Session is on and there's already plenty to unpack.
Also the Alaska Supreme Court hears oral arguments on Ballot Measure 2, Ways and Means looks at the long-term budget and a new legislator pay plan is advanced.
Good evening, Alaska!
In today’s edition: It’s the first day of session and House Speaker Louise Stutes had some ground rules to set; The Alaska Supreme Court heard oral arguments on ranked-choice voting; the House Ways and Means Committee took a crack at the budget and tugged at a thread; and Legislators could be getting a pay raise… and a much more significant cut to per diem that’d require them to disclose their expenses. Whew.
Legislative day: 1
Spice level: 🌶
New session, new ground rules
The House and Senate officially gaveled into session around 1 p.m. this afternoon, spending the afternoon going through the motions of introducing guests, getting bills doled out to committees and a regular run of floor speeches that are even more posture-y than pre-filed bills. There’s not a lot to report out of there, save for a particularly stern set of ground rules set by House Speaker Louise Stutes.
Decorum will be returned to this house. We can disagree without being disagreeable, and I expect you all to treat one another with the respect and civility that we all deserve. The impugning of the members and their motives or any conduct unbecoming of the chambers will no longer be tolerated and will be met with a swift gavel. There's much work to do on behalf of Alaskans and we can only accomplish that work by listening to one another, working with each other and remembering the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated. We must come together and work as a body to move Alaska forward.
Some of the ground rules specifically outlined in her introduction to the session:
“Special orders will no longer be abused.” They will not be used as a platform to attack other members and if they’re used to delay the body’s business, a time limit will be considered.
Masks are to be worn at all times except when speaking.
The House will start on time.
Why it matters: Things got pretty bad toward the end of the 2021 session as minority Republicans showed just how good of obstructionists they could be. Their behavior, particularly when it came to nearly shutting down government by weaponizing the budget’s effective date, is top of mind heading into session with a lot of talk about how to avert a repeated near-disaster for the state.
Supreme Court hears arguments on ranked-choice voting
The Alaska Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case challenging the ranked-choice voting system adopted by voters as part of a broad elections reform initiative passed in 2020. The case was argued by Kenneth Jacobus on behalf of frequent Libertarian candidate Scott Kohlhaas with the main underlying legal argument being that the system’s handling of the gubernatorial ticket—doing away with the party primary system in favor of an open, non-partisan primary where gubernatorial candidates pick their candidate for lieutenant governor at the outset—violated the Alaska Constitution and the associational rights of the political parties to control which candidates reach the ballot. I say main underlying argument because much of Jacobus’ time in front of the court was spent arguing that the court got it wrong when ruling that Ballot Measure 2 didn’t violate the single-subject clause, that the ranked choice voting system was deceitful (“Communists can run as Republicans!”) and that voters were essentially tricked into supporting the system because it was packaged with widely popular measures to attack dark money.