By TIM BARTO
The first session of the 33rd Alaska Legislature passed the third lowest number of bills in its history, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
For those who advocate for smaller government and want to minimize its impact on families and individual citizens, limited legislation typically means limited intrusion into our lives, and that’s generally a good thing.
But there were also opportunities for the Legislature to support traditional family values and promote common sense, and it failed to do that.
Sen. Shelley Hughes wanted to re-introduce a bill to protect girls’ sports for girls, a cause she championed in 2022, and a cause so full of common sense it failed during the last Legislature.
Hughes stood fast to the conservative principles upon which she ran for office, but maintaining her integrity meant finding herself in an outcast micro-caucus of three, in which she was accompanied by fellow conservative stalwarts, Republican Senators Mike Shower and Robert Myers.
It also meant that the moderate-to-left Senate majority would call the shots, and the likelihood of getting a bill to keep girls’ sports for girls through the Senate in 2023 was zero.
Hughes also maintained her integrity by actually adhering to an agreement to keep controversial social legislation from being introduced in 2023, so she opted not to introduce the bill. Despite knowing such a bill was doomed to fail, Hughes and her conservative allies also knew that getting the debate into the open would be a positive thing, as the general public is coming to its senses.
People are finally starting to realize they have relinquished the social narrative to a radical ideology that eschews all things traditional; like the idea that men and women are different. These are facts exemplified by the entirety of human history and on which the future of humanity relies.
The agreement, made in the spirit of bi-partisan cooperation, died when ultra-liberal Senator Elvi Gray-Jackson introduced a couple bills: Senate Bill 22 to make Juneteenth a state holiday, and Senate Bill 43 to make sex education mandatory beginning in kindergarten. Neither bill passed, but it was a clear sign that the Left was not honest when it made the agreement.
Despite the brazen breaking of the agreement, and as much as Hughes wanted a public debate on the matter, introducing something as common sense as protecting girls’ sports from intrusion by biological males was doomed to fail in the 2023rd session.
On the House side, conservative Rep. Jamie Allard was ready to take the House version of the bill, HB27, which was submitted by Rep. Tom McKay and co-sponsored by Rep. Frank Tomaszewski, and run with it. Allard, a mother of young athletes and a former competitive athlete herself, would’ve loved to have the debate heard in public debate, and force legislators to go on record on the issue. But being aware of the looming doom in the Senate, the bill was not heard.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy proposed Senate Bill 96 in an effort to ensure parents have the right to be informed if their child is being referred to by a name other than their given name or by pronouns different from the child’s biological sex. This proposed legislation also says that a child’s physical, medical, or mental health information may not be withheld from the child’s parents, and that locker rooms and restrooms are to be separated by biological sex. This bill was assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee where, sadly, no action was taken.
Think about this for a minute . . . but not much more than a minute or you’re likely to need medication: We are at the stage of societal degeneration where we need to consider legislation to keep 1) boys from competing as girls and 2) public schools from disclosing to a child’s parents their child’s desire to act like a member of the opposite sex. But our legislature did nothing about it.
Please refer again to the opening paragraph regarding opportunities to support traditional family values and common sense. The Senate’s ceding of control to Senators Cathy Giessel, Gary Stevens, Click Bishop, and Bert Stedman, who are Republican by party affiliation, but certainly not conservative in practice, has made advancement of conservative, pro-family legislation impossible. The Senate leadership simply does not reflect the values of the Alaskan electorate who voted for a Republican majority.
The Republican majority in the House, on the other hand, coalesced and elected Rep. Cathy Tilton as Speaker. Tilton is another consistent conservative, and while the House did not set a strong conservative tone in 2023, it could have been much less so under other leadership.
Speaker Tilton, as well as traditional conservatives like Mike Prax, believe in playing fair. They were frustrated by the previous moderate-to-left leadership that did not allow conservative bills to be heard while advancing liberal legislation, so when they assumed power they sought to allow hearings from their colleagues on the opposite side of the aisle.
Again, these were actions based on integrity: they didn’t like being ignored when they were in the minority (caucus), so they allowed the opposition to introduce their bills. This, however, resulted in hearings on radical left wing proposals that took oxygen and strength from the room when it came to conservative proposals.
Democrat Rep. Ashley Carrick introduced House Bill 17, which called for insurance coverage for contraceptives, and would have allowed abortifacients — pills that do not prevent fertilization but prevent a fertilized egg (a human embryo) from attaching to the uterine wall — to be available to minors.
HB17 also offered a very narrow exemption for religious organizations who object to paying for abortions and other services that pro-family conservatives find objectionable. The bill made it through the House Labor and Commerce Committee but was mercifully not acted upon in the Rules Committee.
Democrat Rep. Sara Hannan introduced House Bill 43, which would have made it illegal to counsel a minor to resist homosexual — or any array of feelings other than straight heterosexual — attraction. It wouldn’t be illegal to counsel or even perform gender transitioning surgery on a youngster who wants to change sexes, but it would be against the law to counsel a child who is fighting same-sex attraction.
Again, we must pause to think of the social precipice on which we stand that allows this to be considered moral. Thankfully, this bill did not advance out of the House Health and Social Services Committee.
While these two House bills were not successful this year, they were heard and doing so took time away from conservative legislation that could have been introduced.
It may be wishful thinking, but the tide of public opinion appears to be turning, especially when it comes to issues such as transgenderism and the subjugation of parental rights to the government. If our elected officials come to that realization, and they will if the people let their feelings be known to them, then Alaska has a chance at making meaningful change come 2024.
Tim Barto is Vice President of Alaska Family Council, an organization that works to promote traditional family values.