The Alaska House of Representatives takes a brief at ease during a floor meeting on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (Peter Segall|Juneau Empire)

The Alaska House of Representatives takes a brief at ease during a floor meeting on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (Peter Segall|Juneau Empire)

Capitol Live: House reconvenes to discuss PFD

Live updates from the Capitol

After a very long session, House adjourns until Thursday morning. PFD language was struck from the bill, five million dollars was added to the Alaska Marine Highway System, and 75 percent of the governor’s vetoes have been reversed in this bill which passed the House but still needs to pass the Senate.

In order to bypass a rule that says that says that a meeting must be announced by 4 p.m., the House voted to waive the 24-hour rule. House Finance will meet at 5:30 p.m. for an initial hearing.

5:04 p.m.

House votes 21-10 to waive 24-hour rule. House votes to stand in adjournment until Thursday July 25, 23-7

5:01 p.m.

Rep. Wilson speaks to her objection saying that scheduling a House Finance meeting and then reconvening for a floor meeting makes no sense. “Want to talk about ‘back room deals?’ That’s what this surely feels like.”

Pruitt says that because this is such a short time and it’s such a “robust” issue, despite its already lengthy discussion, is not the right way to do things, whether it’s legal or not.

Rep. Eastman, states again that this morning is the first time he’s heard of HB 2003.

Rep. Vance: “This to me is lawlessness.”

4:56 p.m.

Rep. Johnston moves to schedule a discussion for 30 minutes from now to discuss PFD. Minority Leader Pruitt objects, a brief at ease is taken.

Pruitt objects saying that the public has little to no notification and the legislature has already been in session for five hours.

4:45 p.m.

After many, many statements, the House passes a bill reversing large amounts of the governor’s vetoes but still leaving many cuts in place.

4:44 p.m.

House Bill 2001 passes the House 21-10. Effective date clause passes 29-2.

4:41 p.m.

Rep. Foster is now making closing remarks.

4:35 p.m.

After a long at ease, House comes back to order with representatives still making statements that have been made several times.

4:32 p.m.

One legislator has begun flipping through a magazine while their colleague makes a statement.

3:37 p.m.

Legislators are still making comments about how devastating cuts would be, and how many constituents they’ve heard from, and how painful things have been for people. This reporter is starting to identify with the “Groundhog Day” analogy. Legislators are repeatedly saying that they support this bill and that they need to meet their constitutional obligation, but in making these statements they are delaying actually voting. It is unclear if additional speeches will affect other lawmakers intentions when voting.

3:30 p.m.

Several more members make statements very similar to past statements made today, either by themselves or their colleagues. Similar points are repeated, and several members say that they hope that a compromise can be reached, without saying what that might look like.

Is there anybody in this room that believes that this bill won’t be vetoed, Rep. LeDoux, R-Anchorage, asks the chamber. At this point I have no faith that we’re going to be voting on any dividend bill, she says.

3:04 p.m.

The vote to substitute HB 2001 with the amended bill, no PFD, $5 million for AMHS, comes to a vote. Bill reverses 75% of the governor’s vetoes, Rep. Foster says.

This amended bill represents a great compromise on behalf of the legislature, Foster says.

House Minority Leader Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, says he wants to thank all those who came out and gave public comment. While he will not be able to support this amended bill today, it reflects the legislature’s ability to move toward compromise.

This bill however does not prevent to possibility of further override or other delays, which is why he cannot support it today, he says. But he is hopeful that the legislature will be able to reach compromise in the near future.

2:54 p.m.

The board for the vote on Amendment 2 for HB 2001 on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (Peter Segall| Juneau Empire)

The board for the vote on Amendment 2 for HB 2001 on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (Peter Segall| Juneau Empire)

The amendment fails 11-20

2:51 p.m.

Rep. Vance says in closing statements that she finds it ironic that opponents to the amendment is talking about economic devastation while denying Alaskans so much money. “We keep putting it off for another day,” she says, referring to the the fact that without this amendment, the PFD will not be discussed until later.

The PFD, she says, pulls Alaskans out of poverty. Should this money go to government programs or into the hands of the people, is where the biggest difference is. But it goes to Alaska either way she says.

We should not spur the people in the conversation over what the fund is used for. The constitution says that the government’s power is derived from the will of the people and the people are being pushed out.

What kind of message are we sending to the people if we pick and choose which laws we follow, she asks.

We’re going to get along a whole lot better, she says, if we just pay the full dividend, and then have the conversation about what the fund is for later.

There are people who try to be independent of the government and this dividend is their share of Alaska.

2:42 p.m.

Rep. Delena Johnson, R-Palmer, “the only natural predator of the permanent fund is the Alaska legislature.” When the fund was created, Johnson says, the intent was to create a savings account not for the legislature to burn through.

“This is a tipping point,” she said. “We can’t get our spending under control,” sometimes, she says, she thinks the legislation doesn’t even take curbing spending seriously.

2:33 p.m.

Several speakers have made reference to “Groundhog Day,” the film where the protagonist re-lives the same day over and over again, noting that they have said the same things many times, and made the same arguments over and over again.

A point of order is raised by Rep. Wilson, who says that Rep. Andy Josephson’s speech is deviating from designated topic. Speaker Edgmon, I-Dillingham, says that he has allowed people “to speak until their heart’s content,” and that this is a necessary discussion that needs to happen.

2:24 p.m.

Lawmakers are debating what the original intent of the permanent fund and the dividend actually was. Amendments supporters say that the intent was to give a full PFD for Alaskans to spend as they saw fit. Others counter that the permanent fund was meant to strengthen the financial standing of the state, not the dividend. Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage, says that the legislature should change the formula.

2:21 p.m.

(2:15 p.m. IBU Update: Union has authorized a strike following meeting with state officials. A spokesman for the union said that officials from the Department of Administration may come back for additional meetings but until then workers are on strike.)

Rep. Jennifer Johnston, R-Anchorage, says that the dividend is not a constitutional right but that she is unsure that many people, including some legislators, understand that.

2:05 p.m.

What were saying with this amendment is if your going to take money from this account (the ERA), Eastman says, you’re still going to have to account for the PFD.

The PFD is a priority is and this amendment makes it a top priority.

Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, offers an amendment to a Permanent Fund bill for the state to payout a full dividend at the Capitol on Monday, July 22, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, offers an amendment to a Permanent Fund bill for the state to payout a full dividend at the Capitol on Monday, July 22, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Rep. Vance says that the law dictates that a full dividend be given and that economists have repeatedly shown that the PFD was one of the largest economic drivers of the state. There were means for Alaskans to spread the funds throughout the state by their own decisions, to decide where their funds are best spent in their communities.

2:01 p.m.

Several Republican minority members introduce an amendment to implement a full statutory PFD from the earnings reserve account.

Amendment is sponsored by Reps. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, Sharon Jackson, R-Eagle River, Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, Delena Johnson, R-Palmer, Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage and Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, R-Wasilla.

1:56 p.m.

House is recessed for lunch. Will reconvene at 1:30 p.m.

12:25 p.m.

(IBU Update: Robb Arnold of the Inland Boatman’s Union says that after months of no word from the administration, IBU has a crash meeting with Deputy Director of Personnel at the Department of Administration Nancy Sutch and Jared Goecker, Deputy Director of Labor Relations. They will be meeting at the IBU union office in Juneau at 1 p.m. Wednesday, July 24, 2019.)

12 p.m.

Amendment passes 22-7, five million dollars appropriated for AMHS.

House Finance Committee Co-Chairs Neal Foster, D-Nome, and Jennifer Johnston, R-Anchorage, speaks to members of the media during an at ease in a House session at the Capitol on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

House Finance Committee Co-Chairs Neal Foster, D-Nome, and Jennifer Johnston, R-Anchorage, speaks to members of the media during an at ease in a House session at the Capitol on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

11:43 a.m.

“Just because the ferry doesn’t land in your district,” Stutes says, that doesn’t mean your constituents don’t feel the economic impacts.

11:42 a.m.

Rep. Eastman rises to speak against the amendment. “Would you be willing to give $68 dollars of your dividend to support these coastal communities?” he says is the basic question he would have to ask his constituents. He believes the answer would be no. He believes his constituents think that they can better spend their own money rather than having the legislature make the decision for them.

Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, tells Eastman that his comments are referencing the PFD, which is not the matter of discussion.

Representative Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, speaking in favor of an amendment adding funds for the Alaska Marine Highway System on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (Peter Segall|Juneau Empire)

Representative Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, speaking in favor of an amendment adding funds for the Alaska Marine Highway System on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (Peter Segall|Juneau Empire)

11:38 a.m.

An amendment to add five million dollars to the Alaska Marine Highway System. Several speakers from the Southeast rise to speak in favor of the bill.

The Marine Highway is a part of the state’s highway system, Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, said. Not servicing the AMHS for six months would be like not plowing other portions of the state highway system for six months.

The amendment is sponsored by Rep. Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan, and Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, who both rise to speak in favor of the bill.

Ortiz says this bill is about deciding whether or not the people of coastal Alaska are a part of Alaska.

11:31 a.m.

The house votes 19-10 and passes the amendment to remove PFD language from appropriations bill.

11:28 a.m.

Representative Neal Foster, D-Nome , introduces an amendment to take PFD language out of the bill, making it only an appropriations bill.

Several members rise to speak both for and against the bill. Dissenting members say that this bill has not gone through the proper public process and does not address the PFD which is a prime concern for many lawmakers and their constituents. Several members say the amendment is “kicking the can down the road.”

Foster argues that the bill is attempting to “bifurcate” the issue of funding for government programs and the PFD.

11:16 a.m.

House Bill 2001 is set to be replaced by an appropriations bill for the using Earnings Retirement Account funds for the Permanent Fund Dividend and other appropriations. Rep. Eastman objects, saying that the constitution demands that a bill be read across the floor three separate times on three separate days. He says that this was the first time he has heard of this bill, despite having attended every floor session in the special session. Therefore, he says, this bill is unconstitutional and subject to lawsuit.

The house votes to replace the bill and passes 19-10.

11:15 a.m.

House takes a not-so-brief “brief at ease.” Many legislators are mingling on the floor, chatting.

House convenes with 11 members excused. Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, objects to the previous session’s certification in the journal, saying that there was a bill introduced that was not read across the floor. A vote passes 20-9 to certify the journal.

10:46 a.m

From left to right: Robb Arnorld, John Fageaux, IBU President Marina Secchitano, at the IBU office in Juneau on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (Peter Segall|Juneau Empire)

From left to right: Robb Arnorld, John Fageaux, IBU President Marina Secchitano, at the IBU office in Juneau on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (Peter Segall|Juneau Empire)

The Alaska Region of the Inland Boatman’s Union of the Pacific announced in a press release Tuesday that union members had voted to reject the package of measures proposed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration.

“The Governor cut 46 million dollars out of the AMHS’s operating budget, slashing ferry service to the communities that depend on us for their lifeline” said Union Director Trina Arnold in a press release.

The press release cites a number of issues including no wage increase in five years, one year instead of three year contracts, and the use of overtime rather than hiring more workers as primary reasons for the rejection.

The release also note the significant cuts to the ferry system proposed by the governor’s budget. The union’s statement says that the legislature is “threatening the entire ferry system” by slashing ferry service, cancelling new vessels, and “encouraging private investors to take-over the public system and raise fares.”

The legislature has yet to come to an agreement on legislation funding government services which made the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities release a draft winter schedule showing significantly reduced service. The draft schedule is based on current funding levels and is open to public comment.

Public comment on the draft schedule is open to written comment until July 26, while a public teleconference is scheduled for Monday, July 29. For more information on how to make public comment, you can visit the DOT & PF website or find information here.

The legislature is still in special session and could restore some funding to the ferry system.

“We’ve spent almost 3 years bargaining with the State, including federal mediation, in a good-faith effort to negotiate a fair contract,” Marina Secchitano, union president, said in the release. “The members have made it very clear by their vote that the State’s unfair proposal is not acceptable.”

Without a settlement, the statement said, a strike could begin as early as Wednesday, July 24.


Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com


Rep. Andi Story, D-Juneau, center, talks with House Majority Leader Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks, during a break in a House session at the Capitol on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Rep. Andi Story, D-Juneau, center, talks with House Majority Leader Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks, during a break in a House session at the Capitol on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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