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Friday, January 28, 2022

Coghill Breaks Crayons Over Mandatory Release

It’s always fun when committee meetings become not mind-numbingly dull. For every bazillion hours that make you wish you were watching paint dry, there’s a precious moment of drama. And if you’re lucky, you even get crayon-breaking and a tantrum.

Behold today’s Senate Judiciary Committee meeting, and its Chair, Senator John Coghill (R-North Pole).

The omnibus crime bill (SB91) was passed a couple years ago, and since then all the inevitable bugs and problems found in a gigantic bill are being worked out. SB150 is one of those mechanisms meant to deal with the pre-trial portion of the bill. One thing that has particularly irked Alaskans is “mandatory release.” There will be some kind of horrible story in the paper, and they’ll say that the criminal was arrested and immediately released, because that’s what the new law says – even if that person has been shown to be a “moderate risk” which means they could have multiple failure-to-appear warrants, and multiple arrests under their belt. And yet they fall under the mandatory release category, and walk free.

Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) has proposed an amendment to fix this problem. His amendment would put the decision about whether the accused is released or held on bail back to the discretion of the judge who can look at someone’s record and decide if it’s a good idea or not. No-brainer, right?

Not so fast. And here’s where it goes Jerry Springer-ish (for a committee meeting). Chair John Coghill, one of the original sponsors of SB91, was opposed to the amendment, but a (GASP!) Democrat had a good idea and convinced two Republicans to vote with him, and the committee voted in favor of the amendment by a vote of 3-2. Usually, the players know how these things will fall out before the meeting is even held. And the Republicans caucused before this meeting. So.

Coghill, and Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks), the only members of the Senate Republican leadership, were the no votes. Wielechowski, Mia Costello (R-Anchorage), and Shower (R-Wasilla) <– the new guy who replaced the nominee who dropped out to take care of a sick friend as soon as comments surfaced of him saying that abortion doctors should be murdered with scissors – were the yes votes.

Here’s the 27-second clip. Check it out. I watched it like five times.

Coghill calls for vote.

Costello votes yes.

Shower thinks for a second… votes yes. Please note that Shower chose not to caucus with the Republicans, so he’s still a Republican BUT he can do whatever he wants, which can be delicious.

Costello gives a spectacular eyeroll, then face-palms, bigly, for the duration. Perhaps not expecting Shower to “go rogue” and ensure the amendment will pass?

Wielechowski votes yes. No surprise.

Senate President Pete Kelly votes no.

Coghill grabs the gavel and votes no. He holds the gavel at the ready, hovering… He waits for the vote to be called, then he immediately slams the gavel down, it smashes into the mic, and he ADJOURNS THE MEETING. Done. The meeting is over so filming stops and we never get to see who actually called the Waaaaaahhhhhmbulance.

Here’s the epic crayon-breaking in 27 seconds.

What about all the other amendments? Wielechowski had four more at the ready that were supposed to be addressed in this meeting.


Coghill just couldn’t even.



What’s next for Wielechowski’s amendment? Or the other amendments? We’ll never know what kind of talking to the dissenters got, or what kind of “incentivizing” they’ll get for not stepping off the path again. Will we see some kind of maneuver to rescind this vote? Will the rest of the amendments and this bill die in committee? Or will they have to put on their big-boy pants, suck it up, and let Wielechowski have a win. Stay tuned.



2 Responses to “Coghill Breaks Crayons Over Mandatory Release”
  1. Zyxomma says:

    Any follow-up?

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