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Julie Coulombe: The illusion of compromise

By REP JULIE COULOMBE

In coming to Juneau, I had every intention to approach the legislature with an open mind, build bridges, and work toward consensus. It is important to me to always keep what is best for Alaska at the forefront.

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By and large, I have been satisfied with my experience and with my fellow House colleagues. I joined the Freshman Caucus early on to establish relationships so when the tough issues came to a vote, I had heard the other side of every bill and could make my decision with all voices represented. 

The one thing that I counted on was the process; laid out in statute and the constitution. I assumed that the other body would also be working in good faith, but that has not been my experience. 

In my estimation, the current Senate Majority considers the House as somehow inferior, rather than an equal partner in a bicameral legislature with simply a different role. The broken process began with the dubious legislature pay raise from the Compensation Commission.

The House voted the initial increase down, but it was clear we had been duped; and what the Senate wants the Senate gets.

Then, the House passed the Operating Budget to the Senate on April 17th with assumed promises that the Senate would pass over the Capital Budget in a similar matter. This is the tradition, where each body takes on a separate budget, and then passes the budget over to ultimately reach concurrence or go to Conference Committee. 

Disagreement is expected, and there is a process for resolving it.

The Senate did not pass out the Capital budget and kept the Operating budget. Until this day, I have not had a voice in the Capital budget. Furthermore, the Senate reversed every amendment the House Majority rejected in the Operating Budget, including just about every change I — and others — made in subcommittee. 

The looming special session lays at the Senate’s feet. They have little regard for the people’s House and have made every effort to insult the House Majority. When the Senate presented a significant PFD bill (SB 107) to the House Ways and Means Committee, it felt as though the Senate couldn’t be bothered to show up and make the case for a 75/25 PFD.

No bill sponsor came to introduce the bill, their reasoning behind it, or to show any amount of thanks for hearing the bill. They seem to have no connection to how it effects their constituents. 

Career politicians believe there is no threat of not being reelected. 

The Senate leadership have been publicly and privately disingenuous about their approach with both budgets. Even going so far as dictating how much the House can spend on Capital and then not giving it to us because our projects had to be statewide and listed for their approval.

What is the result of all this dismissive and disrespectful behavior? Disenfranchising the people of my district, and every House District. Not only are they ignoring the majority, but they also have no regard for the House minority either. They have broken the process so that 40 representatives have little to no say in either budget.

I have spent many hours analyzing and amending the budget, but now I see that the four months I have spent here, away from my family, was not necessary. I’m alright with compromising and taking my losses if I get a seat at the table in return.

In a final insult to injury, the Senate added $40 million into their budget for a government shutdown. Before we even get either budget, they are budgeting for a government shutdown. The Senate actions have had no spirit of compromise and no respect for the process nor constituents.  

It’s difficult for those outside of Juneau to really see, but the House has made every effort to negotiate and get the budget back to no avail. There is no negotiating going on here, only mandates. This is not how the process was designed to work at the state or national level.  

Misplaced arrogance based on hubris within the Senate is no way to legislate with respect for the constituency. If this is what the future holds, then there is little hope for responsible stewardship of fiscal resources in the execution of the people’s business. I, for one, will do all in my power to thwart such bureaucratic tyranny.

Representative Julie Coulombe (R-Anchorage) is serving in her first term in the 33rd Legislature. She is one of three freshman legislators from the Alaska House Majority to serve on the House Finance Committee this year.

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49 COMMENTS

  1. I like this lady’s spine. It is time for the rest of the House (ALL OF THEM) to put this information out to all of their constituents and let them know what’s really going on in our legislature.

    • I remember back in the days of the binding caucus fights legislators would go on the radio and say “it’s one or two people” holding things up.

      But never would ID who. Infuriating then, infuriating now.

      Serfs (us) are told what to do, not why. Our “betters” don’t have to explain themselves.

  2. What comes around go around.

    The Repubs in the House stomped process into the ground with the way they treated Eastman’s conservative amendments, so now the reaping has come. The Senate doesn’t have any integrity, but the House is just as bad.

    • Glad you laid bare the disdain the Senate has for anyone but themselves.

      Now, sit back and watch as the House complains and then inevitably does exactly what the Senate wants.

    • We can dispel with the myth that Eastman is a conservative. He provides his services to the Democrats, he votes with the Democrats, and he votes against Republicans. Sure he’s fooled some actual conservatives, but look at his voting record and who he actually aligns himself with when he’s in Juneau.

  3. Special session in the Valley with the Governor using the State Troopers to enforce it. Per a 2019 MRAK with this same malarkey, “If the Legislature doesn’t convene as outlined in the governor’s proclamation, he cannot actually sue the Legislature as a whole, but he can legally go after individual legislators, and get a writ of assistance from the courts, which would then cause him to send Alaska State Troopers after them. The Alaska Constitution gives authority to call a special session to the governor. ”

    The Valley would be extremely accommodating to all legislators as well as save many of them the onerous cost of staying in Juneau.

    The only thing is will the Governor do it?

  4. There’s nobody better suited than you to introduce a bill calling for the State to purchase the old Sears building in Wasilla and turn it into the new Capitol building, dorm facility, and chow hall, Julie.

    It’s time. Please make it so.

  5. What a Pollyanna. Sheesh. You’re dealing with truly evil people, lady. My advice? Get Mad, Get Mean. It’s the only thing these dregs understand.

  6. Hold the line Julie. More spending -certainly the $40 million extra (!) on top is a no go. So is a 25% pfd. It is the people’s money. Not the senates. We do not need an ever increasing budget.

    As I see it there are currently three viable members of the senate. The rest need to go. They all need to be primarried hard- esp the R’s playing for the blue team. Gary Stevens is at the top of the list.

  7. Rep Julie C is a class act. This piece was one of the best analyses that I have ever read about the relationship between the State House and the Senate. The arrogance of some members of the Senate, is shocking.
    The legislative process has been going down hill for several years and with the never ending special sessions has been a travesty. All most of our law makers want to do is assure that they will be reelected while at the same time cash in on the per diem they receive from extended special sessions. That after voting themselves a huge pay raise. It is really quite unbelievable that the Alaskan voters do not do something about this abuseS

  8. Good article. It does show the naivete’ of a freshman legislator, but with candor and modesty. Senators consider themselves a few wrungs up the ladder, primarily because they represent twice as many constituents as their counterparts. They think they are closer to the governor’s chair. But in reality, some of these senators are pretty dumb, with little or no college degrees and questionable reputations and work experience. They know who they are. The less confident ones probably shouldn’t be in office. Then there are a few, one in particular, who barely had the backing of her own constituents. Her election was a squeaker and her personality makes her as enjoyable to be around as a fresh pile of doggy dew on a beautiful summer morning. Another is so slow at the draw, his speaking and analytical skills are somewhere between 8th and 9th grade. We wish you luck, Julie. You have the intelligence and raw honesty to go up the ladder, jumping a few wrungs over most of the senators.

    • Thomas, some of the most intelligent. talented and wise people I have ever met have had no college degrees. On the other hand, I have met countless college-educated people suffering from lack of critical thinking skills and cluelessness as to the practical realities of our world. Vast numbers of low-resolution thinkers in our culture are programmed to mistakenly believe credentials are the sole determinate of intelligence and wisdom. Your comment implying college degrees indicate intellectual qualification is misguided. Likely, my missives will not change your stance so I hereby tender my own credential, University of Washington BS 1979, as a Hail-Mary attempt to persuade you to rethink your view.

  9. Lets have a special session where we can make extra money on our Per Diem, do our part in occupying the unaffordable housing that is rampant in Juneau, as we try to find a legal way to “maneuver” the peoples money, AKA the Permanent Fund into our possession so we can squander it away as well…..

  10. Welcome to the world of Lyman Hoffman, Bert Stedman and Gary Stevens. Three old dinosaurs that should of been term limited out years ago. Unfortunately these dinosaurs have huge rural areas that are easy to pinpoint the shakers and movers to buy off. The Rural areas are the easiest to manipulate as they don’t have the same accessibility for TV, newspaper or radios or most importantly easy access to the majority block of voters, via road.

    No matter how hard anyone tries, they can’t beat the influence of the masters of employment, the leach on life nonprofits that employ the majority of voters.

    Want to change the process?? Pre File a term limits bill. 12 years total is long enough in the legislature.

    Then define residency so Lyman Hoffman and Gary Stevens actually live in their District, not just use a Post office box for a locator for their PFD and voters registration.

  11. Ms. Columbe is my representative and I interviewed her extensively before casting a vote for her. She does have courage and told me she was tired of the garbage coming out of Juneau. I believe that she is speaking the truth here, and I imagine it is 2-3 Senators that are flat out drunk with power and/or have God complexes. Please call those members out by name, so we can find replacement candidates to purge the pond scum from the senate.

  12. I wouldn’t include the 3 senate minority members who are aligned with and appear to be working with the House majority (Myers, Hughes, Shower). The senate majority, and more specifically, the senate finance co-chairs & overall senate leadership are the ones driving this train wreck. I doubt Rep Coulombe meant to include those 3 senators in her article but it should be highlighted nonetheless. Looks like Stedman’s manipulative ways are finally coming back to bite him.

  13. The Senate is the superior body of the electorate. First lesson for a new Representative. Play the Game. Roberts Rule s of Order.

      • Kneejerk conformity and automatic servility to authority (no matter how self-serving and corrupt) are two of the classic hallmarks of the radical leftist death cultists.

    • I did a quick look at the AK legislative website. Didn’t see anything about the senate being the “superior” body.

      It’s certainly not in the US Constitution or any civics class I ever took.

      Please list your sources to support your assertion

      • You will not get a response from this Guy because his ego is as big as the Senators in charge! Peas in the pod of less PFDs or none at all for the People they lie to but give our Governor & staff a raise!!

  14. Want cheese with your whine, Julie?
    .
    So the process is broke, even corrupt, some may justifiably say.
    .
    But carrying on, Julie, as if this were a terrible surprise, demeans you. It makes you appear weak, one more in a too-long of GOP legislators who are their own worst enemies.
    .
    Instead of wasting time and tears on pitful jeremiads, may we suggest channeling your inner Carrie Lake, Kristi Noem, Margaret Thatcher, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and read to Senate leadership from the Book of Coulombe, beginning with: “We’re done screwing around with you, get your act together, or we’re taking every bit of your clown show public.”
    .
    Now’s your chance, Julie, you want to be a leader, then bloody well lead! Oh, you will screw up royally on occasion, Alaska’s lobbyist-legislator team probably won’t come to your Christmas party. But you weren’t put there to represent them, or to be their BFF, were you, Julie?
    .
    You want to “compromise” with evil people whose priorities are spending Alaska into oblivion and mutilating children, then quit, go home.
    .
    Where is it written Julie, you gotta compromise with people who like wasting money and killing unborn babies? You got some defect preventing you from being your own organ grinder, training these monkeys to dance to your tune? Didn’t think so.
    .
    You can do this, Julie. You’re frustrated, disappointed, even a bit fearful because your illusion of gentility among this crowd turned out to be just that, an illusion.
    .
    Best to decide now, pack your toys, go home cuz the big kids don’t play by the rules, or figure out how to tilt the playing field so far in your favor that they slide off the bitter bloody end of it.
    .
    Do let us know.

    • I read here a handmaiden for the state and its current leftist democrat politics. Remember that useful idiots such as yourself are among the first to go. And by your masters when you are no longer useful to them.

  15. Representative Coulomb, stay strong and do not waiver. I have watched most of the finance meetings and have come to the same conclusion–most senators are arrogant and know what’s best for all. They want the representatives to just be quiet, take a seat, and vote for what they determine is a great budget. Please remain true to your efforts and hold the senators accountable for their actions. There comes a time for consensus and there is a time to stay true to your values. Choose the latter.

  16. Our legislature needs to be moved. The majority of the population is on the road system and that is where the legislative session should be also. This is criminal and disgusting.

  17. Shut the government down, don’t pass the Senate’s budget since they are unwilling to negotiate with their equals in the House. Time for a a unicameral (one-body) legislature-No house, no senate. Oops, that would require a constitutional convention in 2034 to change the Alaska Constitution to make it so (Article 2). OR it would require 2/3 of the legislative bodies to vote via a constitutional amendment into a unicameral system. Amendments to this [Alaska] constitution may be proposed by a two-thirds vote of each house of the legislature. Not going to happen.

  18. Dear Julie, thank you for your work.

    Dear Senate misleadership, we are looking at you. Just because the law as prescribed by the Constitution has been thrown out the window on a national level, and seemingly successfully so, doesn’t mean things actually are as they appear. These circumstances will be overcome, as will you and your efforts to do the same on the State level. The same goes for the Supreme Court(s). Tyranny is unacceptable, we have our Constitutions for a reason, and the laws of our land(s) are ignored at the particular peril of those whom who swore an oath to protect them and are in the best position to do so. Act right, do your sworn duty, or pay the consequences of your failure to do so.

  19. NOW, we are just beginning to understand the “snowball” that hits the fan when the legislature is in progress.. Thanks for this clear understanding of what really happens.

  20. A freshman neophyte relying on an outdated staute and wanting to decimate our savings got outmaneuvered, why is anyone surprised?

    • “frank”, your disingenuous diversion into minutia, strawman arguments and irrelevancies in the vain attempt to distract from the topic at hand is nothing new, but freshly disgusting every time.

    • Not surprised or disappointed.
      .
      Contender’s knocked down, but not out, in the first round, what she does next will be the measure of her, no?

    • Savings for what day? Frank spell out your need above the peoples PFD ” a full PFD” that you couldn’t give a damn for , but in substitute for union wages around the table of government .

  21. The differences between what the House came up with and the Senate’s budget are so profound it’s no wonder the Senate has taken the approach they have. I don’t have time to list the problems with the divided House versions; I just want to note that they can’t agree on anything that makes sense. So it’s basically been left to the Senate to be rational.

  22. It might be time to get creative with the government, and devise our own equivalent to Britain’s, Motion of, “No confidence”. Therefore providing a way to clean out the garbage. Just for thought provoking.

  23. On the other hand, the House majority passed a deficit budget with a dividend twice that of the Senate which would require taking hundreds of millions from our shrinking CBR savings or taxing Alaskan’s to pay themselves. The House majority could have made the hard decisions on the budget needed to pay for their 2X dividend but they didn’t. I probably wouldn’t support many of those cuts but shouldn’t a Republican majority be passing a balanced budget? If Rep. Coulombe submitted amendments in Finance that would have balanced the budget to pay for the larger dividend then that would be good to know including where she cut and by how much. I can’t find them but maybe I missed them. Meanwhile, neither the Senate nor the House majority managed to bring a pay raise rejection bill to the floor for a vote allowing members like Rep. Coulombe to say essentially that they would have voted against the raise (and maybe she would have) but not having to go on the record since if everyone had to actually vote the raise might fail. Personally, I think that we should pay legislators a more reasonable wage and probably fall between what they’ve been getting and what they’re going to get now. Regardless, I don’t see the world as just white hats and black hats. These are complicated issues (oil taxes and fish and game management anyone?) where reasonable people can differ but throwing around vitriol doesn’t usually help get a better answer.

  24. Until there is a way to keep special interest money out of our politics, we will not be represented. What is entertaining is how much of the special interest donations can be backtracked to well laundered taxpayer money, by Chicago type accountants. Constituents should hold sole responsibility for campaign funds, otherwise this will continue. How to make this happen is the question.

  25. On the other hand, the House majority passed a deficit budget with a dividend twice that of the Senate which would require taking hundreds of millions from our shrinking CBR savings or taxing Alaskan’s to pay themselves. The House majority could have made the hard decisions on the budget needed to pay for their 2X dividend but they didn’t. I probably wouldn’t support many of those cuts but shouldn’t a Republican majority be passing a balanced budget?

    If Rep. Coulombe submitted amendments in Finance that would have balanced the budget to pay for the larger dividend, then that would be good to know, including where she cut and by how much. I can’t find them but maybe I missed them.

    Meanwhile, neither the Senate nor the House majority managed to bring a pay raise rejection bill to the floor for a vote allowing members like Rep. Coulombe to say essentially that they would have voted against the raise (and maybe she would have) but not having to go on the record since if everyone had to actually vote the raise might fail.

    Personally, I think that we should pay legislators a more reasonable wage and probably fall between what they’ve been getting and what they’re going to get now. Regardless, I don’t see the world as just white hats and black hats.

    These are complicated issues (oil taxes and fish and game management anyone?) where reasonable people can differ but throwing around vitriol doesn’t usually help get a better answer.

  26. Thank you Julie for standing up and speaking out. We supported you and got results unlike the RINO Kaufman who is a huge disappointment but will be remembered come election time. Stay strong and hold the line Julie and hopefully the elites wont beat you into the lions den for speaking out against the almighty rulers.

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