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You Can’t Fire a Fetus & Other Lessons from the Alaska Legislature

TALL TALES from Juneau

Eyes on the Dunleavy/Babcock administration

It’s been a week since the marathon joint session convened and voted on Governor Mike Dunleavy’s appointees to boards and commissions – and there have been a few developments with some of the rejected nominees.


First, there was Mike Tovaliero. He was the one rejected from the Board of Realtors for several reasons including: his seeming lack of understanding of which board he was nominated for;  his losing interview strategy of being belligerent to legislators and not forthcoming when asked questions; and his problematic Twitter feed which featured both original and retweeted posts categorizing all Muslims as terrorists, and straight-up calling for violence against them.

Not to be kept down for long, Mr. Tavoliero reemerged in the news this week as the Chair spearheading a group which calls for… “Eaglexit” – the secession of Eagle River from the Anchorage Municipality. Their website cites “common demographic, economic and political interests” which they feel are underserved.Those demographic and political differences include a less diverse racial makeup and more conservative voters. Also “the main Anchorage bowl demographic has maintained a monopoly on the School Board.” Here’s an article in the Chugiak Eagle River Star if you want to read more about how they plan to “DETACH NOW.”



Then there was Karl Johnstone, the highly controversial nominee for the Board of Fisheries. Hundreds testified on his nomination, and many opposedit, sharing incidents of intimidating behavior, both toward members of ADF&G staff, and also to members of the public.The usually-neutral United Fishermen of Alaska even opposed Johnstone’s nomination.

The governor’s blogger is all a-flutter because (so the new framing goes) his nomination went down because of unsubstantiated, last-minute, witch hunting and bogus claims of sexual harassment. This stems from Rep. Ivy Spohnholz speaking to her own objections to Johnstone which included the fact that she was contacted by multiple women about Johnstone’s inappropriate behavior. The vote on Johnstone was tabled to give him the opportunity to speak to these accusations, but then later it was un-tabled when it became clear that Johnstone’s nomination was going to fail ANYWAY – regardless of the allegations. The United Fishermen of Alaska, which does not usually oppose or endorse Board of Fisheries candidates, had made a point to oppose Johnstone’s nomination because of his record on issues, “disregarding science,” “back room arm-twisting” and insulting behavior.

This media coverage takes the cake, though – the right-leaning Alaska Journal of Commerce came out with this title on a story posted today:

“Reps apologize after last-minute charges sink Johnstone nomination”

Those “last minute charges” would be the concerns expressed by Rep. Spohnholz. The story features a picture of now-retired Sen. Berta Gardner (who wasn’t even in Juneau this session) and Spohnholz “sharing a laugh.” Because… hahaha our evil plan has worked?! Only deep in the article is the following mentioned, that refutes the entire premise of the post. (my emphasis)

“However, according to UFA’s tracking, [the allegations] didn’t change the ultimate outcome. Political organizations regularly keep track of how legislators have said they would vote in a record called a chit sheet, and UFA’s chit sheets made before the joint session showed that Johnstone would have been defeated anyway…”

So, no, AK Journal.  “Last minute charges” did not “sink Johnstone nomination” even according to the very article underneath the inflammatory headline. What sank Johnstone’s nomination was Johnstone himself, and his long history of inappropriate and intimidating behavior.

Spohnholz, Wednesday, made a speech on the floor to address the difficulty in dealing with situations like this, and to remind the legislature about its sorry record of dealing with sexual harassment claims. “It’s my intention to make a request to the Legislative Council that we create a working group that would work on a policy to would allow for executive sessions to be undertaken if a member of the public wants to bring forward a claim that would allow for both the person making the claim and the person the claim was about to be treated fairly and to have due process,” she said. “We don’t have that process currently, but we should develop one.”




The pot prohibitionist Vivian Stiver, who Dunleavy tried to insert into the Marijuana Control Board, was rejected narrowly by the legislature because she doesn’t even believe the board she was appointed to should exist. The governor says he won’t appoint a replacement this session. Nor will he attempt to eliminate the board altogether as he had proposed, not because he realizes that this is an economic driver which puts money in our coffers and is encouraging entrepreneurs from agriculture to retail… Nope. It’s because he ran out of time. So, put that on your calendar for next year.




We’ve been waiting for numbers on Gov. Mike Dunleavy and his “we have to destroy the state to save it” budget plan. Last week we mentioned Alaska Survey Research which came out with a tracking poll that showed the governor’s positive and negative lines in a collision course with the negatives gaining speed and heading uphill. This week, a different survey from Lake Research paints an even bleaker picture for Dunleavy & Crew. Now granted, the questions in this survey contained more information than the straight-up “Do you like the governor’s budget” questions from ASR last week. But what this tells us is that while Alaskans on the street with no information are increasingly unhappy, Alaskans on the street who are presented with information (like what is actually being cut) are even MORE unhappy. And since information has the tendency to spread, we can assume that as the budget dealings move to the final phase, and the red pen comes out, those numbers will come into even sharper focus.




In an effort to feel the love in the face of this dwindling popularity, the Governor and his entourage have gone on a mini-roadshow hitting some of the few places in the state where they’re all about the “cut cut cut” and “no new revenues” theory of economics – a church in North Pole, a steak house in Delta Junction, the visitor’s center in Tok, and the high school auditorium in Glenallen. Basically, nowhere within a hundred miles of the coast.




In an effort to circumvent the seemingly endless series of local ordinances that add gender identity and sexual orientation to non-discrimination policy, HB84 was conceived to cover the whole state. The State Affairs Committee was assigned to hear the bill and a string of testifiers called and showed up in the committee room. Many callers were from the Fairbanks area where a similar non-discrimination policy passed the Fairbanks City Council, only to be vetoed by the Mayor who thinks that the public should get to decide whether people get to exercise their civil rights. Apparently, he believes that the majority will come to the right conclusion about legislation that affects a traditionally oppressed minority population. Or perhaps he doesn’t want them to. Either way, the Supreme Court of the United States has just decided to take up a similar case. So, will it be legal in this country to fire someone for being gay? One way or the other it will be decided law.

Back to the committee hearing. Sarah Vance proposed an amendment to add “pre-born status” to the non-discrimination policy. We’re not entirely clear about how the pre-born could be denied public accommodations, get fired from a job, or be asked to leave a store because they are pre-born. And if you were thinking that Vance supports non-discrimination and just wanted to take it further, no. After her amendment was voted down 4-2, she decided the post-born people in that bill didn’t need equal rights. Laddie Shaw (R-Anchorage) is the other one who voted for the “pre-born” amendment and no on the bill. If you’re keeping score. [More here]




As much as the Senate and House have been wrangling over the budget, fashioning their own versions which cut less than the governor’s budget but still substantially, the unescapable fact is that the governor will have the final say on much of it utilizing his chosen weapon, the red pen. Dermot Cole sums it up well in a small but mighty opinion piece today. Here’s a chunk, but you should read the rest.

”It’s become pretty clear during the last couple of months that most legislators—but not all of them—want to prevent the Dunleavy Disaster.  And right about now many Alaskans may be telling themselves that the ferry system, K-12 schools, the University of Alaska and the health care system will survive because there are legislative alternatives in the works. The House made some cuts to the current level of state spending. The Senate will make more. In the end, they will settle on a package that is not the Dunleavy Disaster. But the governor has veto power and has threatened to hold public services hostage unless he gets his way on constitutional amendments to limit the ability of legislators in the future to change the dividend, raise taxes or maintain services. He wants his stamp on the Alaska Constitution.”

Cole rightly notes #NotAllLegislators oppose these draconian cuts. Sarah Vance wanted to make sure her district knows exactly where she stands regarding Dunleavys red pen veto power. Here she is on the House floor, proudly displaying her collection. If one red pen runs out of ink from cutting, there are always more on hand.

Blurry screen shot, but… quiver of pens




It’s day 101 of the legislative session which means 20 days remain until the Constitution says we’re done. Anything after that will require a “special session” of the legislature to convene and deal with the matters at hand.

Want to keep up with the madness with the help of a carefully curated list of the important stories of the day? Subscribe to our weekday PRESS CLIPS with the latest and not-so-greatest from across the state and the nation, a smattering of articles about the upcoming 2020 primary candidates, plus some bloggy goodness, opinion, and how to watch the drama unfold in real time in Juneau.

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More next week. Stay strong.




4 Responses to “You Can’t Fire a Fetus & Other Lessons from the Alaska Legislature”
  1. mike from iowa says:

    Israel is going to name a new train station and wall after the orange menace in the kremlin annex, apparently in honor of him moving the embassy to Jerusalem. If it looks like a quid pro quo, smells like one and quacks like one, then maybe, just maybe there is/was a quid pro quo. I know- but, HRC had emails and sold all our uranium personally to Russia for donations to WJC Foundation. (NOT)

  2. mike from iowa says:

    Here is a shithole of a present job that just screams for the lovely, talented, honest as the day is long and well loved, Ms Jeanne Devon.

    Stoopid freaking wingnuts around the country would be horn-swoggled by gawd as ever was with a strong woman who speaks truth to power and draws the world’s best stick figures. Heads would explode (which, in and of itself is a good thing) simply because by exploding their heads, that is the only way to expand a wingnut’s mind.

    You can lose all Alaska’s wingnuts in a poker game and not feel the heartbreaking loss of allowing Ms Devon to straighten out DC. She, and others in her clique, are true Alaska treasures worthy of constitutional protection.

    Having had second thoughts, tell DC to go to Hell and keep your treasures in Alaska.

    in the interest of full disclosure, I was not asked or encouraged to write this. No lucre switched hands. I have never met Ms Devon only through her magnificent verbiage. mfi I am from iowa for goodness sake.

  3. mike from iowa says:

    Speaking of John Q Fetus, The Supreme Court of Kansas ruled that abortion is legal and is the law of Kansas land.

    Speaking of blithering, freaking idjets, my congressweasel Steve King compared himself to christ. King says after Congress censured him for racist remarks he knew how jesus felt getting crucified.

    ps it snowed here in the beautiful South of Minnesota (aka NW iowa) this very day. Don’t believe the asparagus stalks liked it much.

  4. Frank Smith says:

    Sponholz, from the API porkfest to the pervasive sexual harassment, has been an absolute champ!

    Chip off the old block!

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