Much of the day in the Alaska House was taken up by chasing down Democrats, many who had left the building in order to hijack the budget votes that were not going their way. A call was put on the House, which was later ruled a delay tactic. The entire activity in the Democrat caucus appeared to be to create chaos.
At one point, a security guard was sent around the building to try to round them up, but they were as evasive as ninjas, locking doors to their offices and planting rumors as to their whereabouts. Only House Minority Leader Calvin Schrage of Anchorage stayed behind, and he was sending and receiving a lot of messages on his phone.
It was a day of high drama in the Capitol.
Through their antics, the House Democrats were able to delay proceedings for the day and the House adjourned at 6 pm without getting through the operating budget and all the amendments and amendments to amendments.
The kerfuffle began when House majority members decided to put an $175 million one-time budget addition to education into a separate funding source: The Constitutional Budget Reserve. It’s a trick the Democrats used for years to get Republicans to vote on a smaller Permanent Fund Dividend, but now the roles are reversed, and Democrats are in the minority, and are not at all liking the procedural move, which will force their hand later.
The House minority press office was busy all the while putting out clip after clip of its members saying the majority was holding education hostage, and other hyperboles. Minority members Rep. Zack Fields and Rep. Calvin Schrage seemed to enjoy breaking decorum by speaking without being called on by the speaker.
House Speaker Cathy Tilton kept a measured demeanor throughout the hijinks and politely reminded the minority members to observe the rules of the body by waiting to be called on.
The House will likely gavel back in on Thursday for a technical session, which means many members will be leaving town for a long Easter weekend, leaving the budget until next week, when maybe cooler heads will prevail.