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The Sunday Minefield – May 13, 2018

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! If you forgot about your mom – not good. But you still have time to give her a call, so get on it. The legislative session is finally over. Which means campaign season is about to go into full gear. A few important dates:

June 1, 2018 – Candidate filing deadline for legislature, governor, lieutenant governor

August 21, 2018 – Primary election

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AES Alaska

November 6, 2018 – General election

And one more apology for missing last Sunday’s column. I definitely earned the Loose Unit award last week.

****Hi Folks, Alaska Stalker here. Jeff is on the slope for work this weekend, so he tasked me with getting the Sunday Minefield up. We sure didn’t want a repeat of last weekend! I’m going to keep most everything “as is” from when the column was written on Thursday night. If you see some passages that look a little dated, that’s why. Jeff will be back this week and I’m sure he’ll be writing about the final days of the session with his usual blend of high energy and hot take after hot take. Thanks for reading everyone!****

The Legislature

The house and senate both voted to pass Senate Bill (SB) 26 this week. This is Governor Bill Walker’s bill that uses a portion of the permanent fund earnings to pay for government. Some hailed it as a monumental step for a long term fiscal plan. Others, like Senator Bill Wielechowski (D – Anchorage) said it is not monumental at all because it is only statutory. He pointed out that the 90-day session limit is also statutory and this bill was passed well past that limit. The permanent fund defender crowd seems to be readying their pitch forks.

The nonsense with the distillery bill continues. Not much else to say other than it is incredibly disappointing the power the bar owners and Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers (CHARR) Association wields over the legislature. What a joke all of this is. Breweries should be able to serve a few samples of their product to customers. The only people against that are bar owners and CHARR. Fuck em.

This was sent to the Landmine from a legislative staffer on the issue:

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Stand For AK

“Actually, it is worse than that. CHARR was supportive of the bill as is because CHARR thought that they had the distilleries licked with the passage of new regulations by the Alcohol Board earlier this year. The Alcohol Board screwed up the procedure though, so the regulations couldn’t be ratified. Adam Wool decided to fix it statutorily and added the fix into the Title 4 rewrite (SB 76) and added breweries into the mix because, fuck it, why not? Wool is a fucking ******** and has the biggest and most direct conflict of interest in the history of Interior Alaskan drunks that he doesn’t declare.”

Update: unsurprisingly, this bill died.

Something kind of interesting happened this week with a bill from Representative Matt Claman (D – Anchorage) House Bill (HB) 312 is a bill dealing with crimes against medical professionals. It passed the house in February 31-1, with seven being excused and one being absent (guess who the lone vote against it was? Hint, it’s not that hard). It then went over to the senate. The senate added some things to it such as dealing with synthetic drugs and fixing the issue regarding out of state criminal history for bail. Why is this interesting? Rather than hearing new crime bills, where amendments can be introduced on the floor, they are just sticking many crime related things in this bill. The senate passed the bill on Thursday (5/10/2018). It now goes back to the house. Because the house already passed the bill, no one can introduce any amendments. They can only vote yes or no on the changes. Very cunning. I love it.

Update: the house approved the changes.

The senate passed a capital budget this week. It uses $148 million from the general fund, slightly up from last year. It is over $1.4 billon when federal funds are included. Some interesting things in there include $21.3 million for the Juneau Access Road and $4.5 million for the Knik Arm Bridge. These are the never ending projects that don’t get built. The bill now goes to the house. Don’t anticipate many changes there.

The operating budget came out of the conference committee on Thursday (5/10/2018). It now goes back to both bodies for an up or down vote. The legislature has a constitutional limit of 121 days, which is May 17. After that they have to go into a special session to continue. Very unlikely they do not finish and gavel out by then. Update: Just before 2am this morning, the legislature adjourned.

Other Happenings

Representative David Guttenberg (D – Fairbanks) announced this week that he will not be seeking re-election. Guttenberg has served in the legislature for 16 years. All the best to him. Guttenberg joins six others in the house who or either retiring from the legislature or running for a different office. It will definitely be a very different house next year.

Some rumors are swirling that Jim Crawford, former Chair of the Trump Campaign for Alaska, is eyeing a run at the senate seat that Senator Berta Gardner (D – Anchorage) is vacating. Former Anchorage Assemblywoman Elvi Gray-Jackson, a Democrat, filed to run for the seat last year. There is also talk that Dave Morgan, a well-known Republican form District 17, may also run. Stay tuned for some high energy in Midtown!

Arctic Entries held their final show of the season on Tuesday (5/8/2018). The theme was Timelapse: Seven Stories from Seven Decades. Among the story tellers was First Lady Donna Walker, who told a story about working on the pipeline in the 1970s. I highly recommend listening to it next week when they publish the audio. It can be found on the Arctic Entries website. She told an awesome, and extremely funny, story.

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AES Alaska

The plane taking the three prisoners released from North Korea back to the U.S. made a refueling stop in Anchorage on Wednesday (5/9/2018). Unfortunately, they did not get to see Flattop or Asia Garden. When the plane landed at Andrews AFB early Thursday morning, it was greeted by President Trump, Vice President Pence, their wives, and newly appointed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. During a brief press conference Trump made a comment about how the NY Times reported that Pompeo was missing, while he was in fact in North Korea. Trump then asked Pompeo if he was aware he was missing. Good job getting those three back but damn.

Senator Dan Sullivan (R – Alaska) introduced Tara Sweeney for her senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday (5/9/2018). Sweeney was nominated as assistant secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior. She is the first Native Alaskan nominated to a position requiring a senate confirmation. She does not appear to be facing any opposition. Best of luck to her. Tara, are we friends on now?

The Anchorage School Board’s meeting on Monday (5/7/2018) got real. Many Anchorage School District teachers showed up to testify about issues with contract negotiations. Looks like things might really heat up. Strike anyone?

Governor’s Race

With just under three weeks left before the filing deadline, the governor’s race is far from set. Bill Walker recently announced that he will run in the Democratic primary. A recent decision by the Alaska Supreme Court allows Independent candidates to run in that primary. The Landmine learned of a recent meeting between Bill Walker, Byron Mallott, Scott Kendall, Mark Begich, and possibly a few more. Word is it got heated and Begich was signaling that he was going to run. So it looks like Walker decided to send a message and get into the Democratic primary. But what if Begich does decide to get in? He would surely beat Walker in the primary. So if that does happen, Walker and Mallott would likely go back to running as petition Independents. This would guarantee Walker and Mallott get to the general but in a three way race, they would be fighting an uphill battle.

Polling suggests in a three way race, Dunleavy and Begich are very close and Walker is slightly down. The interesting thing is Mallott seems to, ironically, be in the best position. He was in the worst position four years ago. If they did stay in the primary and Begich won, Mallott would be his running mate. If Walker and Mallott go back to being petition Independents, Mallott would still be in the general. If Walker does go back to being a petition candidate he would likely face a lot of criticism from the public and especially Democrats. The question is will the governor’s race be a three way race or two way race. It all depends on what Mark Begich does. He’s the driver’s seat right now.

This Week’s Loose Unit

A last minute nomination secured this week’s winner. This week’s Loose Unit is now former UAA student body president Alec Burris. On April 30th, the Northern Light ran a story “USUAA members linked to meme accounts mocking university.” You definitely want to read that. The Instagram account was posting memes mocking the university’s budget and administration. The account was linked to Burris’s phone and email. He initially denied being behind the account. The paper spoke to someone who said they created the account and said they found Burris’s number on the internet. Soon after, the account was deleted. This alone is deserving of Loose Unit status, but it gets better!

Soon after all of this, Burris sent a letter to the student assembly reigning as student body president.

Rather than take an ounce of responsibility or own up to what he did, he just resigns. Citing only that he will be postponing his education at the university. He was just re-elected last month too. Classic Loose Unit. And apparently as student body president he still receives $2,000 in cash and a $2,000 scholarship. What a Loose Unit!

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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Martin Becker

I disagree that Mark Begich would beat Gov. Walker in the Dem primary. At this time, and possibly forever, I do not think he can win a statewide office (governor, senator, congressman). If he does get in and beats Walker in the primary, I don’t think he will go on to win the general election and will, instead, hand the election to Dunleavy or whoever the oil companies pick.