Summary: Today was a busy one. It began with presentations about the potential impact of various PFD distributions. At noon, hundreds rallied in support of veto overrides. By 1:30 p.m. a joint session for veto overrides was set for later this week and there was a new Senate Majority Leader. A bill setting a $1,600 PFD was also given a hearing.
Both the House Speaker and Senate President shared some insight into the biggest things that happened in the House and Senate today —the hearing for a bill for a $1,600 PFD and the naming of a new Senate Majority Leader.
“I need a majority leaders, so we changed her out,” Giessel said of former Senate Majority Leader Costello. “It was a permanent change.”
Edgmon said the purpose of the $1,600 PFD bill, House Bill 2001, is that it gives the bill a first hearing and establishes a point of compromise that’s comparable to last year’s PFD.
Giessel and Edgmon took about 20 minutes to answer reporters’ questions, and their answers shed some light on what to expect Wednesday.
“At this point, we’re looking at a single override vote,” Giessel said.
Both Giessel and Edgmon said in light of public demonstrations, such as the one held Monday in Juneau, the will of the public seems to favor overriding the vetoes.
They also said legislators who are not present in Juneau right now, will likely be in the capital city by Wednesday. However, how many will join the fray is unclear.
“If they don’t show, it’s going to be between them and their district and why they decided to stay away,” Edgmon said.
Giessel said she expected most or all of the six absentee senators to be present Wednesday.
Both Edgmon and Giessel said they spoke to the governor this morning to share the date of the override vote with him and talk to him about the location of the sessions.
They said they hope to speak to the governor every day for productive conversations.
Additionally, Giessel and Edgmon said they are aware of some resistance to the special session happening in Juneau, and said should they be sued for conducting legislative business, they are ready to defend themselves.
Giessel said it’s also her understanding that the governor does not plan to try to call the Juneau special session illegitimate since it would only deepen divides.
“I worked with the governor when he was in the Senate, and I think he wants what’s best for the state,” Giessel said.
Giessel and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, will be holding media availability at 2:30 p.m. to answer questions about today’s sessions, changes and future plans. To recap: In the course of about 20 minutes, the Senate named a new majority leader and accepted an invite from the House of Representatives for a joint session on veto overrides.
During short media availability, Giessel said Costello would still be welcome with the Majority Caucus, and spoke to the importance of having a joint session on overriding vetoes despite uncertainty about the outcome of a vote.
“One never knows how many votes there are until the buttons are pushed,” Giessel said.
Additionally, she said the “robust” demonstration may have changed some minds.
Giessel said it’s hoped by holding the joint session on Wednesday, there is ample time for legislators to make their way to Juneau.
Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, replaced Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, who is a supporter of the Wasilla session on the Rules Committee after the meeting of the Committee on Committees.
Senate President Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, said starting tomorrow Hoffman will be Senate Majority Leader.
Hoffman moved that the Senate adjourn until 11 a.m. tomorrow.
Tomorrow morning at 9 a.m., there will be an update on the present budget situation, Stedman said.
The House has invited the Senate to meet for a joint session at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday to consider veto overrides. There were no objections, and the invitation is accepted.
The Senate is in session and roll is being taken. Fourteen members are present, so there is a quorum. The rally for overrides just audibly concluded outside.
While people rallied in Juneau, legislators in Wasilla said they would be live streaming their special session and offering media availability.
Here’s Brian Wilson’s speech to the crowd. He’s the executive director of Alaska Coalition on Housing and Homelessness.
Even more photos from the scene, by staff photographer Michael Penn:
Jane Andreen, with the AARP took to the mic, saying, “Our seniors are the ones who built this state, who taught us, who raised us.” She said the Dunleavy administration has already kicked thousands of seniors off the senior benefits program, only giving them two weeks notice. She said legislators said seniors wouldn’t need money because they be be receiving a $3,000 PFD. “I am so afraid that Alaska is selling its soul for a few pieces of silver,” she said.
Here’s more photos of the crowd:
Former Juneau Assembly member Kate Troll is speaking, saying the governor promised not to cut. “‘No pain for Alaska, he said. He is walking back his campaign promises,” Troll said.
“Is Governor Dunleavy walking back his ‘Open for business’ promise? Yes! He is!”
Nadine Lefebvre, president of the Juneau Central Labor Council, ALF-CIO, is next. “We will suffer job losses and outward migration if these vetoes are allowed,” she said. “We are Alaskans, working in Alaska, for Alaska.” She led the crowd in a chant, “Override, override, override!”
City and Borough of Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon is speaking first. She said she’s concerned about how the governor’s vetoes will impact the state, and “respectfully” is asking the Legislature to override the vetoes.
The veto override rally is underway in front of the Capitol, with at least 100 protesters. It’s opening with traditional Alaska Native drumming, and the Alaska Flag song, sung by the Juneau Pride Choir.
Here’s a video from the scene, showing the turnout.
Legislative Affairs Agency Executive Director Jessica Geary said her agency is not tasked with providing information about the Wasilla Special Session, and she did not have insight into what will be happening there this week.
Dunleavy’s vetoes can be overridden by a three-fourths vote of the Legislature within five days of the special session’s start.
In effect, the Legislature has to take action with strong bipartisan support within the week, or else the over $400 million that was cut from the approved budget stays cut.
A demonstration against the vetoes and in favor of overrides has support from Juneau unions, educators, lawmakers and more.
Nearly 500 people indicated they’re interested in the event on Facebook as of today.
We’ll have photos, videos and more once shortly.
Some more insight into the earlier Permanent Fund Working Group meetings.
The PFD sizes discussed — $3,000; $1,600 and $900 — line up pretty closely with the governor’s proposed PFD, last year’s PFD and a sort of bare minimum PFD, said Kreiss-Tomkins, who worked on a presentation related to the $3,000 figure.
While a $3,000 PFD has the backing of the governor, Kreiss-Tomkins called them equally hypothetical scenarios.
The latest from the group of legislators set to meet in Wasilla: There will be some sort of teleconference, but a time and number have not been set up.
I’ve called over to the Legislative Affairs Agency about the availability of an agenda or documents, and I am waiting to hear back.
The special session in Juneau is supposed to convene at 1 p.m.
Twitter accounts for Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, and Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, did not offer insight into the other special session.
However, Dunleavy previously tweeted the session will included discussion of the capital budget.
Earlier today, at the request of #akleg Senator Majority Leader Mia Costello & House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, I will amend the call for the 2nd Special Session when the Alaska State Legislature convenes in Wasilla, July 8th, to include items pertaining to the capital budget.— Governor Mike Dunleavy (@GovDunleavy) July 6, 2019
Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s Facebook page livestreamed signing of House Bill 49.
There is a break in the Legislature’s schedule until 1 p.m., but odds are good some will be present for the noon rally outside the Capitol.
After the meeting’s conclusion, I was able to catch up with Kreiss-Tomkins about his portion of the working group discussion.
He said to his mind, the two big takeaways from the presentation is that some sort of “grand compromise” is needed and that the Permanent Fund should be protected.
How the latter will be accomplished is not universally agreed upon.
“There is no silver bullet,” Kreiss-Tomkins said. “Both of us recommended a grand compromise. To me, that’s the big thing from this report.”
Presentations for a surplus PFD and a $1,600 PFD were also made.
“There’s some common themes and common threads to all of these, so I think there’s some movement going forward,” said Sen. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, shortly before the meeting adjourned.
To make the Permanent Fund sustainable, Kreiss-Tomkins and Hughes said spending reductions, PFD size and additional revenue all must be considered.
While the two alluded to disagreements about which factors are most important, they reiterated that all play a role.
Kreiss- Tomkins said whatever solution is ultimately pursued needs to be something strong and binding that would solve the problem for a generation as opposed to an annual game of tug-of-war.
Hughes called in to the meeting.
Kreiss-Tomkins said some sort of “grand compromise” between fund sources, Permanent Fund Dividend sizes and the amount of money left in the fund.
Hughes said she would describe the current budget as “unsustainable.”
Today’s going to be a whirlwind of activity. There’s multiple meetings on the Legislature’s agenda for Juneau as part of a special session, and some lawmakers are meeting in Wasilla.
The day is getting started in Juneau with presentations by the Bicameral Permanent Fund Working Group.
At 1 p.m., the special session is expected to formally convene at the floor.
At 2 p.m., there’s a teleconference regarding an appropriation bill to transfer funds from the earnings reserve account to the dividend fund.
There’s also a sizable rally for veto overrides planned for noon.
We’ll be providing updates on the action throughout the day.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.