Parnell’s Petty Party
The concept of letting someone else do all the work and then stealing the glory is reprehensible in general, but to the men and women who serve in the military, that violation of basic honor and integrity cuts close to the bone. So does using the men and women who serve our country as a partisan political backdrop, just because it looks good in a photo op.
If you were on Facebook this week, you might have seen the following picture posted on Sen. Kevin Meyer’s page featuring Sean Parnell signing several bills affecting the military. But one in particular was very important and far reaching. It’s the Military Training Credit Bill, House Bill 84. The Governor’s press release describes the bill as:
sponsored by Representative Saddler, allows military service, training, and education acquired while on active duty service to count toward temporary occupational licensure. It also directs the University of Alaska to accept credit toward degrees and vocational certificates if applicable.
It’s specifically designed to assist returning vets from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to integrate into the workforce in a meaningful way that takes advantage of their special skills and abilities.
Look at that. There’s Gov. Parnell (R) signing the bill, while Sen. Kevin Meyer (R), and Rep. Charisse Millet (R) look on. Behind them are Rep. Lora Rhinebold (R), Rep. Dan Saddler (R), Rep. Shelley Hughes (R), Rep. Lance Pruitt (R), Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux (R), Wes Keller (R) and Mia Costello (R).
And here’s another shot from Mia Costello’s (R) Facebook page. She also Tweeted this picture for all to see.
And here’s a nice one from the State website.
Does anyone notice any kind of pattern? Perhaps a common theme? Something that these people all seem to have in common?
Why, yes. You figured it out! It looks like this bill is brought to you by the letter “R” doesn’t it? Because there’s no D in sight.
Which of those fine legislators is responsible for this bill, you may ask? Whose office wrote the bill and did well over 90% of the work on the bill? Who’s been going to the mat for veterans with this bill for three years now? It must have been one of those folks in the picture, or mentioned in the governor’s press release, right?
If you guessed any one of them, you’d be wrong.
The correct answer would be Senator Bill Wielechowski. And wait for it… He’s a Democrat.
Wielechowski’s district includes JBER (Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson) where the bill signing took place.
Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) has selected Senator Bill Wielechowski, a Democrat from East Anchorage, as the “State Legislator of the Year” for 2012.
The award is given only once every two years to one legislator in the entire nation who has exhibited exceptional leadership, support and dedication to veterans, service members and their families.
Senator Wielechowski’s incredible national honor from the VVA was in part due to his work on this very bill. Wielechowski and his team are the rock stars who wrote this bill, and no legislator, and no legislative office have worked harder to advance veterans’ issues in the state. They have been pushing this one forward for three years. The bill actually passed in the session before last, but got held up because the Republican controlled House wouldn’t hear it… until this legislative session, that is, when Wielechowski found himself in the minority party, and therefore took on a majority party co-sponsor Dan Saddler (R). He’s the one mentioned in the press release.
So, what gives? Wouldn’t you think that Sen. Wielechowski would have shown up at his own bill signing? I mean, simply because he’s in the minority shouldn’t mean anything. Even Sarah Palin invited sponsors from both sides to bill signings.
I decided to ask Senator Wielechowski’s office exactly what happened. Why wasn’t he there for the culmination of this incredible effort? Was everything OK? I sent an inquiry to Senator Wielechowski who responded:
“I would have been honored to attend. My office has put a lot of work in to this bill. But the most important thing is that is was signed into law, and it will help get our veterans back to work.”
A further contact with the Senator’s office indicated that there was a lot of excitement about the bill signing. Many groups and individuals had a hand in promoting the bill, supporting it, testifying for it, and engaging others in the process, and everyone was waiting for the big moment of the bill signing. A Wielechowski staffer had inquired with the governor’s office well in advance of the event about getting specifics, but never heard back. Then, the staffer talked to another legislative office who knew that plans were in the works for at least a week before the signing, but refused to share the details and eventually stopped responding to the requests for information.
After the press release from the Governor stating that the bill signing had already occurred, the senate staffer called and talked with the Governor’s staff, asking why the Senator’s office had not been notified after multiple specific requests. The staffer was told by the Governor’s office that “plans were put together so quickly, and there were challenges with scheduling the event on base.”
And yet somehow, some way, miraculously, ten or more Republican legislators, and everyone else in attendance managed to figure it all out. It’s a Christmas Miracle.
And as a side note, Senator Wielechowski is the only one of them who has a base pass and can go on and off JBER at will. Because he not only wrote the bill and got it to the vote, it’s HIS DISTRICT. So yes, what I’m saying is:
The Governor’s office not only didn’t invite the legislator from the district, who wrote the bill, but the information about the date and location of the signing was deliberately withheld from him. And then, the administration misrepresented the reason for the “omission” afterwards.
But wait, there’s more. Another bill that Senator Wielechowski has sponsored the past couple years for the military, the PFD allowable absence, was also recently signed in the Governor’s office without notification or an invitation. Requests from the Senator’s office as to the details of that bill signing also went unanswered. And Rep. Eric Feige (R) was the one who swiped the moment and put out the press release on that particular bill signing.
We’ve all known someone like that, who lets you do all the work and then delights in stealing it for the credit. It’s a lousy thing to do, and veterans in particular should find it pretty loathsome. Alaskans, and men and women in uniform, don’t forget who did the work, and who stole the glory while using the troops as window dressing.
Shame on the whole lot.