By ART CHANCE
Former Speaker of the House Bruce Kendall is no longer wit us, but I lost touch with him after he left the second Hickel Administration and returned to Anchorage.
He and I had been pretty good friends in Anchorage in the late 1970s and early ’80s.
One of Bruce’s proudest achievements was having been Speaker of the 20-20 House in 1963 and 1964, and he loved to regale anyone who would listen with stories of that time.
The State of Alaska was still aborning, completing the transition from the territorial structure and building and buying new things. In 1963, the State took delivery of the first “big” ferries, the Taku class, two of which were later enlarged and became the Malaspina and Matanuska, and brought mainline service to Ketchikan, Petersburg, Wrangell, Sitka, and Prince Rupert. The Tustumena was delivered in 1964 and service to the Gulf Coast, Kodiak, and The Chain began. Liberating travel to Alaska from Lower 48 controlled shipping was almost as important as liberating Alaska from the Alaska canned salmon industry and fish traps.
Then life changed forever late in the afternoon of March 27, 1964, at 5:36 pm — the Great Alaska Earthquake struck. The Legislature was in its second session and remained in Session through April 14 when it recessed until May 24, then reconvened and adjourned on May 30.
Gov. Bill Egan called a special session from Aug. 31 through Sept. 2 to deal with appropriations to match federal revenue for earthquake relief and provide State relief to Alaskans whose homes and businesses had been damaged or destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami.
The State also retired or adjusted mortgages on homes damaged or destroyed and borrowed what was then the princely sum of $17.8 Million for earthquake relief.
Along the way the Legislature established the Human Rights Commission, enacted Aid to Families with Dependent Children legislation, passed the Mandatory Boroughs Act, and started the first of many of Alaska’s Boondoggles to Nowhere, — the Rampart Dam Development Commission.
In total, the Third Legislature was in session 164 days, 836 bills were introduced, and 231 bills were passed.
Some members of that Legislature went on to be household names in Alaska politics and government for a generation, a couple are still around and still politically active, and some have sons and daughters who followed in their footsteps. I knew quite a few of them — they were and are smart, industrious people, but none of them are superhuman.
Today’s conventional wisdom, at least the conventional wisdom of one House member, is that a tie or a narrow majority either guarantees stasis or causes individual members to have unwarranted veto power over legislation.
The actions and results of the Third Legislature graphically demonstrate that the conventional wisdom is either a delusion or a contrivance. To my mind, it is more likely the latter.
I think Rep. David Eastman has it exactly right in his blog in which he characterized the current situation in the House as a contrivance by the Democrats and three false flag Republicans to deny the People the results of the last election and preserve the Holy Grail of the union-owned Democrats, an untouched operating budget with no cuts to the State’s extorted education funding, no cuts to Medicaid, and no layoffs of employees paid from the General Fund.
The unions/Democrats could get away with this under Gov. Bill Walker by holding the Senate hostage; they had to pass a budget the Democrats and the Governor would sign or have a government shutdown on their heads.
The only objective I can see the Democrats and their quisling allies having is to continue the Session through the 120th Day. If they can stall until June 1, the governor has to give almost all State employees a layoff notice effective at 12:01 am on July 1.
At that time, the government of the State of Alaska will all but cease to exist. School Districts/REAA’s totally reliant on State funds will follow suit, as will political subunits with employees whose positions rely on State funds. The School Districts that have local funding in addition to State funding don’t have to give immediate layoff notices but since they’re all union chattel, they will. The unions/Democrats and their allies are counting on the Governor not having the will to look into the abyss. We’ll see.
Frankly, nobody has ever seen anything like this before. There are only a handful of us still on this planet who’ve ever seen and dealt with significant labor strife at the State level and who remember when June 1 layoff notices were really a matter of routine. Everyone heard the wailing and gnashing of teeth over a few hundred requests for the resignations of political appointees; wait until you hear the howl from 20,000 State employees getting layoff notices and perhaps as many as another 20,000 education and political subunit employees potentially getting layoff notices.
I used to have a sign above my desk that said something along the lines of, “if you have to eat frogs, eat the big one first, and don’t spend too much time thinking about it.” Somebody is going to have to eat some frogs.
Art Chance is a retired Director of Labor Relations for the State of Alaska, formerly of Juneau and now living in Anchorage. He is the author of the book, “Red on Blue, Establishing a Republican Governance,” available at Amazon.