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February 25, 2017

For Good or Bad, Juneau Still Represents You

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Well, my darling Alaskans, we’ve made it through the holiday season and now a real cause for celebration is upon us – the 2017 legislative session! I know, after so many “special sessions” it’s hard to really feel like this one will be special without the title, but we can all hope.

I’m encouraged by the newly formed House bipartisan coalition. You know, the grown-ups in Juneau, working together to work for all of us. What a concept.

In reading through the prefiled bills, I’m reminded of the old quote about paving roads with good intentions. Truth be told, with all the well-meaning we should be able to pave our roads, pay for schools and build as many bridges to nowhere as we want, but that’s not how politics works.

I had to giggle when I saw Sen. Mia Costello had filed a bill to “commemorate the bipartisan friendship” between the late Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens and Hawaiian Sen. Daniel Inouye. Costello is part of the most partisan majority I have ever seen in Juneau.

The bill is, “Authorizing the University of Alaska to establish, through an agreement with the University of Hawaii, the Ted Stevens-Daniel K. Inouye Exchange Program for political science students at the University of Alaska and the University of Hawaii.”

I celebrate the bipartisan friendships Stevens fostered and treasured with Inouye and Vice President Joe Biden. I just think the GOP should be offering up an “Irony Scholarship” to attend the new program.

I have a special request of the Legislature. Please, for the love of God and all that is holy, don’t hear any more bills on specialized license plates. I’m so sick of it.

There are so many to choose from and can’t people just get bumper-stickers to make their point without government issued endorsements? I know they like to be called a “deliberative body,” but enough already wasting time on metal tags for cars. It’s just stupid.

Fresh off the presses from Rep. Jason Grenn, can-do candidate from West Anchorage, a pre-filed bill I find curious.

House Bill 44 goes something like this: “Requiring a legislator to abstain from taking or withholding official action or exerting official influence that could benefit or harm an employer or to request to be excused from voting in an instance where the legislator may have a financial conflict of interest; and providing for an effective date.”

Well, we could have used that law a few years ago when the oil tax giveaway proposed by former ConocoPhillips lobbyist and ExxonMobil attorney Sean Parnell was referred to the TAPS Throughput Committee chaired by ConocoPhillips employee Sen. Peter Micciche.

It was done in front of Senate Resources co-chair Cathy Giessel, whose husband’s job relies on the oil industry, and later to the uber-powerful Senate Finance Committee co-chaired by ConocoPhillips employee Kevin Meyer.

I know, you’re thinking surely the employee of a company can’t vote for or against legislation that will determine his employer’s profitability. Unfortunately, you’re wrong.

The Legislature’s conflict-of-interest standards are a joke. Here’s how it works. In the Senate, Meyer can declare he has a conflict, but Micciche can object and require Meyer to vote, and vice versa.

Bravo, Jason! I’m sure the Senate majority won’t want to hear your bill because they don’t have any conflicts of interest, so trust them; but I think you’re off to a good start. Good luck and don’t let that town eat your soul for breakfast in a bowl with milk on it.

Alaska hasn’t updated our fish habitat permit law since statehood. In case you are keeping track, that was 1959. That was the same year Barbie was introduced to the world. You would think a world where Barbie has evolved, our laws could. Wait, is there a fly-fishing Barbie yet? I digress.

The rivers and streams salmon we rely on need more protection now than they did in 1959. I realize in the hustle and bustle of making up a $3.5 billion deficit, the Legislature will probably put off this task again, but it should be addressed this session. Tell them.

Here’s my annual reminder, dear hearts. Even if you didn’t vote for the “winners” heading to Juneau, they still represent you.

Please contact them and tell them what is important to you. It’s far too easy for too many of them to sit miles away from their districts, stacking per diem money and meeting with lobbyists who don’t care about the same things you do. Democracy is not a spectator sport — you have to participate.

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One Response to “For Good or Bad, Juneau Still Represents You”
  1. mike from iowa says:

    I’m guessing the mountain goat-being smaller and less well armed than the Dall Sheep or caribou should be allowed one handicap parking space on that there wall. Bullies!

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