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Amanda Coyne: Minnery gags, Lynn's bill is a swan song and legislators get out

Amanda CoyneThe New York Times
Amanda Coyne graphic

Abortion bills. Immigration and drivers' licenses. School choice. Guns on campuses. Dismantling collective bargaining. Changing the way the state chooses those judges who get in the way of restricting abortion -- and we're only halfway through the legislative session.

I spoke with onward Christian soldier Jim Minnery about what's looking like the most conservative Legislature in forever. He didn't agree with me about the conservative part. Even Rep. Tammy Wilson, the conservative from North Pole, has the temerity to want family planning money that would help limit abortions in her abortion bill. "I can't wait for her primary," he said. It makes Minnery and his people "gag" that they are having such a hard time passing a "clean" abortion bill.

What is it about women's reproduction that brings on that gag reflex? And what is it about the subject of birth control that makes Republicans who speak about it sound -- well, just a little nuts?

Case in point: Sen. Fred Dyson gave a speech on the Senate floor about the intense research he'd conducted on the "exotic" and "amazing variety" of affordable condoms. Heck, he all but said, even a single mom in Quinhagak could just go ahead and get them chartered in by Alaska Airlines. His speech made local columnist Shannyn Moore gag or, more specifically, become an "involuntary bulimic."

Nationally, Republicans have been so worried about how they discuss these issues that they've held seminars and written long memos to candidates on the subject. With all due respect to Fred Dyson, of whom I'm a fan: You really need to read the memo.

Another thing they get a little nutty about: immigrants and the DMV. After years of hard work, 81-year-old Rep. Bob Lynn finally saw the passage through both chambers of HB 1, which limits the time a non-citizen with a temporary visa can have a driver's license before getting it renewed. It's his "retirement bill," he's told people. Bon voyage, Sen. Hollis French might say.

Lynn can always volunteer to work at the DMV, where the workload will increase because of the bill.

Speaking of the DMV: A bill introduced by Sen. Cathy Giessel gives private businesses that process some of the DMV's work a 15 percent cut of all taxpayer proceeds, on top of what they're already charging people for the concierge-level services they provide. The bill would cost the state $1.9 million but because taxpayer wealth is getting spread to the private sector, it's got conservative bona fides.

Energy Council is this week. Every year a handful of legislators travel to D.C. to learn more about the oil and gas industry. Among them this year: Reps. Mia Costello, Scott Kawasaki, Benny Nageak, Eric Feige, Dan Saddler and Pete Higgins. Senators include Bert Stedman and Johnny Ellis.

It's no doubt beneficial for our public officials to get out and about. But if they need an education in oil and gas issues, there's always the natural gas pipeline to dig into, one of the biggest, most complex pieces of legislation ever to come before the body.

What's in it? Nobody seems to know. Those who should be studying it are in D.C. learning about energy issues.

What we do know is that labor unions are unhappy with talk of stripping some friendly language out of the bill, and are threatening to withhold support of the oil tax bill passed last session. We also know that the referendum to repeal the tax is on the primary ballot, with the not-so-friendly company of marijuana, the minimum wage and an initiative to kill extra dead the Pebble mine. But if the Legislature finds that it needs an extra few days in addition to its allotted 90, marijuana and the minimum wage move to the general ballot.

More election news: Rumor has it that Walter Featherly, the Anchorage lawyer with the Dickensian name, is preparing to run against Rep. Mike Hawker, who's had some bad press lately for his role in the Anchorage Legislative Information Office fiasco. Featherly, managing partner for Patton Boggs' Anchorage office, got his law degree from Harvard, and is Alaska's honorary consul to the Republic of Croatia. (Not to be confused with Crimea.)

On Friday, state Rep. Bill Stoltze announced at the Palmer Senior Center that he was running for the state Senate in the newly created Valley District. I've heard he's uncomfortable with me saying that the seat is his for the taking. So instead, I'll say that Stoltze has a very good chance of winning that seat.

As to the U.S. Senate race -- a little slower and fewer fireworks than many, including myself, projected. So far most of the buzz has centered around the Koch brothers attacking Sen. Mark Begich for hurting the economy, while in turn Begich and the DSCC are pointing out that the brothers are hurting Alaska's economy by shutting down the refinery in Flint Hills.

From here, the smart money is on Begich to win this one, if nothing else because of the DSCC's line that the GOP is "addicted to Koch." It's maybe even clever enough to cloud the fact that Begich's PAC accepted Koch money in 2010, a fact that GOP Senate candidate Mead Treadwell was happy to share with us.

And what's the Honorable Joe Miller been up to, you ask? For one, he was recently introduced as the "Honorable Joe Miller," at a tea party conference in Arizona, along with Sen. Ted Cruz and Herman Cain, neither of whom got the "honorable" title.

Independent journalist Amanda Coyne writes about Alaska politics on her blogamandacoyne.com. You can contact her at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com.

 


By Amanda Coyne
Anchorage