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May 14, 2021

Juneau in the Time of Coronavirus

TALL TALES from Juneau

Eyes on the Dunleavy Disaster

Despite the slow-down in activity across the state, things have been hopping in Juneau. And as usual, most of the activity centers around the budget, the PFD, supplemental funding, and what to do with the limited funds we have. We’re cleaning up after a summer of natural disaster, and heading into an uncertain future of pandemic. And floor sessions in the House are the same old bare-knuckle fight we’ve become used to.

This is because the minority wants you to know something. They want you to know that they really really HATE being the minority. To wit, they are willing to do whatever it takes to manufacture and cling to any tiny shred of power, regardless of the consequences for the state.

Remember last year and the dreaded “reverse sweep?” In simple terms, it means that at the end of the session, all the remaining funds in all the various bank accounts are “swept” out leaving all of them with a zero balance. The reverse sweep is a process that immediately restocks the funds that the legislature (through experience and history and common sense) has decided are critical to keep funded for the good of the state and its people.

But, the House Minority Republicans have decided that this reverse sweep is no longer going to be a given that will happen automatically, because there are just enough of them to gum up the vote and enable them to hold the welfare of Alaska hostage and threaten to not fund essential accounts until they get their way.

So on Wednesday, the House voted to pass a 2020 supplemental budget designed to help pay for expenses related to last year’s horrific wildfires, Medicaid costs, and funds now needed to tackle the COVID-19 crisis that is beginning to accelerate in Alaska. BUT, even though they voted for the budget, Republicans voted not to FUND it. So now, there’s only enough money to pay for some of it, and the governor gets to decide what that will be. And the Republicans will still hold the reverse sweep hostage (see kitten, left).

If this sounds completely ridiculous and nefarious to you, then your instincts are spot on. If it sounds like they’re playing politics, they are. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that while the Minority Republicans were busy playing politics with critical funding, they were loudly complaining that the majority was… wait for it… playing politics. You can’t make this stuff up.

 

And in case you were wondering who voted not to fund, it’s the usual suspects:

Ben Carpenter (R-Kenai), David Eastman (R-Wasilla), Mel Gillis (R-Anchorage), Gabrielle LeDoux (R-Anchorage), Kelly Merrick (R-Eagle River), Mike Prax (R-North Pole), George Rauscher (R-Valdez/Sutton/Delta), Laddie Shaw (R-Anchorage), Colleen Sullivan-Leonard (R-Wasilla), Cathy Tilton (R-Palmer), Sarah Vance (R-Homer). #RememberInNovember

 

WEEKS AGO

Someone get that man a whiplash collar! On March 13, Don Young, fresh off a trans-continental flight from DC, was shaking hands and backslapping in a crowd of high-risk seniors, and chamber of commerce members in Palmer, telling them to “go forth” and live their lives as usual. Then he headed right to a crowded NRA event, all the while scoffing at the “beer virus” and telling everyone the war we were in was with “media hysteria.”

Thirteen days later (still within the incubation period of the virus, by the way), Young put out an oh-so-somber YouTube video stating that he NOW understands the seriousness of COVID-19. He didn’t understand this 13 days ago “weeks ago” he said. It should be noted that Young had to skip out on a coronavirus relief vote in Congress in order to make it to these events where he mocked the “media hysteria.” But he knows NOW that this “beer virus” is actually a thing.

We stand the best chance we ever have of retiring Don Young this November and replacing him with Alyse Galvin, who uses a computer, and believes in science among other things. She’s even been hosting town hall meetings about coronavirus. Check out her web page HERE.

And for U.S. Senate we have yet another science-believing candidate who’s doing his part to educate Alaskans about the coronavirus. Dr. Al Gross (running against ‘Ohio Dan’ Sullivan) held a virtual town hall last week with thousands of participants from across the state! You can learn more about him and his campaign HERE.

 

SOCIAL DISTANCING 101

Here are some other Republicans who’ve stepped up to show us how NOT to practice social distancing. Wednesday in the Capitol, Sens. Mike Shower, Shelley Hughes, Bert Stedman, David Wilson and Lora Rinebold had a little gathering with Reps. Ben Carpenter, George Rauscher, and Sharon Jackson. If it were appropriate to touch your face, now would be the time for a face palm.

The House passed a bill this week extending Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s public health disaster emergency declaration until November. The measure ensures essential services will continue even if the COVID-19 outbreak takes a significant toll on Alaska. It passed the House on a 34-1 vote, which is odd because the only person to vote against this COVID-19 measure designed to protect Alaskans is this guy.

The proposal now goes to the Senate for final legislative approval and will ultimately return to the governor, who introduced the bill, for his signature.

And despite the Governor’s daily warnings that people should stay home and practice social distancing to save our state… State office workers are STILL ordered to report to work in close quarters by that same governor. Now, Alaska’s largest public employees union has had to seek a court order to increase protections for state employees to keep them safe. The order would compel the state to allow non-essential state employees to work remotely, or to be sent home on administrative leave. The order also wants social distancing rules and staggered work hours put in place in government offices.

 

WHAT’S HAPPENING WHEN NOBODY’S PAYING ATTENTION

It’s always prudent, during times of calamity when everyone is preoccupied with disaster, to look around and see what’s being done while no one is paying attention.  Some people think that a public health emergency is just the right time to sneak things through, like fast-tracking public funding of a private #mining road with the right to waive regulations & oversight. Yep, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority is trying to get $35 million in PUBLIC money to build a private mining road through a National Park that the public won’t be allowed to use. You can find more on that HERE.

 

GOOD NEWS!

Yes, you read that right; there IS some good news coming out of Juneau! The legislature has passed a number of good bills recently, like:

  • HB308 – a bill that will make it easier for Alaskans facing economic impacts due to the outbreak of COVID-19 to access unemployment benefits. It now heads to the Senate.
  • HB182 – a bill that would prevent a backlog of rape kits and help make sure victims of sexual assault see swift justice delivered against their perpetrators. It passed the House unanimously and now goes to the Senate.
  • HB96 – will keep Pioneer Homes affordable. The proposal passed the Senate and the House finalized the bill with a 33-0 concurrence vote. This bill makes sure yearly Pioneer Home rate increases cannot exceed the Social Security cost of living adjustment. The bill also raises the amount of income which residents may keep for incidental and personal expenses. It now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature to become law.

 

[This article is reposted with permission from the Alaska Democratic Party]

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One Response to “Juneau in the Time of Coronavirus”
  1. Really? says:

    Jeanne, thank you for paying attention and helping us try to understand. Don Young shows his real colors daily, he is an awful excuse for a man. Alaskans have their chance to be treated with respect when we go to the polls in November. Alyse Galvin will provide the leadership that Don Young has failed at..,when she (hopefully) gets voted in in November. I remember voicing my frustration with him several years ago and mentioned on the Mudflats that I “just don’t understand some of the words he says”, the Mudflats responded with, “no one does”.! Please keep paying attention and sharing..and thank you for the amazing reporting you do and have done.

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