Legislators responsible for crafting the state’s laws probably spurn the suggestion the process is a shipwreck, so this historic photo in the hallway just outside the state Senate chamber is perhaps just a coincidental occurrence. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Legislators responsible for crafting the state’s laws probably spurn the suggestion the process is a shipwreck, so this historic photo in the hallway just outside the state Senate chamber is perhaps just a coincidental occurrence. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The bizarre bills other state legislatures are considering

Alaska’s Legislature isn’t mulling the headline-grabbers some statehouses have in the works.

This article will appear in the Empire’s upcoming Legislature Guide.

There’s no such thing as food made with fetuses that a lawmaker wants to ban in Texas, but if there was, residents on food stamps in Idaho might be able to buy that instead of the meat and flour legislators are seeking to disallow.

Female legislators in a couple of state might break rules if their shoulders are visible while voting on such proposals, although it’s not clear how such rules might apply if they conflict with other bills to forbid gender identifying as cats.

Such bills are lurking on the fringes of proposals circulating in statehouses around the country, but not among the bills introduced at the Alaska State Capitol this year – so far.

Alaska has passed some strange laws such as banning kangaroos in barber shops and whispering in someone’s ear while they are moose hunting (you also can’t view moose or push moose out from planes). The state also has no shortage of strange politicians in its history from the mysteriously missing secessionist Joe Vogler in the 1970s to the infamous “Corrupt Bastards Club: in the 1990s to Santa Claus being just one of the 48 who sought to represent the 49th state last year.

However, the 33rd Alaska State Legislature is considering legislation less likely to grab national media attention.

That said, even the sternest of bills introduced here are vulnerable to certain failings detailed below, such as wording with unintended consequences, so the collection below is means for more than mere amusement/alarm. The lawmakers and their proposed laws are sorted into categories of surrealism, making it easily to spot similar indicators that might surface in seemingly reasonable happenings here.

Loony legislation

These bills are often met with bipartisan rejection and derision, although of course coalitions of lawmakers are as vulnerable as anyone to gonzo groupthink. Among some of the current surrealism in statehouses:

— Making kids in Idaho work for lunches at public schools is being proposed by state Rep. Ron Mendive, although so far it’s just a suggestion with specifics or explanation how it wouldn’t violate child labor laws. He’s hardly the first over the years to float such proposals, including one at the congressional level in 2013 that got widespread publicity.

— Also in Idaho, state Reps. Bruce Skaug and Barbara Ehardt banned testimony from youths under 18 at the committees they chair without a legislator’s authorization, although Skaug later modified that to allow a parent or guardian to grant permission following an uproar.

— Next door in Oregon, a bill introduced by state Sen. Dennis Linthicum seeks to adjust the state’s border so several conservative eastern Oregon counties would become part of a “greater Idaho.”

– Preventing people with ties to four countries — China, Russia, North Korea and Iran — from purchasing Texas property or real estate is the effective result of a bill by state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst.

— Texas State Sen. Bob Hall is proposing a bill requiring labeling for food products that contain fetal tissue. There’s a buffet of fack checkers and experts assuring folks no such food exists.

— Iowa lawmakers are seeking to ban food-stamp users from buying meat and flour.

— Indiana state Sen. Jeff Raatz wants to make sure there’s no disruptive behavior by “furries” in schools.

— Sex education would be banned from public schools completely under a law proposed by Oklahoma state Rep. Danny Williams. A bill by another lawmaker in state allows students to use vouchers to escape “trigger schools” where instructors do things such as tolerate furries or disparage the oil industry.

“The right to bear arms, but not bare arms” in Florida, as lawmakers working to allow concealed handguns with no permits or training also implemented a decree female legislators not show their shoulders in the Capitol building when other lawmakers are present.

— Missouri’s House of Representatives did the same thing, but only for women while they’re on the House floor. The rule doesn’t apply in the Senate. (Alaska’s rules, state women can wear a dress with no mention shoulders or a certain length of their legs have to be covered.)

— Arizona’s legislators voted to shield themselves from public records laws.

Unintended consequences

This is what happens when there are glitches or uncertainties in the finer points of a bill. Such was the case during an Alaska special legislative session in 2021 when a COVID-19-related telehealth bill died due to a provision that would have prevented hospitals from limiting patient visits — a proposal that is again featured in legislation this year.

Notable in this category this year are bills involving drag shows — as in banning or limiting them. The hitch is wording that’s so vague it might apply to activities that are not drag shows.

An Arkansas bill, for instance, states it applies to shows appealing to an undefined “prurient interest,” while drag performers – and neutral legal observers – state such shows (especially kid-oriented ones) frequently don’t have overtly sexual content.

Bills from legislators in Arizona and several other states criminalizing people involved in drag shows within view of kids and/or parents bringing children to such shows. The problem, according to legislative analysts, is the anti cross-dressing language is so vague a parent allowing their child to see “Mulan” or theater folks performing various works of Shakespeare could be arrested.

Satirical statutes

These are generally intended as a funhouse mirror reflection of proposals from across the political aisle, with no intention beyond merely getting some attention in headlines (and maybe a committee hearing where the public gets to pontificate).

— Oklahoma state Rep. Mikey Dollen introduced a bill this year mandating vasectomies for men when they reach puberty, meant after the overturning of Roe v. Wade “to point out how absurd it is for government to regulate someone’s bodily autonomy.”

— A satirical response to the plethora of anti-drag show bills is a proposal by Nebraska state Sen. Megan Hunt banning children from attending church youth groups or vacation Bible schools.

A ban on teaching about anybody who owned slaves, including George Washington and Christopher Columbus, has been introduced by South Carolina Rep. Jermaine L. Johnson, as a counter to the various “critical race theory” bans circulating in many state legislatures.

There are no known “mandatory snip” proposals (or proverbial equivalents) introduced so far during Alaska’s legislative session.

“Do you know who I am?”

Alaska’s had these at times. They can be powerfully entrenched leaders who feel their feel their fear/favoritism factor makes them invulnerable, or fringe grandstanders complaining loudly and often about being essentially powerless.

— Oklahoma state Rep. Ryan Martinez, after admitting to having several drinks before driving, suggested he was immune from arrest and offered to call the governor after being pulled over by a police officer. The state’s constitution states legislators are exempt from arrest during sessions “and in going to and returning from the same,” except for “treason, felony, or breach of the peace.”

— A Utah lawmaker allegedly tried to “intimidate” police officers into releasing his son after he was arrested on burglary charges, as San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams went to the scene with various profane demands to see the arrest warrant.

Empire state of pay

New York’s legislature voted to give themselves a 29% pay raise to a base salary of $142,000 a year, making them the highest-paid in the nation.

In comparison, Alaska’s legislators get about $50,400 per year in base salary (plus an average of about $35,000 in per diem and other expenses) and a proposal reducing compensation last year was unanimously rejected by the state Senate.

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

Plenty of state lawmakers might declare themselves a “defender of the Permanent Fund,” sometimes accompanying it with eyebrow-raising legislation, but Uhtred Permanentfundsen has seemingly permanent claim to that title in the Senate Finance Committee room. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Plenty of state lawmakers might declare themselves a “defender of the Permanent Fund,” sometimes accompanying it with eyebrow-raising legislation, but Uhtred Permanentfundsen has seemingly permanent claim to that title in the Senate Finance Committee room. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Somewhere lurking in all this paper on the ground floor of the Alaska State Capitol are legislative proposals and declarations seeking to reduce the harmful effects of bureaucracy. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Somewhere lurking in all this paper on the ground floor of the Alaska State Capitol are legislative proposals and declarations seeking to reduce the harmful effects of bureaucracy. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of June 15

Here’s what to expect this week.

Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire
A section of Angoon along the coast is seen on June 14. Angoon was destroyed by the U.S. Navy in 1882; here is where they first pulled up to shore.
Long-awaited U.S. Navy apology for 1882 bombardment will bring healing to Angoon

“How many times has our government apologized to any American Native group?”

Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon announced this week she plans to seek a third three-year term. (Juneau Empire file photo)
Mayor Beth Weldon seeking third term amidst personal and political challenges

Low mill rate, more housing cited by lifelong Juneau resident as achievements during past term.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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

A king salmon is laid out for inspection by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at the Mike Pusich Douglas Harbor during the Golden North Salmon Derby on Aug. 25, 2019. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file photo)
Emergency order bans king salmon fishing in many Juneau waters between June 24 and Aug. 31

Alaska Department of Fish and Game says low projected spawning population necessitates restrictions

Three cruise ships are docked along Juneau’s waterfront on the evening on May 10, as a Princess cruise ship on the right is departing the capital city. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Sitka residents join those in Juneau proposing hard caps on cruise ships as tourism grows

Two ballot measures could be presented to local voters in the two Southeast Alaska towns this fall

James Whistler, 8, operates a mini excavator during Gold Rush Days on Saturday, June 17, 2023. People young and old were offered a chance to place tires around traffic cones and other challenges after getting a brief introduction to the excavator. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
There’s good reason to be extra charged up for this year’s Juneau Gold Rush Days

Digital registration for logging/mining competitors new for 32nd annual event this weekend.

Glory Hall Executive Director Mariya Lovishchuk points out some of the features of the homeless shelter’s new location a few days before it opens in July of 2021. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire file photo)
Mariya Lovishchuk stepping down after 15 years as executive director of the Glory Hall

Leader who oversaw big changes in Juneau’s homeless programs hopes to continue similar work.

Most Read