Caitlyn Ellis, a legislative aide for Rep. Andi Story, has her Christmas headgear adjusted by Rebecca Smith, left, during a legislative open house at the Capitol on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Caitlyn Ellis, a legislative aide for Rep. Andi Story, has her Christmas headgear adjusted by Rebecca Smith, left, during a legislative open house at the Capitol on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Holiday cheer with a side of politics

Juneau delegation hosts open house at state capitol

There were cookies, cider and even broccoli laid out for guests of the Juneau delegation to the Alaska Legislature’s open house Friday.

Sen. Jesse Kiehl and Reps. Sara Hannan and Andi Story, all Juneau Democrats, hosted a holiday meet-and-greet at their offices on the fourth floor of the Alaska State Capitol. Juneauites wandered from office to office, chatting with their local lawmakers about the issues most important to them.

Speaking to a small group crammed into the entry-way of her office, Hannan said she was, “totally irritated” with the current status of the Alaska Marine Highway System.

“How could you have let it limp along,” she said. “The governor’s budget has a little bit more money, but it’s not enough to restore any routes.”

Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, greets a Juneau resident during a legislative open house at the Capitol on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, greets a Juneau resident during a legislative open house at the Capitol on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Hannan said she believed there would be more support for the ferries this year because many non-coastal communities will better understand the impacts lack of service is having.

When Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed an extra $5 million the legislature appropriated during the special session to restore winter service to Cordova, his office said it was because that funding was “premature” until a reshaping study from Northern Economics is completed.

That study was supposed to be completed in December but has not yet been released.

Kiehl said he was in favor of the public corporation model favored by Southeast Conference, which that group says would enhance efficiency and sustainability.

“This is a state entity. Every significant ferry system requires some public investment. But you can wring a little bit of the political fluctuation out of it,” Kiehl said. “If every four years or eight years you get a whole new vision for the ferries, it’s tough to make smart decisions on $40 million (investments)”

Not everyone who attended the open house came with issues on their minds. Damon Stuber and Rebecca Smith said they had come to support Kiehl, who they said is a personal friend.

“And to support the local delegation before they take off for the holidays,” Smith said.

Rep. Andi Story, D-Juneau, greets a Juneau residents in her office during a legislative open house at the Capitol on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Rep. Andi Story, D-Juneau, greets a Juneau residents in her office during a legislative open house at the Capitol on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Melissa Kolwaite only moved to Alaska a week ago and wanted to meet her local representatives. Kolwaite said she had just moved from Colorado to Juneau for family reasons. She said she wanted to get acquainted with Alaska politics.

“What better way than at a holiday party?” she asked.

When Dunleavy released his budget earlier this month, he said he wanted the Legislature to look at some of the formula-driven costs that are driving much of the state budget. Many state programs are funded by statute, which can only be changed by lawmakers.

Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, greets a Juneau residents in her office during a legislative open house at the Capitol on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, greets a Juneau residents in her office during a legislative open house at the Capitol on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

But as far as formulas go, Story felt that strategic investments were needed for programs which had been cut last year.

“I know from school board and looking at those budgets down to the penny that there’s not fat in those budgets,” she said.

All three lawmakers said they have bills in the works for when the legislative session starts, Jan. 20, 2020.


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


More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of April 15

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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

Newly elected tribal leaders are sworn in during the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska’s 89th annual Tribal Assembly on Thursday at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall. (Photo courtesy of the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska)
New council leaders, citizen of year, emerging leader elected at 89th Tribal Assembly

Tlingit and Haida President Chalyee Éesh Richard Peterson elected unopposed to sixth two-year term.

A waterfront view of Marine Parking Garage with the windows of the Juneau Public Library visible on the top floor. “Welcome” signs in several languages greet ships on the dock pilings below. (Laurie Craig / For the Juneau Empire)
The story of the Marine Parking Garage: Saved by the library

After surviving lawsuit by Gold Rush-era persona, building is a modern landmark of art and function.

A troller plies the waters of Sitka Sound in 2023. (Photo by Max Graham)
Alaska Senate proposes $7.5 million aid package for struggling fish processors

The Alaska Senate has proposed a new aid package for the state’s… Continue reading

Current facilities operated by the private nonprofit Gastineau Human Services Corp. include a halfway house for just-released prisoners, a residential substance abuse treatment program and a 20-bed transitional living facility. (Gastineau Human Services Corp. photo)
Proposed 51-unit low-income, long-term housing project for people in recovery gets big boost from Assembly

Members vote 6-2 to declare intent to provide $2M in budget to help secure $9.5M more for project.

Members of the Alaska House of Representatives watch as votes are tallied on House Bill 50, the carbon storage legislation, on Wednesday. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska House, seeking to boost oil and gas business, approves carbon storage bill

Story votes yes, Hannan votes no as governor-backed HB 50 sent to the state Senate for further work.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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

Most Read