Gov. Mike Dunleavy talks with local residents and people involved with this year’s legislative session during an annual welcoming reception hosted by city government and business leaders Tuesday at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall. Dunleavy is scheduled to deliver his annual State of the State address, the first of his second term, to a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature at 7 p.m. Monday. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy talks with local residents and people involved with this year’s legislative session during an annual welcoming reception hosted by city government and business leaders Tuesday at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall. Dunleavy is scheduled to deliver his annual State of the State address, the first of his second term, to a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature at 7 p.m. Monday. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Rallies and State of the State set for Monday at the Capitol

Dunleavy to deliver annual address following two big-issue demonstrations.

More than just another manic Monday is in store at the Alaska State Capitol as protests involving the 50th anniversary of the recently overturned Roe v. Wade decision and educators unhappy about years of flat funding will precede Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s State of the State speech as he begins legislative work during his second term.

The annual demonstration by Alaskans for Life Inc. at noon is actually a day later than when the landmark abortion ruling was issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973, although numerous other related nationwide gatherings are happening before or after Sunday.

But that means the local event will be competing for attention and headlines with the educators scheduled to gather in front of the Capitol at 6 p.m., a deliberate timing after Dunleavy announced his address to a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature will be at 7 p.m.

Dunleavy’s four-person communication’s staff began working several weeks ago on the State of the State speech, typically delivered during the second week of the Legislative session, Jeff Turner, a spokesperson for the governor, stated in an email interview.

“As far as what topics will be addressed in the speech, it is still being drafted,” he wrote.

The speech will be broadcast and streamed live by KTOO on Gavel Alaska.

A hint of words likely to come up can be gleaned from a comparison of inaugural and state of the state speeches by seven western state governors including Dunleavy by the Western Governors’ Association shows the words most commonly spoken are “education,” families,” “communities” “taxes,” “work” and “future.” Among the common words in the smallest type on the “cloud” map are “hope,” “neighbors” and “environment” (along with largely state-specific phrases including “carbon management.”)

In terms of Dunleavy addressing the issues raised by demonstrators during the day, education is among the obvious topics and abortion a possible one in the speech since the governor has frequently referred to both when discussing his agenda for this legislative session.

The midday demonstration by Alaskans For Life will have some extra motivation and political heft this year following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning Roe, which has resulted in a flurry of legislation to broaden or restrict rights in various states. Dunleavy has stated he intends to introduce a proposed constitutional amendment altering the Alaska Costitution-protected right to abortion, although he has acknowledged the makeup of the Legislature that includes a bipartisan Senate majority may lessen the restrictions he seeks.

“The overturning of Roe v Wade was a wonderful victory, but it has had virtually no effect in Alaska,” Ken Mattson, an administrator with Alaskans for Life, wrote in an announcement for the group’s rally. “We were a pro-abortion state before Roe v Wade and we are a pro-abortion state after Roe v Wade.”

Fourth Street between Main Street and Seward Street will be closed to vehicular traffic between noon and 1 p.m. for the rally. It will also be closed between 6 and 7 p.m. for the education rally.

The Juneau Pro-Choice Coalition, which has scheduled its annual Lunafest fundraiser commemorating the anniversary of Roe for Friday, has not announced official plans for its own rally on Monday.

Educators are protesting the flat funding via the Base Student Allocation that has failed to keep pace with inflation during the past decade, to the chagrin of many school staff and lawmakers who’ve sought to increase funding. Dunleavy is again proposing flat funding education in his proposed budget for next year, while acknowledging he is willing to treat it as a first draft while working with legislators during the coming months.

“I think a lot of what we’re hearing coming out of the new Legislature is they’re ready to make a substantial increase in student funding, which is encouraging,” said Chris Heidemann, president of the Juneau Education Association, one of the sponsors of the event.

While the issues the teachers and other rally participants will raise have often been heard by most lawmakers inside the Capitol, “I think they need to be confronted with it more often,” Heidemann said.

Michael Bucy, a music teacher at Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School and lead organizer of the rally, said competing for attention with the abortion rally was something that never entered his mind when scheduling the education event an hour before the governor’s speech.

“My focus was on the reaction to governor’s statement when he came out with his budget and said flat fund education and give a $3,900 Permanent Fund dividend,” he said, adding the money spent on PFDs of $3,284 last year was more than the general fund allocation for K-12 and University of Alaska combined.

• Contact reporter Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com

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