First of all, I would like to thank Scott McCrea for the title of this article.
If you were to write a book about current Alaska politics, what would the title be? Borrowed from a term commonly used by @alaskalandmine I go to "Fear and Laxity in Juneau".
– Scott McCrea (@sjmccrea) July 26, 2019
Come on, and then there's Juneau ̵
If everything seems very confusing, at least know that you are not alone. Part of the confusion is intentional and another part is just a product of stasis and emotions in Juneau.
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Most citizens have no way of understanding what's happening down here. Many people in the building do not even understand it. Are we getting a PFD of $ 1,600 or a PFD of $ 3,000? Will Dunleavy's vetoes be reversed? Will the capital budget be financed? Will students of the University of Alaska receive their scholarships? Will the rural people receive their electricity compensation funds so that they can afford their electricity bills this winter? Short answer to all these questions: who the hell knows.
The Senate passed the SB 2002 19-0, which finances the capital budget and the crime bill and is the other side of several accounts. Parliament passed the SB in 2002, but the 3/4 vote for access to the constitutional budget reserve to actually fund the programs contained in the bill has failed with one vote, which has again brought us an empty capital budget. They tried twice – the first vote was 25-8, with 7 members, all from the minority of the house, being excused. The second vote was 29-7, with 4 members apologized. Also all House Minority members. We have seen some members of the House Minority change their voice to gain access to the CBR, for which many of them have been praised. Although the CBR vote was not passed, it was an advance to get some minority members to vote yes. It shows that they are listening to the thousands of Alaskans who have come to testify about the budget.
There's another chance to make it on Monday. They can withdraw their earlier lawsuit against SB 2002 and vote again. If they do not get the 30 votes, the bill is dead and the whole thing has to start over. Between the financing of the capital budget, including federal matching funds, and the reversal of funds such as electricity cost equalization, billions are involved in the balance sheet. Billion. Is there a worse credit rating than "negative"? Because if so, the continuation of the state will honor us on this road of fiscal chaos.
Then there is HB 2001. This started as a dividend bill, but in a classic legislative way this was actually eliminated by a change in dividend from the bill. Now it's just an account that recovers about 75% of the vetos made by Dunleavy. The House minority said they were shocked to see the amendment on the morning of the vote on their desks. The majority claimed to separate the PFD issue from other remedies. The day before there were negotiations and some hoped that a deal will be made. It turned out to be wishful thinking. This bill was passed by the House of Representatives 21-10, with 9 apologized members, 7 minorities and 2 majorities. It is now in the Senate, where they make their own amendments to the bill.
Even if it passes the Senate, Dunleavy will probably reject everything again. Then the question will be whether the legislature has the 45 votes to override it. Could be. At least they will not meet in two places at the same time when this vote takes place. This means that those who have previously evaded the veto override vote because they participated in the Shinkles session in Wasilla have the opportunity to cast their vote for the restoration of funding at the University of Alaska and the scholarships they have earned Alaska's best and most successful students restore the state's obligations to our seniors and many other programs in the statute.
And now to HB 2003, the new PFD bill. HB 2003 would set the PFD at $ 1,600, but this depends on the CBR reverse sweep, which requires a 3/4 vote or 30 votes. If this does not happen, the PFD will be approximately $ 1,336 due to the structured draw of the permanent fund. The additional $ 264 comes from the statutory budget reserve that was repatriated. Still confused? Well. Take a number. This happened to the house yesterday 22-12, with 6 members apologizing to all members of the house minority. It is now in the Senate. Get ready for the flight.
Juneau is in a mess. The people are tired. Nobody wants to be here. Why is this all happening? Here is my attitude. The house is extremely broken, especially the house minority. Several members of the minority voted for the capital budget and reversal of the split. The spokesman Bryce Edgmon (I – Dillingham) has a hard time. In order to negotiate or speak with minority members, he must contact the minority leader, Representative Lance Pruitt (R – Anchorage). Pruit's wife Mary Ann Pruitt is the communications director for Governor Dunleavy. Whatever he discusses with the one Pruitt is left to the other and then to the Governor and his Chief of Staff, the other governor, Tuckerman Babcock.
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If the majority of the House is more involved in the minority during the session, things might be better. But under the given circumstances, that is easier said than done. In addition, Lance and Mary Ann are married longer than both in their respective political positions. Perhaps the governor who hired someone like Mary Ann, who has such a blatant conflict of interest, was part of the back-channel plan all the time to ensure a lack of trust and communication in the house. We call this a BOGO – buy one, get one.
Senate President Cathy Giessel (R-Anchorage) surprised many people with her leadership in the Senate. Most believe it was fair and inclusive to the minority of the Senate. The Senate voted unanimously or almost unanimously on many major votes. But she has taken some of her members who attacked her in public, Flack. The Senate is not as broken as the house, but neither is Kumbaya over there. It will be interesting to see what happens in the Senate with all the bills the house has passed this week. They will not just overtake them as they are, they will change them. That will certainly cause more problems.
Then there is Governor Dunleavy, who continues to demand a "full" PFD of $ 3,000. This is essentially the core of this mess. Where was he most of this week while the legislature was trying to find out? In Aspen at a retreat for the Republican Governors Association. His legislative director – who is usually the lead person who communicates and negotiates with the legislature on behalf of the governor – is on vacation in the Cayman Islands. And the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget is at her graduation in London. Donna Arduin and Ben Stevens are there, but Arduin has never met with the leadership of the house and it's unclear what role Stevens plays. Many lawmakers are frustrated by a lack of leadership.
Leadership is important. And in Juneau and beyond, many in the political spectrum feel that leadership in Alaska is lacking. I've talked to many people who have been in politics in Alaska for a long time. Everyone agrees that it has never been so bad. One person said to me, "If we compare what happens next with the next lower time, it will be hard for you to measure the distance between the two."
I would like to end this by saying something like "Things can only get better" or "I am optimistic that everything will be solved." But I do not think both are true – Alaska needs guidance now. Will somebody show up and lead, or will the status quo remain?