Capitol Live: Marijauna board appointee Stiver undergoing confirmation hearing

Follow along with live updates from Alaska’s Capitol.

4:45 p.m.

• “I’m for Vivian Stiver to be on the board.” Nancy Graff said. “I think she’s fair minded.”

• Chelsea Foster of Anchorage of Anchorage said she is very biased.

• George Pearce of Kenai said marijuana is a new revenue source and he opposes Stiver.

“She’s been a critic of marijuana businesses. She’d be a poor representative on the board,” Pearce said. “She would take us backwards. Her views have not changed. We don’t need a prohibitionist.”

• Jim Ostlind who worked with Stiver on the marijuana referendums and Safe Neighborhoods Fairbanks voiced his support for Stiver. He said it was “nuts” to think that her lack of experience in the marijuana industry should disqualify her from this board position.

— Kevin Baird

4:32 p.m.

Alaskans are calling in to the House Labor and Commerce Committee to testify concerning Vivian Stivers appointment to the Marijuana Control Board.

Those who have called in to support Stiver see it as a benefit to have a different point of view on the board in a “public member.”

Many who are opposing her appointment do not trust her. Stiver’s history as a prohibitionist in Fairbanks has not been forgotten.

It seems the testimonies for and against Stiver are split evenly at this point.

— Kevin Baird

4:02 p.m.

Marijuana Control Board appointee Vivian Stiver says her past involvement working with a referendum against legal marijuana businesses in Fairbanks will not affect her work on the board.

“I have personal views, I do, and they get set aside.” Stiver said. “I don’t think I’ll have any problem representing business fairly.”

Stiver is undergoing a confirmation hearing in the House Labor and Commerce Committee right now.

Brandon Emmett, a former board member who is still involved in the marijuana industry in Fairbanks testified to the committee, saying she should not be appointed to the board.

Emmett listed a number of reasons why he believes Stiver should not be appointed to the board, including her involvement on the Keep Neighborhoods Safe Fairbanks group that worked to rid Fairbanks of the legal marijuana industry in 2017, her previous record of spreading misinformation in Fairbanks, and also because of her inconsistencies in public statements.

Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, had asked Stiver if she would work to overturn the on-site marijuana consumption regulations that have been recently delivered to Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer.

Stiver said, “It’s a done deal there’s nothing for me to support or not support.”

Hannan pressed her and got a similar response.

But when Emmett testified he quoted from a news article in which Stiver had said she would work to overturn on-site consumption regulations.

The owner of Juneau’s Fireweed Factory asked the committee not to appoint her to the board, because her “known hostility” toward the industry.

— Kevin Baird

12:23 p.m.

Lieutenant Governor Kevin Meyer is speaking at the Native Issues Forum at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall.

He notes the resolution just passed by the Senate that honors five Tlingit code talkers. These Tlingit code talkers that were recognized helped with WWII efforts.

“I’m just really glad we’re finally able to recognize these five individuals for the service they provided our country,” Meyer says.

He says he’s recently talked to Gov. Mike Dunleavy and they are going to fly the flags at half mast for the next five days to honor these men. He’s asking any veterans in the hall to stand up to honor them, as well.

“My main responsibility is elections. My goal as the Lt. Gov., and it’s interesting, every state is a little different. … Here in Alaska we basically said we don’t need both functions so they combined Secretary of State with Lt. Gov. My goal is to make sure all elections are done fairly and honestly,” Meyer says. He says people will want to know votes are counted fairly and accurately and that they are doing an audit to make sure there are no loopholes.

Greater access to ballots is one of the things he notes is important to him. He says they offer language assistance in 15 Alaska Native languages for elections and the goal is to expand it even more.

Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer speaks to a full house at the Native Issues Forum in the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Wednesday, March 6, 2019.

Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer speaks to a full house at the Native Issues Forum in the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Wednesday, March 6, 2019.

“The other thing that we’re in the process of doing is changing out our voting equipment,” he says. Some of the equipment has been around since the 90s, so he says they are replacing some of those and working on making it easier to vote absentee.

He says his other job is promoting the governor’s agenda for Alaska.

“The big one is the budget … let me start out by saying the 18 years I’ve been in the legislature, this is the first year we actually had a budget that truly shows this is how much revenue we have, and this is how much we can afford,” Meyer says. “Governor Dunleavy is actually doing what he said during the campaign, and that caught a lot of people off guard.”

He says some of the reductions people have been upset about, but he thinks it’s good that Dunleavy started out with this budget the way he did, because over the last four years the state has burned through $14 billion of savings.

He says Dunleavy feels that the Permanent Fund Dividend belongs to the people. And he doesn’t want any new taxes, and that the governor wants to get the spending down, but if the legislature and public doesn’t agree with that, then “we should talk about it.”

He says people have been stopping him more on the street than ever before to speak their mind about the proposed budget cuts.

“If you want things added to the budget, then again, let’s talk about how to fund it,” Meyer says, asking if then government be funded by a tax or is the public really OK with using Permanent Fund Dividends for government spending.

“I think the governor will accept whatever the general public wants to do. Don’t get too upset with the budget,” Meyer says. People laugh in response. “But get involved.”

Meyer says the North Slope investment will trickle down into the economy for the state. That also draws laughs from the crowd.

—Mollie Barnes

10:15 a.m.

Ed King, the state’s chief economist, is now speaking to the Senate Finance Committee.

Before launching into his presentation, he said economic impacts are different than impacts to social well-being and that distinction should be made.

— Kevin Baird

9:45 a.m.

Chief economic researcher Dan Robinson said the increase in wages, gross domestic product and personal income in Alaska suggests the economy is about to bounce back.

— Kevin Baird

9:22 a.m.

How healthy is our economy? That’s a question being discussed Senate Finance Committee right now.

“We’ve been losing jobs for 39 months and counting,” says Dan Robinson, the chief economic researcher at the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Robinson also said Alaska has underperformed every other state in terms of job growth from 2015-2018.”

Other oil producing states such as North Dakota and Wyoming have suffered job losses too. However, these two states have “absorbed the shock” of oil prices dropping and production decreasing. Jobs are being added already, according to Robinson.

— Kevin Baird

8:35 a.m.

Now they’re talking about the WWAMI Medical Education program. This program is a collaborative medical school among universities in five northwestern states, Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho and the University of Washington School of Medicine, according to its website. The curriculum at each site has been standardized and is compatible with the University of Washington School of Medicine curriculum which integrates the basic and clinical sciences, and includes rural health care at an early time in medical education. Alaska WWAMI provides Alaskans access to a high quality regional medical school.

The governor’s proposed budget calls for eliminating this fund.

The committee is asking for graduation rates for this program.

Rep. Harriet Drummond, D-Anchorage, asks if other states have this similar program. Stephanie Butler, the executive director from the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, said if Alaska eliminates this program, they will be one of two states in the whole country that do not have a program like this, she said she’s not completely positive what the other state is off the top of her head, but thinks it’s Nevada.

— Mollie Barnes

8:05 a.m.

The Department of Education and Early Development is giving a fiscal year 2020 budget overview to the House Finance subcommittee. Heidi Teshner, the administrative services director is presenting.

View her presentation here.

Most of their budget goes to funding public schools, about 77 percent of their total funding goes toward that.

— Mollie Barnes

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