February 21, 2013 (Issue 2)
Tricks and Treats
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
|Birthday celebrations pushed our office (broom closet) beyond maximum capacity.
Bush Caucus is Back
I've joined the Bush Caucus. The Bush Caucus has evolved into more of a coastal caucus in recent years, and includes lawmakers from urban communities such as Juneau. But the spirit is the same: advocate the needs of rural and coastal Alaska. Goodness knows it's a voice that needs to be heard.
Our caucus counts 12 members, 7 Democrats and 5 Republicans – a large enough bloc of votes to make an impact. Always reasoned and thoughtful, Rep. Bryce Edgmon (D-Dilllingham) is our chair.
Frankenfish and Sea Vomit
Fisheries Committee considered two especially palatable legislative entrees last week. The first, a bill (HB 89) providing for rapid response to invasive aquatic species, was a slam dunk. Nothing like northern pike or colonial tunicate (lovingly known as sea vomit) to raise a bipartisan kumbaya. The bill passed out of committee with all "do pass" recommendations.
The second is a resolution (HJR 5) urging the FDA not to allow genetically modified salmon (lovingly known as frankenfish). On the heels of a 130-strong rally in Sitka against frankenfish, the resolution passed out of committee and today passed the House 38-0.
Our office is proudly co-sponsoring both the invasive species bill and the frankenfish resolution.
|Tully and I traveled to Kake last weekend for services for Mackenzie Howard. Wonderful to be back, but tragic considering the circumstances.
No Reduction without Production
There’s a difference between a give-and-take and a giveaway. Last week, House and Senate Democrats introduced an oil tax bill based on a give-and-take: if oil companies produce more oil, we will reduce oil taxes. Tax reduction for production. It even rhymes.
Compare: the Governor’s new oil tax bill. It includes elements that encourage new production, which is good. The Governor’s bill also eliminates progressivity from our oil tax structure, which is bad. Bad because Alaska would lose billions of dollars when oil prices are high, and get absolutely nothing in return. That’s a giveaway.
Rep. Shelley Hughes (R-Palmer) was the first Representative to shepherd a bill to the House floor. Her bill (HB 40) allows municipalities to create property tax exemptions for farming structures, in order to encourage local food production.
Rep. Hughes lined up her votes before the bill came to the floor. Along with 30 or so other representatives, I gave my word I'd vote yea.
But majority and minority leadership wanted to pull one on Rep. Hughes, who is serving her first term. When the vote was called, every member, except Rep. Hughes, voted nay. The vote readerboard was awash with red, and Rep. Hughes turned a little white.
Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage) moved for reconsideration, the House passed HB 40 by a 30-3 vote, and we all enjoyed a chuckle.
I got punk'd too. I wrote my last newsletter on my birthday, February 7. During floor session that day, in a tradition owing to the late Rep. Richard Foster of Nome, I was roasted like a chestnut over an open fire.
Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks) did the honors:
"...The birthday boy... was born an 80-year-old man, with accompanying wisdom and receding hairline.
Even though he is turning the wise old age of 24 today, Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that the member from district 34 is still young...
Before he is allowed to vote, the House Chief Clerk still cards him.
The Speaker must ensure that floor sessions adjourn promptly at 10 p.m. because of city-wide curfew.
The member had a birthday cake yesterday afternoon AND he had to get permission from his mom to eat sugar.
The young member has been working closely with many of the older members in the House even though he is just sworn in a few shorts weeks ago. In fact, he was immediately called on to chair the ‘hair club for men caucus.’”
A chairmanship freshman year?! I couldn’t be more excited.
Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins
State Capitol, Room 426
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