The Legislature is coming to a close, with pandemic and economic headwinds and more than a little uncertainty ahead. For the safety of our representatives, we need them to pass a budget and go home now.
The session will likely adjourn or recess after a budget deal is struck sometime next week.
In the meantime, why are legislators, like Sarah Vance and Ben Carpenter, from the Kenai Peninsula holding up Medicaid and COVID-19 money in the Supplemental Budget for political gamesmanship when lives are at stake? Why is Senate Resources holding hearings on the Governor’s absurd suite of land development bills and why is the Governor still pushing for go-nowhere bills when the only responsible move right now for a Governor is to ensure the citizens are safe. The single responsible choice for the Legislature is to pass a budget and get themselves, their staff, and families out of that most public and confined of meeting spaces, the state capitol building.
There are some essential things to do now to ensure Alaska’s safety. There is a hearing scheduled in the Senate State Affairs Committee on a proposal, HB 115, which would institute a vote from home system, allowing Alaskans to elect their leaders without standing in line at the public polling locations. HB 115 is one policy piece the Legislature should focus on as an essential response measure to the COVID-19 pandemic. Vote by mail already occurs in the Municipality of Anchorage by ordinance for local elections, and HB 115 would broaden the application to elections statewide. In a time of uncertainty like the present moment, Alaskans and Americans must continue to hold their elected officials accountable by voting.
HB 115 has a single committee of referral in the Senate - so it could pass, though this is not for sure, as there is an above-stated need to close down session asap, and some legislators have heartburn with the bill. The discussion on the vote by mail will also go on next week at the federal level as the US. House negotiates a package of public health and economic stimulus measures in response to COVID-19.
Here are two things you can do to support a strong and durable democracy during a time of widespread self-isolation - and an additional thing you can and should do if you live in Anchorage.
1. If the Legislature is still in session on Tuesday, March 24, at 3:30 p.m., you can offer public testimony in support of HB 115, which would allow Alaskans to vote from home. All public testimony is by phone only. So please dial 1-844-586-9085 to participate.
2. Contact the Alaska Congressional Delegation today, over the weekend, or early next week. Tell them you support the addition of measures to protect your right to vote, such as the inclusion of federal funding in a COVID-19 response and economic stimulus package to allow all Americans to vote by mail in the November 2020 elections. Or take our online action to email them directly>>
3. If you live in Anchorage, look for the local election ballot package that was sent to voters on March 17 and vote by mail by April 7. The ballot has six Assembly and two School Board members and to vote areawide on ten propositions, two Charter amendments, and an ordinance. In some areas of the Municipality, you will also elect members to respective service area boards. Learn more about the candidates and the initiative The Alaska Center has endorsed here>>
We all need to stay safe and keep participating in elections to keep our democracy strong. We need our leaders to keep themselves safe as well and to do their work to protect our elections. A vote from home system for all elections will help ensure this in the near term.
Keeping an eye on things from my home office,
Hearings to Watch
Saturday, March 21
9:00 a.m. (H)HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES
Uniform Rule 23(a) Waived
Overview: Public Assistance & Medicaid Services COVID-19 Response by:
- Deputy Commissioner Al Wall, Dept. of Health & Social Services
- Shawnda O'Brien, Director, Div. of Public Assistance
- Testimony <Invitation Only>
Monday, March 23
1:00 p.m. (H)JUDICIARY
HB 250 VOTER REGISTRATION AGE
3:30 p.m. S)RESOURCES
SB 204 STATE LAND SALES; PLATS; RIVERS
SJR 15 STATE FULL SHARE OF PROFITS IN ANWR
Testimony <Invitation Only>
Tuesday, March 24
8:15 AM S)TRANSPORTATION
HB 208 RENAMING COLLEGE RD AS ALAN BORAAS RD
3:30 p.m. S)STATE AFFAIRS
HB 115 ABSENTEE VOTING
HB 221 STATE RECOGNITION OF TRIBES
Wednesday, March 25
3:30 p.m. S)RESOURCES
Consideration of Governor's Appointees: Board of Fisheries - John Wood
SB 70 REPEAL OCEAN POLLUTION MONITORS
SB 194 ADVANCED NUCLEAR REACTORS
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