Good morning, Alaska! It’s Day Seven of the 32nd Legislature, we’re going to have a Mahomes-Brady Super Bowl and the House is still not organized.
This morning I really wish there was more news from the Legislature to break down or preview, but last Friday’s edition about the voter suppression bill by Wasilla Republican Sen. Mike Shower, which is the only bill getting a hearing this week, covers most of it. Instead, sigh, let’s talk about Nazi license plates.
In case you missed it, here’s the backstory: Folks on Twitter posted photos of Alaska-issued “3REICH” and “FUHRER” license plates spurring talk about why license plates celebrating Nazis were allowed when the state bans a bunch of other stuff—like “KKKKKK,” “KETO” and “BUTTS.” That includes former state attorney and thorn in the side of Republicans Libby Bakalar, whose tweet highlighting the issue got a response from Juneau Democratic Rep. Sara Hannan pledging to look into it.
“I wrote and requested that this license plate be revoked. I will follow up to clarify how it made it through the approval system,” Hannan wrote, adding the #akleg and #stophate tags.
The whole thing would typically end there but leave it to the right-wing Must Read Alaska—which has made plenty of hay bashing Bakalar (including suggesting that OCS take away her kids) and fearmongering over cancel culture—to see opportunity in defending Nazis. On Saturday, the blog published a post talking about how Hannan and Bakalar want to “cancel” a license plate that may just be someone’s last name (It’s not) and how FUHRER and 3REICH plates are not actually that bad (they are). Then Anchorage Assemblywoman Jamie Allard, who has a seat on the Alaska Human Rights Commission thanks to Dunleavy, decided to also wade into the discussion by parroting most of MRA’s talking points on Facebook, suggesting that if we were to ban obviously pro-Nazi language that maybe, perhaps “TACO” would be next.
I’m not going to dive into the surface-level issue here—Nazis are bad, my grandpa got a Purple Heart settling the issue and it should not be allowed on a state-issued license plate—but wanted to touch on the bigger problem here.
In their rush to cash in on the politically rich mines of “Defending Free Speech” and/or “Combating cancel culture,” both Must Read Alaska’s Suzanne Downing (and her financial supporters) and Assemblywoman Allard find themselves not just defending Nazis but creating space and permission for others to do the same. If you’re concerned about “cancel culture” coming for you, they argue, then you need to be concerned about the wellbeing of a Hummer driver who saw fit to get FUHRER and 3REICH license plates. They’re just foreign words with no meaning, they argue, and it’s on you if you have a problem with them.
To most this is just the latest turn in the spectacle that is Must Read Alaska’s outrage machine—which last week was suggesting that the death of Alaska’s Tier 1 retirees may actually be a perk of the pandemic—but to others, it’s a wink and a nod that Nazis and their language are not just acceptable but ought to be defended and celebrated as long as liberals take issue with it. That the comments section of MRA includes at least one suggestion of violence against Bakalar is all you need to know.
The Alaska Legislature
While the House is still figuring out its stuff, the Senate is getting underway with two very different tracks this week. The Senate Finance and Senate Resources committees will be getting underway with the usual start-of-session hearings on the state of the budget, the state’s finances and resource production. They’re always important watching, laying the groundwork for much of the rest of the session, but ought to be particularly interesting given Finance co-chair Sen. Bert Stedman’s "We’re all entitled to our own political philosophies but we’re not entitled to our own numerics” statement from last week.
On the other end of the spectrum are hearings in the Senate Judiciary and Senate State Affairs Committees. Senate State Affairs will have a pair of hearings on Sen. Shower’s Senate Bill 39, which is either an elections-reform bill or a voter suppression bill depending on how bought-in you are with the Trump election lies. In the same vein is the Senate Judiciary Committee’s slate on COVID-19 orders and their impacts. Committee chair Sen. Lora Reinbold, who’s spent the pandemic sowing doubt about the virus and calling health orders “tyranny,” plans to bring Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink “to discuss how she has handled the COVID 19 pandemic in the state.”
Monday, Jan. 25
11 — House and Senate floor sessions. The Senate will finish assigning bills to committees while the House may take another shot at organizing but will likely bump the vote again
Tuesday, Jan. 26
2:30 — Alaska Redistricting Board
3:30 — Senate State Affairs hears SB 39 by Mike Shower. Expect to hear a lot about election security and how many Alaskans are “deeply concerned” about election security. Fairbanks Democratic Sen. Scott Kawasaki, the committee’s lone Democrat whose insistence on a chairmanship of the LB&A gave rise to the Republican coalition, will have his work cut out for him.
Wednesday, Jan. 27
9 — Senate Finance hears the production forecast. After a rocky year and a disappointing ANWR lease sale, we’ll get the state’s latest look at what oil production is doing.
Senate Education will also be holding an organizational meeting
1:30 — Senate Judiciary meets on COVID-19 public health orders and their impacts. While such a hearing is certainly merited at the start of session, this one is going to be run by Sen. Lora Reinbold.
3:30 — Senate Resources hears a Department of Natural Resources overview.
Thursday, Jan. 28
9 — Senate Finance hears the state revenue forecast. (It isn’t looking good.)
3:30 — Senate State Affairs holds its second hearing on SB 39. No public testimony scheduled at this hearing.
Friday, Jan. 29
9 — Senate Finance hears from the Office of Management and Budget about the governor’s proposed budget. We’ll get a good sense about just how the Senate plans to handle the governor this year. Will it be kiddie gloves?
Senate Education hears an update from the Department of Education and Early Development
1:30 Senate Judiciary holds its second hearing on COVID-19 orders and impacts. What a way to cap off the week.