With the special session delayed, legislators continue work on fiscal plan

The two additional weeks will give the Legislature four additional hearings.

Good afternoon, Alaska!

In this edition: Legislators continue to plug away at the comprehensive fiscal plan after the delay of the special session, polling numbers on the U.S. Senate race, Anchorage takes a look at Bronson’s appointments and the reading list.

Keep on working

The Legislature’s comprehensive fiscal policy working group is scheduled to hold its final day of public testimony tonight at 6 p.m. from the Capitol Building in Juneau. The working group already held testimony in Anchorage, Wasilla and Fairbanks, so tonight is an “everyone else” sort of session that’ll take call-in testimony from the whole state: 586-9085 from Juneau, 563-9085 from Anchorage and 844-586-9085 from anywhere else.

So far, it’s been a mix of testimony that’s about as predictable as it’s ever been (surprise, the Mat-Su still wants that PFD) with perhaps the most remarkable thing so far being the relatively low turnout across the board. The pro-PFD legislators had clearly been hoping that this would turn into some kind of huge outpouring of support that they could hold over others as a mandate, but it’s starting to look like it’s pretty hard to keep up the fight after three years of next to no results under Gov. Dunleavy especially when the weather is nice and there are fish to be caught.

With the special session pushed off for two weeks, the working group has scheduled meetings to continue to plug away at the comprehensive fiscal plan. They’re currently scheduled to meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3 p.m. for the next two weeks. And while I’m not holding my breath that this will amount to a lasting solution to the state’s financial woes, as I explained in more detail in the Saturday newsletter there are some glimmers of hope to be had.

Polling numbers

With the obligatory caveat that no one really knows what will happen with ranked choice voting or the veritable landslide of cash thanks to a court ruling that has struck down the contribution limits for candidates, we have some of our first worthwhile polling on the race (with the caveat that we’re 15 months away).

Alaska-based pollster Ivan Moore put out the results from polling that pitted Alaska U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski against Republican challenger Kelly Tshibaka, Democratic state Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson and political opportunist Joe Miller. Under Moore’s polling, things would go down to the wire under the ranked choice system:

Round 1

  • Lisa Murkowski wiht 36%

  • Kelly Tshibaka with 27%

  • Elvi Gray-Jackson with 19%

  • Joe Miller with 18% (thus, Miller gets eliminated)

Round 2

  • Kelly Tshibaka with 40% (+13)

  • Lisa Murkowski with 39% (+3)

  • Elvi Gray-Jackson with 21% (+2) (thus, Gray-Jackson is eliminated)

Round 3

  • Murkowski with 55% of the vote (+15)

  • Tshibaka with 45% (+5)

The vitals:

Anchorage health director pushed up

On Tuesday, the Anchorage Assembly will be holding a work session hearing to review five of Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson’s candidates. These aren’t opportunities for public input, but ought to be interesting nonetheless. As I understand four of the five aren’t considered to be particularly controversial (Adam Trombley, Saxton Shearer, Lance Wilber and Christina Hendrickson), but the hearing on Dave Morgan’s appointment to Director of the Anchorage Health Department will be the one to watch. Notably, the assembly has set aside an hour to review Morgan while everyone else gets 30 minutes.

Like Bronson who on the campaign trail questioned whether there was even a pandemic in the first place to later claim he misspoke, Morgan has similarly stepped in it only to backpedal later. When asked last week whether the pandemic was still ongoing Morgan said “It’s a personal view kind of thing” and that “pandemic is just an adjective.” After the statements got the expected blowback amid the rising cases that have thrust Bronson’s covid denialism to the forefront, Morgan on Friday conceded “it is a pandemic, if you’re unvaccinated.”

But that’s not all that’s weighing down Morgan’s chances of confirmation. Far more consequential than his tone-deaf public statements are allegations that call into his qualifications and conduct during his time at the head of Choices, Inc.—a non-profit that provides an assortment of services for people with mental health and substance abuse disorders, including those experiencing homelessness. The allegations were detailed in a Twitter thread by Chris Blake, who works as the director of the agency’s Assertive Community Treatment program, and range from mismanagement of the agency’s finances to frankly bizarre interactions with employees. Much of the allegations were confirmed by Choices Inc. CEO Kimm Martinez in a report by the Anchorage Press, who said Morgan had been offered the option of resigning or being fired (he chose the resign option and was escorted out of the building).

Morgan had been scheduled for a vote in front of the Anchorage Assembly on Aug. 23, but has now been pushed up to Aug. 10. Under the procedures for confirmations, the Anchorage Assembly doesn’t hold public hearings specific to the confirmations at either these work sessions or the regular assembly meetings. Instead, people can sound off during the regular open public testimony at the start of the meeting or reach out to assemblymembers through email or phone.

Reading list