House speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, left, speaks with Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, during the House floor session on Wednesday, Feb. 26. 2020. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

House speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, left, speaks with Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, during the House floor session on Wednesday, Feb. 26. 2020. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

House passes supplemental budget, after serious disruption

One lawmaker held up business for over an hour

The Alaska House of Representatives nearly unanimously passed the supplemental budget introduced by Gov. Mike Dunleavy earlier this month.

Members of the House added no amendments to the governor’s budget, and representatives from both parties commended the governor in his choice of appropriations.

But Wednesday floor session was significantly disrupted by Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, who was nearly ejected from the chamber.

Eastman’s first disruption came when he introduced an amendment that would have removed $5,000 meant to go to a court settlement with Planned Parenthood. Eastman objected on the ground the money was meant to go to an organization that provided abortions, but many of his colleagues noted the state had lost a case in court and was simply following the law.

“This has absolutely nothing to do with where you fall on this issue,” said Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage. “Just because we are the state and we do not like it, doesn’t not mean we cannot pay it.”

House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, admonished Eastman several times for veering off topic as Eastman began to discuss abortion rather than the specific appropriations within the bill.

Eastman was so disruptive that several other representatives called for points of order, formal declaration that a member of the chamber was not following proper procedure. Several times Edgmon called for the House to take an at ease so the matter could be discussed. House Rules Committee Chair Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, pulled out his rule book and pointed to specific rules Eastman was violating.

The voting board in the Alaska House of Representatives following the vote on the Fiscal Year 2020 budget on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

The voting board in the Alaska House of Representatives following the vote on the Fiscal Year 2020 budget on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

“He has nothing further to offer,” Kopp said at one point of Eastman’s request to speak.

Edgmon declared Eastman out of order, and threatened to call a vote to have him ejected from the chamber, which Eastman invited him to do.

“I’m not going to basically arm-wrestle with you over procedural matters,” Edgmon told Eastman.

After about a half-hour at ease with extended conversations amongst lawmakers, the House reconvened and Eastman stood down. Following almost an hour of disruption, the supplemental budget sailed through the House.

“This is a clean bill, and it funds time-sensitive items,” said Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, co-chair of the House Finance Committee. “The House did not add to the governor’s supplemental budget.”

The governor’s budget called for $265 million, most of which was allocated to Medicaid and fire suppression efforts. Addition the supplemental budget provided funds for Pioneer Homes financial aid, the Alaska Marine Highway System and the Alaska State Troopers.

The Legislature anticipates additional costs incurred by the state and appropriates money at the end of each session for a supplemental budget. However the governor’s budget was $15 million over the $250 million in “head room” the Legislature appropriated for the supplemental budget last year.

Those additional funds need to be drawn from the state’s Constitutional Budget Reserve, which required a two-thirds vote of the House.

All three votes, the budget, the CBR, and the effective date, sailed through with near universal support.

The only nay votes came from Eastman and Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, who voted against all three measures.

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

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