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May 14, 2021

Alaska House Republicans are Off the Rails

TALL TALES from Juneau

Eyes on the Dunleavy/Babcock Administration

The House Minority goes off the rails


*Quick refresher:

The House Majority is made up of a coalition of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents who came together because they shared the desire to get something accomplished, and together they represent the majority of legislators who couldn’t abide the thought of the far-right types running the show.

The House Minority is made up of the leftovers (all Republicans) who think Dunleavy’s budget is super great (or doesn’t go far enough), that moderate Republicans are “traitors,” and Democrats are all socialists who are out to destroy the state, the country and the woooooorld. There might be a reasonable outlier or two in the minority, but they lack the spine to defect so we’re just lumping them in.

 

GOT MILK?

Well, the home-town Wasilla Republican governor and his supporters are now gleefully throwing Mat-Su dairy farmers under the bus. Food stability, local milk, and folks who’ve been salt-of-the-earth Mat-Su colonists since the colony began are the latest victims of the Dunleavy budget. For the want of a government inspector, the Havemeister Dairy will die. Why? According to Republican freshman Kelly Merrick from Eagle River, (pay attention here) businesses shouldn’t need government support. Businesses should be able to pay their own way, and if they can’t, “Perhaps that business should not have opened,” she snipped. Representative Merrick didn’t say how she feels about the more than $1.5 billion in subsidies that the state is currently handing over to oil companies from our treasury at the expense of everything else we’re cutting. I guess she thinks Alaska should be milk-less anyway – just to prove a point. That is, unless former Anchorage “Mayor Dan” steps in.

Hmmm. A completely inexperienced and incompetent regulatory agent who doesn’t know what he’s doing – for half the price! Sounds like something straight out of the Republican play book. We should probably pass on that offer.

IRONY ALERT!

Kelly Merrick may want the government’s dirty mitts out of your dairy inspections, but she welcomes government control over your most personal medical and religious decisions. It looks like she and others refuse to learn lessons about what is constitutional and what is not in the State of Alaska. A bill she supports seeks to keep Medicaid funds from paying for medically necessary abortions. Spoiler Alert: We already know how this is going to turn out because we’ve been down this legal road before. This, like all the other attempts to keep poor women from accessing the same medical care as non-poor women, will be ruled unconstitutional by the Alaska Supreme Court, and my guess is that we’ll be on the hook for more than it would take to keep the Havemeister Dairy open for business.

 

A PLAGUE OF AMENDMENTS

Strategery

David Eastman continues to plague the House floor. His latest irony was a long, repetitive, rambling speech about how the legislature can “save time.” He’s also mad that he can’t be the sole NO vote on citations, because they are voted on in a bloc – up or down. Citations are the little nods that legislators give to constituents like ‘Thanks to Jane Doe for starting a farmer’s market’ or ‘Happy anniversary to the Girl Scouts’ – that kind of thing. Rep. Eastman would like to single out some of the people getting citations for his personal scorn and individual vote of “no.” And we had to hear about it. Even the normally unflappable Speaker Bryce Edgmon (I-Dillingham) had had it. After the smug diatribe, in which Eastman said it was unfortunate that he had to vote no on ALL the citations, rather than just making it a point to vote no on two particular citations, Edgmon simply said, “Representative Eastman, just when I think I’m amazed…” I’m sure there’s more amazement to come.

Eastman’s wasting of the time he said he wanted to save continued with a long string of amendments on the first day of deliberations on the budget. They had literally no fiscal impact. They were, instead, all about “intent language” which basically means Eastman gets to grandstand on the TV. Even after Eastman got an epic smack-down from fellow Republican Tammie Wilson in which she (co-chair of Finance) said he didn’t know what he was talking about, his core cabal still voted for his amendment. The names of these folks, in case you want to make note:  Josh Revak (Anchorage), Ben Carpenter (Nikiski), George Rauscher (Mat-Su/Interior), Sharon Jackson (Eagle River), Mark Neumann (Big Lake).

Finally Speaker Edgmon, after going through eleven amendments of intent language from Eastman, shut down his remaining similar 3 amendments calling them out of order, and citing Mason’s Manual and a rule which basically says you’re not allowed to talk, and waste everyone’s time on the floor to be “annoying.” And there was much rejoicing from both sides of the aisle.

And then this <3 from Republican Rep. Gary Knopp on Twitter. He’s the one you can thank for holding out for a House Majority that does NOT include David Eastman – saving us ALL a bunch of time.

 

TREND LINES

Alaska Survey Research has been tracking the popularity of the governor since his campaign, and the newest set of numbers is in. Here’s the graph.

Sarah Palin’s positive/negative lines didn’t cross until she quit, but Dunleavy is coming perilously close and he hasn’t even pulled that red pen out of his pocket yet.

 

‘THERE REALLY WEREN’T THAT MANY PROTESTERS’

If you’re interested in learning a little more about Donna Arduin, the temporary budget director hired from the Lower 48, there’s a great podcast from Pat Race (Alaska Robotics) and Matt Buxton (The Midnight Sun) called Hello Alaska, which contains the interview and analysis. Here’s one part that lays out the fact that she just doesn’t get Alaska.

Race: (talking about the protests during the “Budget Roadshow”) It sounded like there were hundreds of people at some of them. The story of Melanie Bahnke standing up in Nome sounded like a powerful experience…What was it like for you sitting on the stage looking out at those people?

Arduin: So, first of all, there really weren’t that many protesters. Anchorage had the largest, sort of, organized crowd. Otherwise it was handfuls of people.

Race: In Fairbanks?

Arduin: Yeah.

Race: ‘Handfuls’ in Fairbanks? It sounded like there were hundreds.

Arduin: I’ve seen so many more, I mean… on the lawn of the California Capitol in Sacramento, or in Lansing Michigan almost on a daily basis no matter what the legislature’s taking up, there are hundreds of people out on the lawn, so… I’m so used to so many more people being engaged.

Race: We don’t havemany more people…

Arduin: But the protest at least that I saw in Anchorage was organized. It was organized by labor, so you know… we’ve seen that before. So you know, that’s sort of ironic that you have a special interest group criticizing us for working with interest groups.

Race: I don’t think it was entirely labor, was it? I mean, there were…

Arduin: I mean there were people there protesting climate change. So, like I said I’m used to seeing that on state Capitols every day of the week.

 

 

A MAN OUT OF TIME

Did you ever think to yourself, “I was born in the wrong time?” I wonder if Rep. Lance Pruitt doesn’t sometimes secretly wish he’d been a rep during the McCarthy era… Check out this quote from a gleeful press release sent out by the House Minority after two leaders at the Human Rights Commission left their positions over the ‘bumper sticker controversy” which you can read about HERE.

“While we’re happy to see that Ms. Buscaglia will be moving on from the position, we’re still very concerned about the culture that was created under her at the Commission for Human Rights,” Pruitt said. “If her leadership and values, in any way, allowed for the systemic suppression of rights, we’re going to do everything we can to root it out.”

Maybe if Pruitt (whose wife Mary Ann is making $185,000 a year working for the Governor as his Communications Director) is interested in “rooting out” first amendment violators and their culture, he could look no further than his wife’s employer. Strangely enough, Dunleavy (who was also outraged by this assault on the first amendment) fired two successful Assistant Attorneys General, literally 15 minutes after being sworn in, because they tweeted critically about Donald Trump. One of them even successfully litigated a case for the State of Alaska before the Supreme Court. And they are now suing over it. So, if Pruitt is suddenly worried about retaliation by the government in suppressing political speech, maybe someone could point that out to him. It would be a great place to start “rooting.”

“Anyone who enables this sort of civil rights violation, as the Commission did by retaining Buscaglia in the first place, has breached the public’s trust and need not be serving in government,” added Rep. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard. Does this mean she’ll be supporting a Gov. Mike Dunleavy recall?

 

THE DIRTY DOZEN

Not to beat a dead horse with litmus tests on the House Minority, but here was another vote in which they stood out. These folks voted for an amendment by David Eastman (which actually did have fiscal impact) to make even DEEPER cuts to the budget, namely to public radio and public health nurses:

In addition to the hardcore 6 we mentioned before (Revak, Carpenter, Eastman, Jackson, Rauscher, and Neuman) there are six more: DeLena Johnson, Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, Dave Talerico, Cathy Tilton, and Sara Vance, Homer worth remembering.

 

MEANWHILE IN THE MAJORITY

When the Republican House Minority wasn’t busy with all this nonsense, the Majority got some good things done. They restored half of school bond debt reimbursement, to prevent a large tax hike on home and business owners. And they voted down an amendment to eliminate full funding of education. If that amendment had passed, it would have allowed the governor to line-item veto education funding at his whim. For more details on why this is gearing up to be a full-fledged battle, check out this piece just posted by The Alaska Landmine. Yikes.

 

THIS JUST IN… WE HAVE A BUDGET IN THE HOUSE

After lots of wrangling and speechifying, the House has (as I write this) passed an operating budget which as expected went along caucus lines. It cuts over $200 million from last year’s operating budget but falls short of the draconian $1.6 billion in cuts wanted by the governor. The yes votes included all Democrats and Independents and 8 Republicans. Two were excused.

YES: Claman (D), Drummond (D), Edgmon (I), Fields (D), Foster (D), Hannan (D), Hopkins (D), Johnston (R), Josephson (D), Knopp, Kopp, Kreiss-Tomkins, LeBon, LeDoux, Ortiz, Spohnholz, Story, Stutes, Tarr, Thompson, Tuck, Wilson, Wool, Zulkosky

NO: Carpenter, Eastman, Jackson, Johnson, Merrick, Pruitt, Rasmussen, Rauscher, Revak, Shaw, Sullivan-Leonard, Talerico, Tilton, Vance

EXCUSED: Lincoln (D), Neuman (R)

Today the Senate will take its final day of public testimony on the operating budget from around the state. Then it will be time to see what the House and Senate can agree upon. Then it all goes to meet the governor’s veto pen. And with 3/4 of legislators necessary to override any vetoes, it seems likely at this point that gubernatorial vetoes will stand. More on that to come.

 

GOVERNMENT ISN’T A BUSINESS, IT’S A FAMILY

If you’re left feeling disheartened (which isn’t my goal, but is sometimes an inevitable outcome of talking about the state of things) you might want to read this – Government shouldn’t be a business – it’s about people, not profits.

It’s good.

 

[This article is reposted with permission from the Alaska Democratic Party. To receive TALL TALES in your email, join their email list HERE].

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One Response to “Alaska House Republicans are Off the Rails”
  1. mike from iowa says:

    Mudflats is still on Juanita Jeans -The World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Salon- list of go to blogs and congress weasel Pruitt has an absolutely perfect Magat hat brat smirk which makes him the most punchable mug in your lege. What a glorious day!

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