Following weeks of a 20-20 stalemate, Representative Louise Stutes of Kodiak was elected by a single vote to serve as the Speaker of the House, the third woman to serve in this position following Ramona Barnes (1993-94), and Gail Phillips (1995-98). Rep. Kelly Merrick of Eagle River broke rank with the House Republicans to provide the key vote: a brave if temporary concession to the boring truth that the House has work to do. After the vote, the House Republicans assembled for a maskless group photo, putting on a “nothing to see here” show of solidarity to counter the sudden shift in fortunes, while also looking like a group of white people from corporate attending a farm insurance conference in Dubuque, Iowa.
Subsequent qualifying statements by Rep. Merrick lead one to understand that she cast a vote for Speaker, but will not be joining the bipartisan coalition, and she did not appear in the republican group photo, so for the moment, Merrick may be in some kind of self-imposed political purgatory. Whatever the case, the House needs to start working soon because the magnitude of the task before them with COVID-19 relief, a fiscal and economic crisis, and real-world problems well beyond petty party politics, is hammering at the door.
Even Former Representative Lance Pruitt wants to get to work! He appeared February 11th in a cameo in Senate State Affairs to provide a post-mortem on his loss in the 2020 election. As the context of his appearance was SB 39, Senator Shower’s bill that would make it much harder for Alaskans to vote, Pruitt used his “invited expert testimony” time to imply that the integrity of the Division of Elections and the courts may have been the fault for his loss. Pruitt, along with election fraud hucksters from the conservative Heritage Foundation, and Public Interest Legal Foundation, and a Dentist from Eagle River, painted a broad picture of Implied Nefariousness when it comes to voters, voting, and election and postal institutions.
Meanwhile, an astute lawmaker asked the Legislative Research office to compile a list of Alaskan communities that would be impacted by the provision in SB 39 that strips local control of elections away from communities and prohibits municipal governments from sending ballots by mail. The communities that offer the service to voters of sending ballots by mail can be found here.
While Juneau and the Kodiak Island Borough implemented Vote By Mail systems as a result of the pandemic, the communities in the Kenai Borough have been voting by mail for a few decades.
A Representative from Kodiak now controls the House, while a Senator representing Kodiak and the lower Kenai Peninsula controls the flow of bills onto the Senate Floor. Will they approve a measure that strips local control from their constituents? It seems improbable. Most likely is that the bill sponsor pulls this provision from the bill. The votes exist on the committee, with Shower, Reinbold, and Holland to move any form of bill out, so the sponsor will be looking ahead to avoid future roadblocks as the bill is amended in committee.
We believe this bill regardless of its shape is designed to suppress voting in Alaska. It is a bad bill, and it should NOT leave the committee.
Public testimony on SB 39 is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 19 in the Senate State Affairs Committee. Please plan to call in to provide testimony. If calling from an Anchorage prefix please call: 563-9085. If calling from a Juneau prefix please call 586-9085. From all other prefixes call 1-844-586-9085. Talking points can be found at this link >>
Let’s keep protecting Democracy,
Stop Senate Bill 39
Hearings to Watch Next Week
Monday, Feb 15
+SB 56EXTENDING COVID 19 DISASTER EMERGENCY <Pending Referral> +Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
Tuesday, Feb 16
+=SB 43ELECTIONS, VOTING, CAMPAIGN FINANCE -- Invited & Public Testimony -- Alaska Public Offices Commission - Heather Hebdon
+=SB 39BALLOT CUSTODY/TAMPERING; VOTER REG; MAIL -- Testimony <Invitation Only> TBA -- +Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
S)ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION Finance SubCommittee*
+Department of Environmental Conservation
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
Wednesday, Feb 17
+Alaska Municipal League - Municipal Impacts from
State Budget Actions
+Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
Thursday, Feb 18
(S)STATE AFFAIRSStanding Committee*
+=SB 39BALLOT CUSTODY/TAMPERING; VOTER REG; MAIL
-- Invited & Public Testimony - TBA --
+Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
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