Friends, I know it is sad to think about, but someday the fanfare will fade, the bloggers and pundits and lobbyists will move on to other questionable endeavors, and the special session will conclude. Our lawmakers will voyage in the annual diaspora to their home districts where they will convert to members of the community again, and be welcomed back even if grudgingly. Yes, all will be silent in the committee rooms where once a great debate raged, where passions and ideas clashed in a mighty and tumultuous fracas over the soul of a State, silent, but for the sound of a vacuum cleaner in the hallway and a few cruise ship tourists marveling at how small the capital building is.
If the blunt force of summer makes it hard to keep the focus on the Alaska Legislature, you are to be forgiven and perhaps commended to a degree. Bear in mind that after the Legislature closes up shop after passing a budget and a PFD of some size, there are still policy issues that Alaskans can and should keep on the front burner. How do you do it? Schedule a meeting, attend a town hall, or call into a radio interview featuring your legislator. If your legislator is cagey and elusive, call them out. My own Representative Sarah Vance faced negative blowback for refusing to debate and make her views known on public radio or at town hall events and spoke only at venues tightly controlled by her Republican Party handlers. Now that she is duly elected she pretty much has to meet with constituents when and if they drop by her Homer office. Our legislators and their staff don’t quit working when they leave Juneau; they go to district offices where they are trapped like rats. So go pester them!
All legislation remains in play until the gavel drops Sine Die in the late spring of 2020, so this summer is a great time to build public support for some bills that will be taken up again next session:
Special Committee on Climate Change: House Resolution 12 (HR12) was introduced in the House on May 15. HR 12 calls on the AK House of Representatives to establish a special committee on climate change to “ensure advancement in understanding of current climate research and to explore policy options relating to climate change effects, mitigation, resilience, and adaptation in the state.” This resolution is one that your legislator should hear an earful about, and pledge to support, given the tragic stupidity and willful inaction of federal and state administrations on the unfolding climate disaster. HR 12 has a single committee of referral, House Resources, a good sign that the resolution has support from leadership in the House.
Alaska Non-Discrimination Bill: HB 82 would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. Previous iterations of this bill have died on the vine in the AK legislature. HB 82 should not. It has passed the House State Affairs Committee over the opposition of House Minority members and now rests in the House Judiciary committee. We must make noise in support of this bill, and a moral case must be made with the conservative evangelical sector of our political scrum, or HB 82 will not pass.
Tier III water protection: the regular session ended without significant action on two bills that would stifle citizen water protection efforts. HB 138 and SB 51 would decrease the ability of Alaskans to designate waters for special protection under the federal Clean Water Act by requiring all such designations to be made by the Legislature and approved by the governor. We believe the nominating process should not be a political circus but should instead be a science-based process conducted through The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Nominations to protect different waters have been submitted to DEC by numerous Alaska Tribal governments, and the agency claims it cannot move forward because it has no formal process for accepting nominations. It is time the agency moves ahead with a regulatory process and quit wasting people’s time by asking the Alaska legislature to arbitrate water quality protection designations. If you support a clear, accessible process for Tribes and individuals to protect specific high-value water from pollution tell your legislator you oppose HB 138 and SB 51.
Increase voting accessibility: one important bill filed this session would require “state elections and local elections that the state is responsible for conducting to be conducted by mail.” HB 150, by Representative Kreiss-Tompkins, was briefly reviewed in the House State Affairs committee this session and constitutes the beginning of a discussion. Voting by mail has increased voting in states and counties where it has been implemented.
Senate Bill 14 (SB 14): an end to the Per-barrel tax subsidy for the oil and gas industry. This is an item that our lawmakers should not be able to pocket veto through their silence. Ask them why it is fair, equitable or even rational that we are twisting ourselves into pretzels over our fiscal situation when at the same time we are hosing down our oil and gas industry with insane subsidies to promote a behavior they are already performing. Don’t let the interim go by without reminding your representative and your senator that oil tax reform must be a part of any long term fiscal plan.
You deserve answers and clarity from your legislators, and they really do need to hear from you on what you support or oppose and why.
Government Affairs Director
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