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Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The View from Juneau


An old saying goes something like this, “We hate in others what we hate in ourselves.” I don’t think I’ve seen a better example of that than this 28th legislative session.

I flew to Juneau to watch the last days of the session for myself. Home in Anchorage, I spend a remarkable amount of time watching Gavel to Gavel – I even Tivo it. But the cameras don’t show what’s really going on in the Capitol, restaurants and bars; they don’t show the lobbyists following lawmakers into the bathroom or to the smoking porch. (I have to wonder whether the $74,000 upgrade for the smokers’ den was more for the lobbyists than Speaker of the House Mike Chenault and Rules Chair Craig Johnson.)

One main theme of this session — the worst in Alaska’s history — has been the great “rebellion” against the federal government. Legislators are all bent out of shape about “federal overreach” on health care, voting rights, environmental regulations, gun safety, well, you name it.

Rep. Wes Keller has gone so far as to introduce a bill “relating to certain federal statutes, regulations, presidential executive orders and actions, and secretarial orders and actions; relating to the duties of the attorney general . . .” He wants our attorney general to review the hundreds of thousands, or millions, of pages coming out of Washington, D.C. — becoming, in effect, our watchman on the tower, set to sound alarm at the first sign of the “federal overreach” hordes.

Rep. Charrise Millet never misses a chance to slam the president or the feds. Oh, her lucky constituents. Apparently local education and public safety are non-issues in her district.

I can’t decide whether it’s more boring or more disheartening to watch these walking bumper stickers in action. Pull the string and any one of them pukes out an anti-fed talking point. The closest they come to an original idea is reading today’s ALEC e-mail.

OK, we get it. It’s way, way back to the future. How long until there’s an actual Confederate flag in front of the Capitol? A skull and crossbones would be more appropriate.

This week we found out that Rep. Lynn Gattis took $65,000 from the Mat-Su borough for a road on her property that was never built. She kept the money. You think she’s concerned with the boondoggle that is KABATA? Noooo! (I sympathize, it’s really hard for a Republican to find government waste, especially when it’s in her lap.)

Rep. Bob Lynn thinks if there’s a disaster in Anchorage that residents will need an alternative route of town. His solution? A bridge that departs from the most seismically vulnerable part of downtown. Apparently he thinks a catastrophe that destroys Anchorage will leave the bridge and all the connecting roads — assuming we eventually build some — untouched. (More waste and fraud, for those looking.)

Logical Conclusion Theater is not real popular with the legislative Lynn-lings.

Sen. Kevin Meyer introduced a bill to cut property taxes for widows and widowers of fallen soldiers. That seems fair enough – but then 12 senators voted to deny the same help to same-sex partners of fallen soldiers. Gay soldiers bleed and die to protect this country just like straight soldiers. Such public bigotry, in this day and age, brings shame on us all.

For all the hatred of the “Beltway Bubble” in Washington, D.C., for 90 days our legislators engage in the exact same behavior.

With a disastrous bill affecting water rights and local sovereignty muddling its way through the gauntlet of policy making, I see supporters like Reps. Mia Costello, Gabrielle LeDoux, Bill Stoltze, Lance Pruitt and Lindsey Holmes stand and vote in favor.

What do they know about Alaskans who depend on salmon that depend on water in streams? What do they care about water rights – except to ensure that corporations are always first in line. Local prerogatives? These legislators are backing a bill so broad a commissioner could practically set off a nuclear bomb on state land without an Alaskan having a way to oppose it. They are exactly like the D.C. yahoos they slam for not “getting Alaska.” This session has proved that a majority of our legislators don’t get Alaska.

What but some form of Zombie Apocalypse can explain the relentless lurch toward passage of SB21, the bill to give billions in tax revenue to extremely profitable oil companies with absolutely no guarantee of more oil production. For the average Alaskan, it’s definitely a horror show.

The governor and lawmakers are proud of demanding results from schools BEFORE they will give them another dollar – but apply the same thinking to the oil industry? No way. How can they be so foolish?

There’s more legislative over-reach in a bill to force 40,000 educators from all over Alaska to leave their private insurance and join a massive state-run insurance program. Why? It will cost the state more than $1.5 billion. The idea is supported by folks who hate Obamacare. Again, they become what they hate.

“Washington DC doesn’t get Alaska!”

Too many of Alaska’s elected leaders don’t get Alaska. They are closer to Wall Street and K Street than Farmer’s Loop in Fairbanks, Forrest Loop in Nome, or Pioneer Avenue in Homer.

Get ready, neighbors, because you and your community are going to pay the price for it.

[This article is cross-posted at The Anchorage Daily News.]



21 Responses to “The View from Juneau”
  1. Moose Pucky says:

    Thanks for telling it like it is, Shannyn.

  2. Mo says:

    ginandtacos discusses state legislators today, with a shout-out to Alaska.

    You’ve heard the silly cliche about states as “laboratories of democracy” in the American federal system, and there is some truth to it. When a policy implemented in one state produces a positive result, other states imitate it. This assumes that state legislatures are innovative and more willing to try new things than Congress, which sounds pretty neat. Unfortunately, it turns out it’s much easier to get elected to most state legislatures compared to Congress, which means a lot of state legislators are crazy people.

    This is a partial explanation of why we see so many stories passed around the internet of some Republican state legislator saying something borderline insane and why we see so many truly idiotic things passed through state houses (recent favorites include the Alaska nullification bill and North Carolina’s proposal to establish Christianity as the state religion). It is possible that these legislatures propose such bills to attract attention or to make an ideological statement. It is equally possible that they do it because they are composed of people who are dumber than a sack of doorknobs and/or mentally ill.

    States certainly are laboratories, but they’re ones available to untrained, amateur, and potentially unstable scientists who usually produce the legislative equivalent of an exploding beaker.

    • mike from iowa says:

      Rethuglicans,as a whole,are much more focused on taking over state legislatures because it is easier to implement their rw,fauxknee religious agenda. This is in lockstep with their push for states rights on the national scene. We must defeat these SOBS at every turn. One way or another they will try to turn America into a theocracy for christians only.

  3. Cathy Heyworth Harris says:

    And finally stripped the Alaska Statutes of the 2002 voter-approved initiative that created ANGDA, after giving it a paltry $12,000,000 over 10 years to have an in-state natural gas pipeline. Your elected officials from Governors Murkowski, Palin, and Parnell, plus all the legislators during this 10-year period, the City Councils, and the bureaucrats paid from State of Alaska funds all conspired to not obey the Will of the People of Alaska. We can all assume there will be no investigation. And still no pipeline. Good luck and good night.

  4. mike from iowa says:

    Donald Kaul,one of my favorite writers once claimed that after living in Des Moines,Iowa for a while,dying wouild be redundant. I hope after a depressing trip to Juneau,your airline would have the decency to reimburse you for pain and misery.I’d like to promise all that better days are coming,but if I could do that I’d be living in South Dakota instead of trying to remember nights of underage drinking in Hudson,SD when I was young and dumb.

  5. Zyxomma says:

    Thanks for keeping us informed, Shannyn.

  6. juneaudream says:

    The bad news..all those in power..and showing the moves..from their heyday..are going to keep..bolstering/boosting..each other..into assorted little caves/cubbys and dens. The urine they pee upon each others fierce..and walk past. Animals..who do not this. Humans..who do not have..creative this. The good like..climate change.. these older sorts..will..die in their ‘traces’..and their young..will not all..follow..the patrental idiologys. Each who have the ..right stuff..will simply..hang on, hang in..and keep reporting on these who are to true abiltity. Stupidity..does..die out. The young..who look to the world press, who science and forward thinkers..from..Around The World..will..move forward. dear to my heart..the few years left..for the fury and they walk nearing. Start adding in..beautiful native plants, and expanding..herb gardens..and all things lovely..and healthful..for as..these bitter old men..especially..become deranged..and..die off..the new and healthy women and men..will rise..and..reclaim..this dear state. Have the real world.

  7. Philip Rolfe says:

    To the Legistaure of Alaska and Governor :

    Shame on you. This latest humiliating and blatant hijacking of Alaska’s government is the icing on the cake. You have motivated this, and I suspect, many other citizens to political activism with the intent of ridding our government of you sorry, self-serving, sell-out stooges. Harumph. If you burst into flames, Real Alaskans wouldn’t whiz on you to put the flames out. You’ve done your damage, so time for you to vacate and let someone do something good for Alaska (for a change).

  8. windpond says:

    I would quickly trade out $74,000 in ‘smoking improvements’ for $5.7 billion. Next time I close a business deal, I want it to be with the Alaska gerrymandered GOP majority legislature. I get everything and they get nothing, no questions asked, or if they are in the form of an amendment, it will be defeated. Also, too, no strings attached, no expert research, no sunset clause, no nothing. Just sign on the dotted line and pretend you care about Alaska and her future. I am mad as hell about SB21.

    • Bucsfan says:

      How about we set up a toll booth at the entrance to the Smoking Den and charge anyone using it? Why should state money be used for a “special interest group” (smokers)? But hey, a legislator gets hands thousands of dollars for nothing, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.

  9. fishingmamma says:

    A portion of the e-mail I sent to Craig Johnson (my representative) this morning:

    The other issue I have is regarding the $74,000 ‘smoking kiosk’ for the legislature. Is this a leftover April fool’s prank? Because I am not amused. The state pays for tobacco quit lines, and smoking cessation education, and you guys build yourselves a smoking room? You are not allowed to smoke in state buildings, not allowed to smoke in restaraunts or bars or other places where people congregate, and that is for good reason. Smoking is a terrible habit that results in illness and death. We are doing all that we can to keep our kids from taking up the habit, and you guys build yourselves a special place to go and have your smokes. And you are using public funds to do it. You are using public funds to subsidize your habit. I am appalled. That expenditure should be redacted from the budget. Use the $74,000 to upgrade or repair a school in a rural area. Then tell everyone you did that, and see how much good press that gives you.

  10. Mo says:

    I really, really would like to know what those who voted these jacklegs into office imagine they’re getting out of the deal.

  11. Elephant in my face says:

    You are a unicorn in a world of donkeys. Thank you for being so smart driven and standing up for what is right Shannyn.

  12. AKMagpie says:

    Oh, Shannyn, you know all that clear thinking and application of elementary logic to issues is confusing to our legislators. Thanks for a great post.

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