Loose ends in the Legislature

The legislative mood is better this year than last at this point in the extended session. Yes, there have been some tense moments and threatened mutinies, but today is Day 91 of the 90-day session and it’s relatively orderly.
Even though it hasn’t rained in Juneau for a week and hiking has been glorious, members are starting to yearn for their home cribs. Must Read Alaska predicts there are 17 days to go before they bolt for the airport.

The fact that the Senate took the Permanent Fund dividend off the negotiating table by agreeing with the House’s $1,600 dividend proposal makes it easier. Education funding has been separated out from the operating budget and that keeps House Democrats from taking the entire state budget hostage. Finishing their work doesn’t seem impossible, as it did last year at this time.

Still to be resolved is whether to allow the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation the authority to borrow $1 billion from some unknown entity — for some unknown amount of work — for some unknown spoils that the lender would receive in return. (Read: China.)

That’s a question that should keep legislators up at night because $1 billion represents almost a quarter of the operating budget, and giving away their appropriating authority (and some control over the agency) is serious business.

It’s the kind of serious topic Must Read Alaskacan see failing in the Senate in the next two weeks. Perhaps there will be a discussion with the governor to move that question to a special session so the billion-dollar baby can be baptized (or not) in its own blankity blank-check water.

Without funds, AGDC will have a hard time moving forward toward permitting in 2020.

Also at loose ends is a way pay another $1 billion in legal obligations that the State still owes small, independent oil exploration companies, and that will require bonding authority the governor is requesting.

So while there may be an operating budget of $4.5 billion (give or take), legislators are still wrestling with additional chunks of borrowing that total another $2 billion.

Gov. Bill Walker is dressing left to appear as the progressive lefty who crowds Mark Begich out of the running this election cycle. Then he’ll tack right again after June 1 to try to win actual voters.

After the House Democrat majority passed a bill to increase education funding by $25 million per year as an ongoing obligation, the governor quickly issued a fawning press release. He just loves the idea — because of course the NEA loves the idea and he needs the NEA.

This was the first time since taking office that Walker has had anything to say about increasing Education’s base student allocation.

Senate Republicans passed an education funding bill, too. It put a $35 million education funding infusion next year, on the condition that the governor’s own SB 26 (structured Permanent Fund draw) passed and was signed into law.

Evidently his SB 26 is not all that important to Walker anymore because he had absolutely nothing to say about it. He hates the Senate Republicans with a passion, but also wishes to distance himself from the bill he introduced last year.


The House and Senate seem to be on track for stitching up their business within a couple of weeks, but curiously the House majority Democrats keep holding committee meetings and hearing bills, even though the 90-day session is over and they should just stop with the showboating, since none of their bills will get through the Senate. They are wasting the public’s money.

Notes on lawmakers in the last days of session:

REP. DAVID EASTMAN: Eastman, District 10, moved to adjourn on Sunday. He was voted down 39-1. Some say he’ll have a challenger for the primary in Dee Dee Jonrowe.

REP. CHRIS TUCK: Lots of people are saying Tuck is not going to run for his District 23 seat.

REP. SCOTT KAWASAKI – Is he really going to take on Pete Kelly for Senate, knowing how much work it will be? He’s never had an adversary like Kelly before and it would get in the way of his summer party plans. But Bart LeBon has staked out a solid campaign for Kawasaki’s House District 1 seat, , and a Democrat has also entered the race and started raising funds, so Scotty K has a tough decision.

REP. GERAN TARR: The tantrum-thrower from District 17 is none too happy with Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, because it’s hard to take your marching orders from a strong woman with an R behind her name, who waltzed into power and has not paid her dues in the caucus.

REP. IVY SPOHNHOLZ: She and Rep. Tarr can often be seen wagging their fingers at Speaker Bryce Edgmon, in obvious displeasure with having LeDoux call the shots. There’s a power struggle that is interrupting the “bi-partisan” harmonic convergence in the House. District 16.

REP. CHARISSE MILLETT: The House minority leader from District 25 is going into an election cycle unsure of which Higgins she will face — Pat or Patti. Last go-round she fended of Pat, but by fewer than 100 votes. She won’t be taking anything for granted.

REP. DAN SADDLER: Saddler’s District 13 race is getting crowded. Three Republicans — Saddler, Cook, and Christianson — and now a “fake-independent” in the personage of Danyelle Kimp, who may believe he can convince voters he is not a Democrat following the footsteps of Reps. Jason Grenn and Daniel Ortiz.

To be clear, Kimp is Democrat all the way. Must Read Alaska loves this pic of him with Donna Brazile, featured as his Facebook profile photo:

REP. PAUL SEATON: Seaton, District 31, didn’t get his income tax passed and that was to be his crowning achievement. Word is he’s done, and the Republican Party is going to throw a fit if the Division of Election allows him on their primary ballot.

Sarah Vance and John Cox are Republicans who have filed, while Robert Ruffner is an unknown: How can he receive or solicit funds from commercial, sports, dip net sector while at the same time remaining on the Board of Fisheries and making allocation decisions? Smell test? Also, Alaska District 31 Republicans do not recognize Ruffner as a filed Republican candidate. He has troubles with the district.

REP. CHUCK KOPP:He has a challenger from the right in Steve DuPlantis, but this District 24 former cop is well-liked, and he is a veteran campaigner, so it’s his to lose at this point (with plenty of game left).

REP. JUSTIN PARISH: In discussing the use of phones in school zones, Juneau’s one-and-only Justin Parish spoke with authority, reminding everyone that he was a crossing guard prior to entering the Legislature.

REP. LOUISE STUTES:Friday is costume day in the Legislature, where everyone feels compelled to wear the cloth — the traditional kuspuk — regardless of their cultural heritage. Stutes also brought a leafy-flowery crown on Friday, which resulted in a kuspuk one-upmanship that we hope to never see again.