The State Senate has managed to solve the Rubik’s Cube of legislative organizing with an all-Republican face but for the inclusion of one rural Dem, Senator Lyman Hoffman. There are mysteries at the heart of this combination: promises and deals made. We know that behind it all, someone gave up something to get something. Legislators like Senator Mike Shower, who rail vehemently against “binding legislative caucuses,” don’t get to be in a caucus without some kind of skin in the game.
Peter Micciche is the newly minted Senate President for all Republicans. Micciche survived the political scare of his life in 2018 when a hard-line supporter of the Full-PFD platform mounted a write-in campaign and came within a razor margin of victory. To publicly claw back his conservative Bonafides, Micciche was no doubt eager to do whatever possible to bring the most conservative flank into his embrace. A Senate Presidency will tee him up nicely for a run at Governor or U.S. Congress in 2022, no doubt. How he holds this fractious Senate alliance together will be something for the ages to behold. Disaffected social media commenters on the right are bemoaning him as a PFD Thief, of the same ilk as the (obviously Hippy Radical) Giessels and Coghills of yore.
If the fiscally moderate leadership of Senate Finance is any indication - Co-chaired by Sen. Stedman, and Sen. Bishop - there is little chance the full and supplemental PFD proposed by the Governor will amount to more than a historical footnote of a vague and not credible idea. One senses that far-right Senators aligned most closely with the Governor have leveraged the shame of reputational loss from joining with PFD-deniers to argue that they should be given committee chairmanships as a consolation prize.
Senator Shower, we know, (from rumor) made a deal to ride with the PFD-Thief-in-Chief and the safe-seat coastal and rural moderates as long as his bill to undo pretty much all of Alaska’s voting rights reforms of the last decade makes it to the Senate floor for a vote. He is making use of the deal swiftly. On Tuesday and Thursday of next week, he has scheduled hearings in his committee, Senate State Affairs. What is the purpose of this S.B. 39? It prohibits certain vote by mail elections and it guts the automatic voter registration reform enacted by voters in 2016. It appears to do little to address actual problems in reality, but it breathes air into the embers of the Trump election fraud lie, which Shower is eager to keep alive to cloak his attack on voting. Trying to ensure fewer people vote is not a new or innovative play. It is older than Jim Crow.
Who knows what will come from Senator Lora Reinbold chairing the Senate Judiciary Committee? The committee entrusted with questions of Alaska law has been handed to a Senator who recently posted articles on her social media in support of imposing Martial Law to overturn the U.S. election. It is unclear what the more moderate republican Senators get out of this arrangement. Perhaps they view Senate Judiciary and Senate State Affairs as safe sandboxes for the far right to frolic while the adults get some real work done over in Finance.
If the Senate Republican caucus promised to unravel voting rights in Alaska as a trade for budget votes, it would put the wise Senator Gary Stevens from Kodiak in a tough position. As Senate Rules Chair, he will be forced by this internal, political caucus bind to let all manner of unfortunate, unnecessary partisan statement legislation onto the floor. All while we in the real world watch as the economy suffers, marine highways and the university flounder, and crushing fiscal problems loom at our gates.
We all should hope very hard that the AK House of Representatives organizes around solving actual things this year.
Government Affairs Director
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