Rep. Tammie Wilson, right, speaks to other representatives on the House of Representatives floor on Wednesday. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Rep. Tammie Wilson, right, speaks to other representatives on the House of Representatives floor on Wednesday. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Capitol Live: Ferry system survives cuts, for now

Live updates from inside the Capitol.

3:20 p.m.

Eastman proposes an investment to defund the state’s Human Rights Commission, especially in light of recent resignations in that commission. The amendment fails, 23-16.

— Alex McCarthy

2:45 p.m.

That amendment fails, 24-15. The low-quality photo below shows who voted for this amendment to cut the ferry system’s budget by $40 million.

The board on the House floor shows a vote on an amendment that would have cut more than $40 million from the Alaska Marine Highway budget.

The board on the House floor shows a vote on an amendment that would have cut more than $40 million from the Alaska Marine Highway budget.

— Alex McCarthy

2:41 p.m.

Rep. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard is proposing a bill that she says seeks to find a compromise on the AMHS. If I’m reading this amendment correctly, it would cut the ferry system’s budget from $129 million to about $86 million.

“Alaskans want a ferry system. I believe in the ferry system,” Sullivan-Leonard says. “Unfortunately what we have before us is a fiscal situation that does not support a transportation system that is reliant on a 200 percent subsidy.”

We take a brief at-ease so people can mull this over.

— Alex McCarthy

2:27 p.m.

I spoke with Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon just before this session and he said this is all going pretty much according to his expectations. He said he expects amendments about the Permanent Fund Dividend to be the most contentious and time-consuming.

He didn’t comment on what kind of specific PFD amendments he expects, only saying that there are people on all sides of the PFD debate in this body, from those looking to preserve a full dividend to those looking to greatly reduce it to help fund state spending.

Edgmon said he expects this session to go into the evening.

— Alex McCarthy

2:25 p.m.

That amendment fails, 24-15.

— Alex McCarthy

2:15 p.m.

We’re back in action on the floor. Rep. Lance Pruitt is proposing an amendment that would pull some money from the Alaska Marine Highway Fund to fund shellfish and biotoxin monitoring of some sort, if I’m understanding it correctly.

Rep. Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan, sarcastically thanks Pruitt for “finding yet another way to deplete the Alaska Marine Highway System of their resources.”

— Alex McCarthy

1:45 p.m.

As you might expect, things are not going according to plan. The 1 p.m. floor session turned into a 1:30 p.m. floor session and will now likely start after 2 p.m. While we wait, here’s a photo of Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon during the earlier session.

Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, center, speaks with Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak and Rep. Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks during a House floor session on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, center, speaks with Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak and Rep. Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks during a House floor session on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

— Alex McCarthy

12:58 p.m.

A couple corrections to the parts of the previous post that are now deleted. The meeting happening right now is between House leadership and the governor. I wrote that House Democrats were meeting, and that Foster was meeting with the governor later today, both of which were incorrect.

— Alex McCarthy

12:25 p.m.

A couple thoughts from Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, and co-chair of the House Finance Committee:

• When asked what his main takeaway from the sessions so far: “So far, no surprises. One thing I think you’ll notice is a number of things are being rolled to the bottom, so we’ll take up some of the issues that are going to require more discussion at a later time. No real surprises at this time.”

• He said two issues to keep an eye on are PFD amendments and school bond debt reimbursement. He expects amendments related to those to come up eventually.

• There’s been some buzz around the building that the House might just power through amendments today no matter how long it takes. Foster didn’t bite when asked about it, saying “it depends on how much people want to talk, I guess.”

— Alex McCarthy

11:53 a.m.

Amendment 41 fails 23-16, and we’re breaking for lunch. Just spoke with Rep. Foster, and will have thoughts from him on here shortly. Pulled in a couple different directions at the moment, with some local breaking news as well.

— Alex McCarthy

11:38 a.m.

Rolling forward. Amendment 41 is from Rep. Laddie Shaw. It would reduce the Alaska Department of Fish and Game budget by 3.6 percent, he says. It would reduce a few divisions by a little bit, and Shaw says the money doesn’t seem to be vital.

“This is a very minor, modest reduction in money that doesn’t appear to be needed,” he says.

Rep. Louise Stutes objects, saying the Fish and Game budget has been cut fairly significantly (37 percent) in recent years, and speaks about how important the fishing industry and research is to the state.

— Alex McCarthy

11:23 a.m.

Wilson proposes Amendment 39, which makes some fairly small cuts to the Department of Transportation budget. There seems to be some confusion about the ins and outs of it. There’s a somewhat lengthy at-ease where Wilson goes around talking to people and clarifying the amendment.

“There’s no hidden doors, there’s no hidden curtains,” Wilson says into the microphone afterward. “It’s a simple reduction.”

Immediately, someone calls for an at-ease.

Wilson scoffs, and says to Foster next to her, “it really is a simple amendment.”

The objection is quickly withdrawn, which means the amendment will pass.

Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage, asks for a re-vote on Amendment 36, which passed earlier. They vote again and it passes by an even wider margin than before. Things happening very quickly here.

— Alex McCarthy

11:17 a.m.

Eastman’s amendment gets voted down handily once again, 27-12.

— Alex McCarthy

11:12 a.m.

Rep. David Eastman is back at it again. He’s proposing shifting funding from programs such as public health nurses or public radio to the court system to keep courts open on Friday afternoons. Multiple legislators speak against this, citing the current syphilis outbreak in the state as an example of why health employees are important Josephson rises again, saying the court system wasn’t even necessarily looking to ask for money for Fridays until the governor brought it up.

— Alex McCarthy

11:03 a.m.

That amendment passes with flying colors, 29-9.

“This is a critical function,” Josephson said during his pitch to the representatives. “People have cried out for us being tougher on crime…if we don’t have this amendment, we’re not tougher on crime. It’s that simple.”

— Alex McCarthy

10:43 a.m.

OK, things are getting going now. The action begins with Amendment 36, which is from Reps. Andy Josephson, Matt Claman, Tammie Wilson and Neal Foster (Wilson and Foster are the House Finance Committee co-chairs). Josephson gets up to speak about this one, saying that it aims to provide support for prosecutors. This amendment, Josephson says, allocates $750,000 to increase staffing for prosecutors and staff.

— Alex McCarthy

10:33 a.m.

An interesting introduction during this part. Rep. Andi Story introduced Jerry Nankervis, whom she defeated in November’s election to earn her spot in the Legislature. She notes that Nankervis has served Juneau “admirably” over the years, and she details his time with the Juneau Police Department and with the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly. Nankervis was most recently the CBJ deputy mayor.

— Alex McCarthy

10:15 a.m.

The House is set to hit the floor in a few minutes. Word around the campfire is that they’re going to try and finish off all amendments today. We’ll see how much progress they make. They’re starting a little late, then they’ll spend time introducing guests, then they’ll work for a while and then they’ll break for lunch.

Here’s a nice little moment, as Rep. Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan, catches up on the news with his local paper.

— Alex McCarthy

9:26 a.m.

The Alaska Senate Majority announced this morning that the 2019 Alaska Permanent Fund Education Raffle raised just over $976,000, and 85 percent of the proceeds directly benefit the state’s K-12 public education system.

Sen. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, created the raffle last year through House Bill 213. It allows people to voluntarily contribute a portion of their PFD to support education for a chance to win a cash prize.

Half of the money goes to the Department of Education and Early Development, a quarter of it goes to the education endowment fund and a quarter of it goes to the raffle fund. First place wins $19,528.

Read more on that here.

— Alex McCarthy

9:16 a.m.

Von Imhof recommends coming back every few years to reevaluate the spending cap to make sure it’s appropriate for the current state of the state.

As it’s currently written, SB 104 would cap state government spending at $5 billion for fiscal year 2021, allowing for a growth rate based on inflation over the past five years.

— Alex McCarthy

9:11 a.m.

Sen. Natasha von Imhof is walking the committee members through the spending cap bill. She shows a graph that illustrates chaotic spikes in spending and revenue in the past 13 years or so. She refers to this graph as “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride,” which, according to Google, is a ride at Disneyland that’s based on Disney’s adaptation of “The Wind in the Willows.” I did not expect Disney to get involved here today, but here we are.

— Alex McCarthy

9:06 a.m.

Meanwhile on the Senate side, the Finance Committee is talking about its proposed bills last week. SB 103 would change the way Permanent Fund money can be spent (proposing a 50-50 split between dividends and state spending) and SB 104 would impose a spending cap on state government.

— Alex McCarthy

9 a.m.

The 86th day of session dawns on a somewhat tense Capitol. House budget discussions didn’t do much of anything yesterday, and the clock is ticking.

[Read more about yesterday’s action here]

I saw the House Finance Committee co-chairs and vice chair (Reps. Neal Foster, Tammie Wilson and Jennifer Johnston) emerge from Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon’s office a few minutes ago.

— Alex McCarthy

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