Capitol Live: Veto override vote fails

Live updates from inside the Capitol.

Summary:A veto override failed by a 37-1 vote since a 45-vote super majority is needed.

Lawmakers will meet for a joint session tomorrow in hopes of rescinding today’s vote and re-voting.

Legislative leaders have been in contact with the governor but said they had not heard that there would be more representatives and senators in Juneau tomorrow.

4:20 p.m.

After hearing from the Senate Majority, Senate Minority and House Majority, there’s a clear plan for tomorrow.

That would be rescinding today’s vote, which would take 45 votes, and then having another vote on a veto override.

Legislators did not say they had any specific reason to expect there to be more people at the Capitol tomorrow, but that it was there hope.

Should that fail, lawmakers said they may try to address concerns through other appropriation bills — the capital budget and PFD — but did not get into specifics.

“We lost the battle today, but the war is not over,” Begich said.

3 p.m.

The Senate Majority is holding press availability, and updates will follow shortly.

2:50 p.m.

A Senate recess was called until tomorrow.

2:40 p.m.

The joint session is back underway, and a vote was taken to override vetoes on the mental health budget.

The House voted 23-1 to approve the mental health budget. Wilson was the lone vote against it.

The Senate unanimously voted to override it.

A 37-1 vote means that failed, too.

2:30 p.m.

Things still haven’t picked up. Folks are mostly milling, taking restroom breaks and snagging water, but it seems like there might be some forward movement soon.

2:10 p.m.

Lawmakers are heading back into the chambers. It’ll be interesting to see what else happens today.

1:55 p.m.

The Senate is at ease.

1:52 p.m.

The House vote. Only one member, Wilson, voted against overrides. That’s 23-1. The total is 37-1 for overrides.

The measure failed, but a gesture was made.

1:50 p.m.

All 14 senators present voted for veto overrides.

1:45 p.m.

Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, is now speaking in favor of overrides.

He drew a parallel between the Declaration of Independence and what the Legislature is doing today.

“We are protecting the balance of powers,” Kopp said.

He reiterated the vetoes are not about presenting a balanced budget, but rather about presenting a $3,000 PFD.

He asked if the state taking a share of fishing revenues that would otherwise go toward municipalities, breaking the faith of voters, hurting the university, forcing elders to move and taking hospice care away from terminally ill people are worth a larger annual check.

“Is that work a $3,000 PFD?” Kopp asked.

1:4o p.m.

Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, said he’s lived on the Kenai Peninsula for more than 40 years and cares about his community.

“In these vetoes, there was no plan,” Knopp said. “Any child or anyone with a red pen could have done this….I’m proud to stand her and override these vetoes.”

Knopp said he would like to acknowledge

the governor has effectively united the Legislature in a way he has never seen, and Knopp offered the governor kudos for that.

1:35 p.m.

Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, said she agrees that everyone should be in Juneau or in Wasilla.

“I don’t really care where,” Wilson said. “What we could do with 21 on one side and 11 on the other, and we could take these vetoes and go one by one with our finance committees and talk about whether there’s a better plan, a step down approach.”

She said that could potentially be done through an appropriation bill.

Wilson said the Legislature did something similar when it initially received the governor’s proposed budget in February.

She said she will not be voting to override the vetoes in hope of there being a line-by-line compromise.

“I can’t tell you whether all 182 items are good or bad because there’s 182 items,” Wilson said.”We’re not done, we have other avenues to continue the conversation,” Wilson said.

She said she does not support all the vetoes, but math indicates an all-or-nothing vote will fail today, so she supports compromise.

1:31 p.m.

A house finance committee meeting was set for 1 p.m., but of course did not happen. There are supposed to be multiple press conferences after the conclusion of this session, so not sure if or when that will happen.

1:30 p.m.

Rep. Jennifer Johnston, R-Anchorage, also spoke out against the vetoes.

Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, noted all the empty chairs in the chambers, before speaking about the vetoes impacting University of Alaska.

“There’s a lot I don’t know, but I do know about the university,” Stevens said. “These are devastating. This is unprecedented.”

Stevens, who was once a tenured professor but retired more than 20 years ago, said the damage the vetoes would have would be irreparable.

“Even those who never set foot on a campus in Alaska will be directly affected by these cuts,” Stevens said.

1:25 p.m.

Rep. Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks, is joining the fray to denounce the governor’s vetoes.

“I just can’t believe that we’re heading in this direction,” Thompson said. “I got emails from France. Scientists over there that said University of Alaska is the leader in climate change research.”

“I had to get up to speak to these today,” Thompson said. “I have to point out how important it is what was said by our Office of Management and Budget and our governor that this is Phase 1… We have to push back and say enough is enough… We have to tell the governor that we’re made as hell and we’re not going to take it any more.”

The “mad as hell” line drew applause.

Kreiss-Tomkins said he estimates that 75 percent of Alaskans support overriding vetoes.

“I’m troubled because there are legislators who are not here today…that I believe represent districts that are predominantly part of that 75 percent,” Kreiss-Tomkins said.

He predicted there will be a long week and long month a head. A special session lasts only 30 calendar days.

1:15 p.m.

Rep. Jonathan Kreiss Tomkins, D-Sitka, said equating the governor’s vetoes with a $3,000 PFD is a false equivalency.

Kreiss-Tomkins said the vetoes would only work out to provide funding for a $1,600 PFD.

“He has yet to present a plan that has mathematical integrity that gets you a $3,000 PFD,” Kreiss-Tomkins said.

He also read quotes from Dunleavy back when he was running for governor. In those quotes, Dunleavy said there were no plans to make cuts to the Alaska Marine Highway System or the University of Alaska.

“That’s a reconciliation I would love to see anyone make between those actions and those words,” Kreiss-Tomkins said. “I look forward today to doing candidate Dunleavy a solid.”

1:05 p.m.

Rep. Harriet Drummond, D-Anchorage, set her sights on the 50-percent cut to school bond debt reimbursement created by the vetoes as well as an overall negative impact on education.

“I represent the 130,000 kindergarten through high school students that this state is obligated to teach,” Drummond said. “I care about every one of those darn schools.”

1 p.m.

“We have a chance to stop this tidal wave of destruction,” Story said.

She is highlighted a veto that would eliminate Online with Libraries, which she said allows people to make bank accounts, apply for jobs and reach outside their communities.

Sen. Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, said the vetoes would stand whether a $3,000 dividend was supported by the Legislature.

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, speaks in favor of an override vote during a Joint Session of the Alaska Legislature to vote on an override of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetoes at the Capitol on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, speaks in favor of an override vote during a Joint Session of the Alaska Legislature to vote on an override of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetoes at the Capitol on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Begich said he believes “in his heart” that no matter what the Legislature decides regarding dividends the governor’s vetoes would stand despite what some lawmakers in Wasilla may think.

“I believe they think there’s a compromise that’s available here between these budget cuts and the dividend check,” Begich said.

He made an appeal to the absent legislators.

“This is where they should be today,” Begich said. “They should be standing for Alaskans today. They should be in this room today.”

He said the budget with the governor’s vetoes is soulless, mean-spirited and game-playing.

“When we vote today, this is it,” Begich said. “There is very little likelihood that there will be some budget created that will go to the governor, and he will sign it.”

12:55 p.m.

Rep. Andi Story, D-Juneau, said we are currently experiencing a man-made earthquake courtesy of Dunleavy.

“This is not a way to make policy and budget decisions,” Story said. “Our budget is our priorities resourced.”

She said the budget prioritized seniors, children and education. The sentiment echoed the representative who spoke before Story.

“To the seniors of Alaska I would never do this to you in a million years. Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage. “To the kids of Alaska, I would never do this to you in a million years.”

“We need our colleagues to join us,” Tarr said. “They need to join us so we can get our work done.”

12:50 p.m.

Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky, D-Bethel, is also offering her support for an override.

Zulkosky said while her constituents could use a $3,000 PFD, the state services lost will outweigh any good it might do.

Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage, said she agreed with von Imhof’s assessment that disagreements over the setting of the special session are a distraction from the important issues.

Sphonholz said she is hearing from constituents that are not normally the folks who call their local legislators.

While she said she is proud to be present with members of both bodies and parties she is also sad today.

“I’m sad because there’s not enough people in this room, these override votes are largely symbolic,” Spohnholz said. “I’m sad that there are a group of people that got distracted by the red herring, by the bait and switch, that was put forth by our governor. The result will be a human-made disaster unless we find a way to do better by Alaskans.”

She said it’s hoped that in the coming days the remaining legislators will come to Juneau.

12:40 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, said he’s heard from hundreds of constituents asking him to override the governor’s vetoes, and he intends to represent their voices.

“It should be unfathomable to the rest of the state, and I think that is an accurate statement,” Hoffman said. “We’ve seen rallies across the state.”

“The people of Alaska are standing in uproar across the state in a way I haven’t heard before,” he added.

He thanked the people for sending him to the state to do the people’s work, not the governor’s work.

Amid criticism of the vetoes, so far I don’t think anyone has singled out the impact the vetoes will have on the Alaska State Council on the Arts or on the Ocean Ranger program.

12:30 p.m.

Rep. Grier Hopkins, D-Fairbanks, noted the bipartisan and bicameral support on display today for overriding the vetoes.

He said vetoes to funds that support homeless shelters will harm children.

“The average age of a homeless person in Alaska is under 10 years old,” Hopkins said.

12:25 p.m.

Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson, D-Anchorage, is now voicing her displeasure with the vetoes.

She said one of her constituents had told her how a program affected by the vetoes changes his life.

“He told me in no uncertain terms, he would not be alive today without the publicly funded Medicaid program,” Gray-Jackson said.

She said the vetoes are simply an assault on everything people know and love about the state.

In light of public support for overrides, Gray-Jackson said it should be an easy decision to override the vetoes.

“It’s not rocket science folks, it’s just not rocket science,” Gray-Jackson said.

12:2o p.m.

Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, is also speaking against the vetoes.

He said making cuts to Medicaid is essentially turning down federal dollars. Claman additionally said the vetoes effectively reduce funds for public safety.

Claman also said the governor’s punitive cuts to the Alaska Supreme Court funding because of its rulings. He said the independence of the judiciary is of the utmost importance.

“We should never stand to that,” Claman said.

12:15 p.m.

Wielechowski is addressing some of the arguments he’s heard supporting the vetoes.

He said the vetoes are in opposition to the governor’s campaign promises.

“He’s on video in interviews saying I will not cut education, I will not cut Medicaid, I will not cut the university,” Wielechowski said. “It’s on video. You can watch it on TV.”

He also said the vetoes aren’t totally about affordability in light of oil tax credits and per capita spending be near a 40-year low.

“We need to override these vetoes and protect our state from being devastated,” Wielechowski said.

With empty legislator seats in front of him, Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, speaks in favor of an override vote during a Joint Session of the Alaska Legislature to vote on an override of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetoes at the Capitol on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

With empty legislator seats in front of him, Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, speaks in favor of an override vote during a Joint Session of the Alaska Legislature to vote on an override of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetoes at the Capitol on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

12:10 p.m.

Sen. Chris Birch, R-Anchorage, said the vetoes undermine the efforts of the Legislature to create a “responsible budget” that passed the Senate by a 20-0 vote.

“Apparently, the six who are not here are willing to stand up and defend their budget,” Birch said.

Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, said he’s never been prouder to stand in a joint session.

“I’m very proud today to be associated with my colleagues from the other body,” he said.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, said the vetoes will be hard on the working poor, the university system and elders.

Noon

Von Imhof said a $3,000 PFD is a poor substitute for a job, home or heat.

“Better make it last because it’s all you’re gonna get,” she said.

Von Imhof is also decrying the governor’s lack of response to questions about the impact of vetoes.

“The argument about the location is a diversion, it’s a red herring to mask the real issues that we face today,” she said.

This is a pretty fiery rebuke of the governor, the administration and the vetoes.

“I am a true fiscal conservative, and I don’t take criticizing our governor lightly,” von Imhof said. “Sometimes you have to spend money now to avoid paying much more money later.”

She said vetoes will bite the state hard in the future.

11:55 a.m.

“I don’t understand the reasoning for it, and it’s going to have detrimental effects on our state and on our communities,” Wool said.

He said Alaskans will sent their children off to college outside of the state and many will not return.

Now, Sen. Natasha von Imhof, R-Anchorage, said she cannot understand why the governor would want to send Alaska into a severe economic recession via vetoes.

“This is not the Alaska I grew up in,” von Imhof said. “This is not the future I want for this great state.”

She said a $3,000 Permanent Fund dividend may be “good politics” but it’s “really, really bad policy.”

Empty seats during a Joint Session of the Alaska Legislature to vote on an override of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetoes at the Capitol on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Empty seats during a Joint Session of the Alaska Legislature to vote on an override of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetoes at the Capitol on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

11:50 a.m.

“These vetoes are not about balancing the budget, they are about redirecting Alaska to be something that I don’t want Alaska to become,” said Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau.

She said she grew up in an Alaska that allowed for upward mobility and for people to become the first in their families to attend college.

“We want Alaskans to stay here, we want them to thrive here, and we want them to be healthy and safe in their homes,” Hannan said.

Rep. Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks, is speaking about the potential impact of the governor’s vetoes on the University of Alaska.

11:45 a.m.

A veto override is now being discussed.

11:40 a.m.

The joint session has been called to order. This time voting showed House attendance at 24. That’s still short of an override. It’s also short of the number of lawmakers needed for the Legislature to call itself into session.

11:35 a.m.

Senators are filing it, but the joint session is not yet underway.

11:30 a.m.

House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, just called the House to order.

Votes put attendance at 24 members present. That, plus 14 senators, is shy of the minimum number of votes needed for a veto override in this instance.

Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, shows other House members video on his phone of happenings in Wasilla before a Joint Session of the Alaska Legislature to vote on an override of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetoes at the Capitol on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, shows other House members video on his phone of happenings in Wasilla before a Joint Session of the Alaska Legislature to vote on an override of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetoes at the Capitol on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

11:25 a.m.

The House has yet to gavel in, so the joint session could lag a little behind the 11:30 a.m. time.

Folks are filing into the House Chambers though.

11:15 a.m.

The Senate is now in recess for joint session.

11:12 a.m.

Giessel just gavelled the Senate into order. Fourteen members are present. That’s the same as on Monday.

11:10 a.m.

Things are moving behind schedule. The Senate seems close to convening, but it looks like the House is caucusing. 11:30 a.m. is still the joint session time. The Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, should have some availability after the joint session, so that could be enlightening.

11 a.m.

Both the House and the Senate are scheduled convene at 11 a.m. to start the day.

Then, there will be a joint session at 11:30 a.m. for consideration of overriding Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s 182 line-item vetoes totalling over $400 million.

The time and date was set to allow lawmakers to travel to Juneau from Wasilla, but aside from Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, it remains to be seen if anyone previously in the Mat-Su Valley will be in the capital city.

[Fractured Legislature makes override vote uncertain]

At 1 p.m., there will be a House Finance Committee meeting.


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, speaks with Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, before going into a floor session at the Capitol on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, speaks with Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, before going into a floor session at the Capitol on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

More in News

The Fairweather pulls up to the Auke Bay Terminal in June 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
State accepts bids for 2 fast ferries that faced struggles

The state Department of Transportation issued a public notice of the bidding process Thursday.

This is a police car.  It has always been a police car.
Police calls for Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Artist Rob Mullen stands on Long Trail, the country’s oldest long distance trail, in Manchester, Vt., on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. Mullen was nearing the end of his 272-mile month-long hike down the length of Vermont, painting along the way. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke)
Artist hikes nation’s oldest long-distance trail, painting along the way

He had planned to paddle in the Northwest territories of Canada. But then the pandemic hit.

The Juneau Police Department Community Service Officer waits as a vehicle is pulled out of the ditch at the intersection of Egan and Yandukin Drives near Fred Meyer on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. The Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has announced five proposed alternatives to better manage traffic at the intersection. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)
DOT presents 5 options for Fred Meyer intersection

Extensions? Traffic signals? Both?

Gov. Mike Dunleavy gives his State of the State address before a joint session of the Alaska Legislature on Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Judge: Alaska governor used veto power to punish courts

A judge said Dunleavy’s vetoes violate the separation of powers doctrine.

Juneau Police Department Chief Ed Mercer, left, and Deputy Chief David Campbell, right, pose with Sgt. Nick Garza, center, for Garza's promotion to sergeant on Oct. 14, 2020. (Courtesy photo / JPD)
JPD officer promoted to sergeant

He has been with JPD since 2009.

U.S.Attorney General William Barr speaks during a roundtable discussion on Operation Legend, a federal program to help cities combat violent crime, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, in St. Louis. Barr also spoke via recorded message at the annual Alaska Federation of Natives Convention. (AP Photo / Jeff Roberson)
Alaska Natives, law enforcement affirm partnership against public safety crisis

Partnerships, tribal authority, and reliable funding cam help strangle this crisis.

Most Read