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June 15, 2021

Headlines:

Legislators AWOL while Alaska burns

TALL TALES from… Juneau Wasilla?

Eyes on the Dunleavy/Babcock administration

 

 

3 RINGS OF DYSFUNCTION

Well the “special session” in Wasilla was every bit the circus you may have imagined. The gymnasium was set up like the two chambers of the legislators and everyone had a name card. Spectators sat in the bleachers, and Sen. Mia Costello and Rep. Lance Pruitt were the ringleaders.

Inside, rogue legislators received adulation from supporters.

Outside, we asked this guy what the flag stood for and he said it was a Belgian flag, but he brought it because it looked scary.

A bunch of Valley residents also showed up to encourage an override.

The Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the architect of the cuts, Donna Arduin was there too.

Shelley Hughes’ Chief of Staff came out and explained that there were certain rules, and decorum that needed to be followed. “This is not the time for yelling and shouting,” he said. Then House and Senate members entered and immediately… you guessed it… everyone started yelling and shouting and cheering. But with no House or Senate pages, and no capitol police, and no presiding officers to have the offenders cleared from the room, the cheering and clapping continued. It was not, as they had attempted to make it, just like a real session.

After a rambling repetitive speech from Sen. Mia Costello, and some tense rhetoric from Rep. Lance Pruitt, they said they didn’t have enough members for a quorum and everyone meandered out into the hall for snacks, and to shake legislators’ hands. Eventually there was a press conference where they repeatedly said that everyone else, other than these brave few, were breaking the law. This was a pervasive theme from legislators, attendees, radio hosts, internet trolls, and the angry uninformed masses in general this week. So let’s talk about that.

 

THE LAW

The matter on which this all rests is whether the governor has the authority to dictate the location of a special session. No one is disputing that he CAN call one, or decide what matters are to be discussed. But there’s no mention in the Constitution about the governor getting to send legislators and staff to the far corners of the state as retribution for not doing what the governor wants. But Gov. Dunleavy and his Attorney General Kevin Clarkson say that he can. Kevin Clarkson says that the governor could call a special session “on the side of the road” and legislators would be legally required to hop-to and get to the side of the road. Because that might cause “a different outcome.”

Can this guy be the presiding officer for the next special session?

 

That’s right, Mike Dunleavy could call a session ANYwhere in the state at his whim! Nome? Eek? Anaktuvuk Pass? Kaktovik? An ice floe in the Chukchi Sea?  Yep. HE HAS THE POWER, Dunleavy says.

 

PLACES UNUSUAL

Before the governor and his Attorney General get too carried away, it’s worth noting a passage from the Declaration of Independence. Stick with me here as we hop in the time machine. This is actually the fourth in a long list of complaints about King George, and used as justification for the big split that brought about the American Revolution.

“HE HAS CALLED TOGETHER LEGISLATIVE BODIES AT PLACES UNUSUAL, UNCOMFORTABLE, AND DISTANT FROM THE DEPOSITORY OF THEIR PUBLIC RECORDS, FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF FATIGUING THEM INTO COMPLIANCE WITH HIS MEASURES.”

Eerie, right? Who could have predicted that America’s very own tyrant of history, King George, had already thought of the “places unusual” strategy to get what he wanted. And in this case, the “depository of their public records” would be in Juneau, along with the ability of the legislature to broadcast meetings and floor sessions so Alaskans would KNOW WHAT WAS HAPPENING.

And not to put too fine a point on it, but the middle school was suffocatingly hot, and this was the “cooling device.”

 

 

SEPARATION OF POWERS & CO-EQUAL BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT

Don’t fall asleep! I know you haven’t thought about this since 8th grade, but this is one of those times to resuscitate those brain cells that have been dormant since Mrs. Whitmer’s U.S. History class!  Here’s the crux – We have three co-equal branches of government, much to the inconvenience of King George and Mike Dunleavy. These three EQUAL branches are – the executive (the governor and his administration), the legislative (the House and Senate), and the judiciary (the court system). The governor is not the boss of the other two. He is a coworker. That’s why this whole representative democracy thing WORKS.

So, remember: The legislature works for us. The legislature is the people’s branch. They do not work for the governor.

*NOTE: There is a statute (a state law) that attempts to give the governor power to dictate the location of the session. And this is what the talk radio guys, and the Wasilla faction keep talking about. HOWEVER, if you have a statute that goes against the Constitution, guess which one wins? The Constitution every time. Laws are found to be unconstitutional all the time. That’s the function of the judicial branch. Just like a state law can’t violate the federal constitution, a statute cannot violate the Alaska Constitution. So, yes. The malcontents in Wasilla could hope for a court challenge, but the chances are slim to none that the Alaska Supreme Court is going to okay that third special session on an ice floe. And court challenges take time. And we don’t have time.

 

MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE CAPITOL

In the actual seat of government, meetings are happening, floor sessions are happening, gavels are present, the all-important vote to override the governor’s vetoes will happen on Wednesday at 11:30am, and many legislators are so-far AWOL.

The presiding officers of the legislative branch (Senate President Cathy Giessel, and Speaker of the House Rep. Bryce Edgmon) have called their legislature into session in Juneau with the full support of the legislative legal team who are payed by the state to offer non-partisan legal advice to the legislature. And they said what I just said – Constitution trumps statute. Every time. Holding floor sessions on the House and Senate floors is legal, no matter what the governor says.

 

SOOOO… WHY ARE THEY DOING THIS?

You may be asking yourself, why would members of the legislative branch

1)   ignore their own leadership,

2)   ignore the legal advice of their own attorneys,

3)   ignore (especially in the case of Anchorage legislators) the overwhelming feedback they are getting to get to work and vote to override the vetoes

4)   relinquish their power as a co-equal branch to do the governor’s bidding, and to spout the talking points of the executive branch?

Because it makes no sense. Until we focus on one legislator in particular.

I’m looking at you, Lance Pruitt.

Rep. Lance Pruitt represents East Anchorage, a fairly diverse and politically moderate district. He’s also a graduate of UAA with a degree in history.

But Lance Pruitt is rabidly pro-whatever-the-governor-says, even when it makes no sense for his constituents or the state. Which is weird. Do folks in East Anchorage think it’s going to be great to gut the university, and end adult dental care under Medicaid, hurt veterans, abolish the senior benefits program, kill Pre-K entirely, and throw Alaska into an economic recession? Most assuredly NOT.

So why when asked about the location did Lance Pruitt say, “If the governor called the session in Unalaska then I would be in Unalaska!”

Well, it all falls into place when we discover that Lance Pruitt’s wife, Mary Ann Pruitt is… wait for it… the Communications Director for the governor. Seriously. She works directly for the Mike Dunleavy, and she makes $200,000 a year to push the governor’s message. That’s her job description. Mary Ann Pruitt is the spin doctor for the whole ideological operation – the massive budget cuts, the vetoes of the legislature’s budget, every unnecessary austerity measure, every punitive measure out there. So the Babcock/Dunleavy administration gets two cheerleaders for the price of one. Lance Pruitt doesn’t work for “the people,” Lance and Mary Ann Pruitt BOTH work for the governor. The governor says jump, and Lance and Mary Ann Pruitt say, “How high?”

Mary Ann Pruitt, Communications Director for Gov. Dunleavy, and her husband Lance Pruitt, House Republican Minority Leader. A two-fer for Dunleavy/Babcock!

It’s unclear whether the freshman class of Republican legislators from Anchorage – Josh Revak, Sara Rasmussen, and Laddie Shaw know they are being used as tools, but their “leadership” is leading them off the edge of the cliff. If they continue to twiddle their thumbs in Wasilla, thereby letting the vetoes go through for lack of override votes on Wednesday in Juneau, all of them will suffer the blowback when 2020 rolls around.

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2 Responses to “Legislators AWOL while Alaska burns”
  1. Zyxomma says:

    I came here because I was just reading about this here: https://www.wonkette.com/governor-tundra-trump-forcing-legislature-to-help-him-destroy-alaska

    Dunleavy IS the Tundra Trump.

  2. Mr. Goat says:

    Fantastic write-up. I’m so glad you’re calling attention to this dense, corrupt, egotistical fool. How is anyone in Pruitt’s district the least bit ok with his antics? Anchorage is scheduled to disintegrate without the override.

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