say how this will all play out. But one thing is clear, if Dunleavy vetoes the bill all hell will break loose.

There’s another clock ticking. The Legislature has 60 days to act on Dunleavy’s proposed executive orders calling for the elimination of several boards and commissions. Which is either March 15 or 16. If you count day one it is March 16, if you don’t is it March 15. There seems to be some debate on that. They can be voted down with a simple majority of the Legislature. The votes seem to be there for that. If just 15 senators vote them down, they would be voted down with the 16-member House minority. But a vote requires a joint session of the Legislature. If the House majority decides they want to prevent that from happening, the relationship between the House and Senate majorities could really deteriorate.

Year start reports out for Fairbanks North Star Borough mayoral candidates

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.

Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) year start reports for Fairbanks North Star Borough (FNSB) mayoral candidates and legislative candidates were due on Feb. 15. These reports cover the start of the campaign to Feb. 1, 2024. We will have a breakdown of House and Senate candidates out soon in a special edition.

Four candidates have filed letters of intent to run for FNSB mayor. These include two former legislators, Grier Hopkins and John Coghill, the current presiding officer of the FNSB Assembly, Savanah Fletcher, and a former member and past presiding officer of the FNSB Assembly, Aaron Lojewski. There will be a new mayor as current Mayor Bryce Ward is termed out.

The election is not until Oct. 1. The official filing deadline is July 29. If no candidate receives over 40% of the vote, a runoff between the two highest vote getters will occur on Oct. 31. The next report for the race, the 30-day report, is not due until September.

You can click on the name of the candidate to view their report. 

  • Grier Hopkins, a Democrat who served in the State House from 2019-2023, started with just under $4,000. He reported $22,000 in income and $3,300 in expenditures, leaving him with $23,000 cash on hand. $6,250 came from labor PACs, Anchorage attorney and political operative Scott Kendall and his wife Selena Hopkins-Kendall each donated $1,000 (Selena is the sister of Grier), and the rest came from smaller individual donations. He spent $1,500 on fundraiser letter printing and $300 at the Fairbanks Children’s Museum for a campaign kickoff event.
  • Savannah Fletcher started with $2,300. She reported income of $17,000 and $4,000 in expenditures, leaving her with $15,700 cash on hand. Fairbanks resident Erin Kristen Schupp donated $2,000, Arizona home builder John Schultz donated $1,000, Fairbanks resident Robert Burgess donated $1,000, and the rest came from smaller individual donations. She spent $900 with the Alaska Democratic Party for access to their Votebuilder database, and she paid North Pole resident $500 for “Design services for campaign logo package, social media templates, facebook banner, button designs, and campaign yard signs, and $300 with Go Alaska Media, LLC for a campaign kickoff event.”
  • Aaron Lojewski reported $15,000 in income ($1,500 of which was non-monetary contributions) and $5,800 in expenditures, leaving him with $9,400 cash on hand. Fairbanks resident Lester Nichols donated $2,500, Fairbanks resident Brett Rottermund donated $1,000, Fairbanks resident Robert Perkins donated $1,000, and Fairbanks resident Fred Vreeman donated $1,000. He spent $2,600 on stamps and $280 with the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce for a table at a forum.
  • John Coghill, a Republican who served in the House and Senate from 1999-2021, reported $2,600 in income from five donors and no expenditures. Fairbanks resident Julie Duquette donated $1,000, former Fairbanks Sen. Gary Wilken and his wife each donated $500, and former Fairbanks Sen. Pete Kelly donated $100.

Other Happenings 

Representative Peltola spoke to a joint session of the Legislature on Monday. She talked about the crackdown on Russian fish making its way into the United States, resource development, and Alaska’s out-migration. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R – Alaska), Senator Dan Sullivan, and Chief Justice Peter Maassen previously spoke at joint sessions, so that’s it for speakers this session.

The House heard amendments on House Joint Resolution 7, a Ways & Means Committee resolution which would put the PFD in the Alaska Constitution. It was scheduled to be voted on Friday, but House Speaker Cathy Tilton (R – Wasilla) bumped it to tomorrow. It would need 27 votes in the House to pass. It’s unlikely they have the votes. But even if they do, it would need 14 in the Senate, and then would need to be approved by voters. If it passes the House it would be DOA in the Senate.

Things got wild at the end of Tuesday’s Anchorage Assembly meeting. Assembly members Felix Rivera, George Martinez, and Karen Bronga introduced a resolution calling for a cease fire in Gaza. This was after pressure from a bunch of socialist lunatics who have been disrupting Assembly meetings for months. But the majority of the Assembly quickly moved to table the resolution and call the question, which prevented any debate. Rivera, Bronga, and Martinez weren’t happy. At the end during members comments things got really loose! Rivera said he plans on introducing the resolution at every meeting. Assembly Chair Chris Constant did not like that, and made it clear in his comments. Good on, Chris!

This Week’s Loose Unit

This week’s designee really earned it. This week’s Loose Unit is Senator Jesse Bjorkman (R – Nikiski). Last week I did a story on a newly introduced bill from Bjorkman that includes a provision that is essentially a giveaway to John Hendrix, owner of the oil and gas company HEX/Furie. The provision would have the state, thorough eminent domain, acquire private overriding royalties in Cook Inlet. All you need to know is Hendrix has been complaining about these overriding royalties for a long time. When he bought Fuire out of bankruptcy in 2019 (with the help of AIDEA), he knew about these overriding royalties.

Bjorkman initially denied that Hendrix talked to him about the bill or inspired it. But then I came across a December letter from Furie to one of the holders of an overriding royalty. The letter proposed exactly what Bjorkman’s bill does. Loose! In classic Loose Unit fashion, Bjorkman doubled down and insisted he just came up with the idea all on his own! Classic Loose Unit behavior.

Then Bjorkman decided to go fully loose on Thursday. During an appearance on the radio show Sound Off on KSRM on the Kenai Peninsula (Thursday 2/29, start at 44:00) Bjorkman further doubled down by repeating Hendrix’s talking points and insisting that he’s spoken to everyone about the bill, including Hilcorp, Furie, and the Department of Natural Resources. The idea for this provision clearly came from Hendrix because the December letter from Furie HAD THE EXACT SAME LANGUAGE! Bjorkman ended by saying it’s unfortunate “a blogger has a personal vendetta with John Hendrix, the owner of Furie.” Well Bjorkman is about to figure out what “a personal vendetta” really fucking means.

At least when Hendrix hoodwinked Senator Cathy Giessel (R – Anchorage) last year on a bill for another Hendrix handout, she had the intelligence to pull the bill.

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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ALM Commenter
3 months ago

I really appreciate your coverage of the Furie and Hendrix issues, but I really do not appreciate your suggestion that your further coverage may be driven by showing “what a ‘personal vendetta’ really ******* means.” You should try to rise above the personal squabbling, not necessarily for the sake of decency in itself, of whatever, but because it saps you of credibility.

Someone who wants Jeff to grow up
3 months ago
Reply to  ALM Commenter

Well said, ALM. In many ways, Jeff is still 9 years old. He’s run for legislative office, I think, twice. Who want’s a legislator who publishes that he’s going to go on a fucking personal vendetta in between calling people loose units?

Someone who wants Jeff to grow up
3 months ago

Or when he’s calling people with whom he disagrees “socialist lunatics.” Playground name calling.

floridawoman
3 months ago

I agree, Jew Haters, better fits that group than socialist lunatics.

Floridawoman
3 months ago
Reply to  floridawoman

Would you prefer, supporters of Hamas rape of Jewish kids?

Floridawoman
3 months ago
Reply to  Floridawoman

Supporters of Hamas gang rape of Jewish kids more accurate?

CJin AK
3 months ago
Reply to  floridawoman

Why is it “jew hater” when people are opposed to the slaughter of innocent men, women and children defending their lands, by international rights, laws and agreement? I am opposed to a foreign government trying to sway our elections, including making un-Constitutional laws of whom American citizens can boycott. No other country in the world enjoys that status here in the USA. These racist fascists in Israel are stealing the land, that again, has already been agreed upon by international law. The “terrorists are not the Palestinian freedom fighters, but the Israeli Occupation Forces, who have committed egregious and illegal… Read more »

floridawoman
3 months ago
Reply to  CJin AK

Thank you for letting us know you think there is justification for rape. We now know what you are. Please let your mom, friends, neighbors, the police, know that you think there is a time and place for rape. They should know what you are also.

Akwhitty
3 months ago
Reply to  floridawoman

Trying to picture you as a lamp shade

Allen
3 months ago
Reply to  CJin AK

Wow, better read those history books, your comments show a stunning ignorance of the history of that area.

Steve-O
3 months ago

I’d think publishing the exact same language from the letter and the recently proposed bill would have been an obvious choice, so readers could see that it’s “THE EXACT SAME LANGUAGE!” Now I just have to believe that it is instead of knowing that it is, without that I can’t say it is or isn’t the exact same language. But since I was told that “All you need to know is…” I guess I should just accept my lot as a someone who is told what to think instead of making my own decisions based upon the evidence provided.

Allen
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve-O

He tells you where to find what you’re looking for: “Last week I did a story on a newly introduced bill from Bjorkman that includes a provision that is essentially a giveaway to John Hendrix, owner of the oil and gas company HEX/Furie.” That story quotes the bill and has a link to the letter.

Steve-O
3 months ago
Reply to  Allen

So I need to link to another link with a link in it and then try and find which parts of the letter and the bill have “THE EXACT SAME LANGUAGE!” I can’t even be trusted to think for myself since I’m being told “All you need to know is…” It just seems like maybe all I need to know in one guy’s opinion might not be all I need to know and since that guy won’t show us which language he’s talking about being the exact same maybe he isn’t telling us all we need to know…maybe it is… Read more »

AKthinker
3 months ago

Funny that big D thinks an incentive program will retain teachers. He received an self-proposed incentive as a superintendent in a bush school system and it didn’t prevent him from cutting out early on his contract.

Nonsense watcher
3 months ago
Reply to  AKthinker

Let’s just focus on Jesse folks…. he’s never telling’ the whole story & the Landmine caught him. His crap goes way back to the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s carrying for Peter Micciche whom will be running for Gov — so brace yourself for this Jeff! and remember birds of a feather….

Evan S Singh
3 months ago

Micciche wants to run for governor? Crap. Better than dunleavey but so is a bar of soap

Michael Eastman
3 months ago

Why Jeff, is Donnie T going to sponsor your next run for political office? He’ll be bound to admire your “vendetta” rhetoric. Personally, I find a bit loose