Last year, the Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform. The vote was 68-32. Fourteen Republicans, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski, crossed the aisle to vote with all Democrats in favor of the bill. The House, however, has refused to take up the bill. In response, President Obama announced in a speech on Thursday that he was taking matters into his own hands and said he would issue an executive order that would grant up to about 5 million illegal residents temporary amnesty. Here are the conditions: they have to have children who are citizens or legal residents; they have to have been here for more than five years; and they have to pass a criminal background check. The program is only in effect until 2017 or until Congress passes reform. If that doesn’t happen, the next president will determine whether to extend it.
As expected, Republicans, including Murkowski and Rep. Don Young–who is party of the body who refused to take up the bill–decried Obama’s actions. (Both of their full statements, as well as the statement of Sen.-elect Dan Sullivan, are below.)
It should be noted, however, that other Republican presidents, Continue reading
Gov.-elect Bill Walker announced his picks for transition chairs for the 17 topics that will be discussed this weekend at the transition conference. More than 250 Alaskans have been invited to be an official part of the conference, which is open to the public and starts on Friday night at 7 p.m. with opening remarks by Walker and Lt. Gov-elect Byron Mallott at the UAA Alaska Airlines Center. See details below. Here’s the list of transition chairs:
- Administration – Joey Merrick
- Arctic Policy and Climate Change – Craig Fleener
- Consumer Energy – Jack Hebert
- Corrections – Carmen Gutierrez
- Economic Development – Jim Dodson
- Education – Mary Pete & Bob Williams
- Fiscal Policy – Brian Rogers
- Fisheries – Norm Van Vactor
- Health Care – Jeff Cook & Valerie Davidson
- Infrastructure – Shirley Marquardt
- Intergovernmental Relations – Liz Medicine Crow
- Natural Resources — Nils Andreassen
- Oil & Gas – Robin Brena
- Public Safety – April Ferguson
- Rural Guard – Emil Notti
- Subsistence – John “Sky” Starkey
Here’s the schedule: Continue reading
As oil prices continue to plunge, and as companies are reevaluating shale oil investments in the Lower 48, something seems to be working in Alaska. On Wednesday, the state accepted bids for 524,387 acres of land, and oil companies, most of them independents, spent $65.2 million on lease rights to that land. It was the richest bid since 1993. Dallas-based Caelus Energy and 70 & 148 LLC, a subsidiary of Denver-based Armstrong Oil and Gas, respectively bid on the most acreage and paid the most for acreage. Last year, a comparable lease sale drew in $5.1 million in bids. Many, particularly those who championed it and defended it, are attributing that success to the passage of SB 21.
Confirming what most of us knew, Gov.-elect Bill Walker at long last filled some of the information-vacuum by announcing that Jim Whitaker will be his chief of staff. Whitaker is a former state legislator and former Fairbanks North Star Borough mayor, and a longtime friend of Walker’s. He was a board member of the Port Authority, which sought to build a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to Valdez. Walker has been the longtime lawyer and project manager for the authority.
Whitaker’s an outspoken Republican, with a big personality, and often bucks his party, which they tend to do up there. In 2008, he endorsed President Obama, even after Sarah Palin was picked to be veep. He’s also had some strong words about Republican legislators who he perceives have conflicts of interests with the oil companies.
Whitaker has plenty of fans, particularly in Fairbanks and in the media, but Joe Miller isn’t likely one of them. Whitaker was the mayor when Miller worked as a borough employee. Miller accused Whitaker of leaking confidential personnel information to the media in order to sabotage his 2010 Senate campaign. The case went to court. The borough and Whitaker settled for $5,000, and Miller claimed victory.
Walker also announced that Grace Jang will be his spokesperson. Jang was most recently a political reporter with KTUU. She’s known as fair but aggressive, an adjective often ascribed to women who are good at what they do.
Here’s Walker’s press release in full announcing the appointments: Continue reading
Apparently someone named Amy Carroll is writing comments that another Amy Carroll, who works for the the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, doesn’t want attributed to her. Fish and Game Amy Carroll is pretty emphatic about it. (I would be too.) She has posted the below on numerous stories. So I thought it deserved attention:
To the many people at work and around town who have asked if the above comment is mine: NO. It’s someone else with the same name.
Amy Carroll (from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Juneau Alaska)
Monday was the last cabinet meeting of the Parnell administration. It was held in Anchorage. All of the commissioners were there but two. Department of Labor’s Diane Blumer and DHSS Bill Streur participated telephonically.
Congratulations to the governor and first lady who are now new grandparents. Rowan was born in Tuesday in Anchorage to Grace, and son-in-law Austin
Unity radio: Gov.-elect Bill Walker and Joe Miller will be the guests on the Eddie Burke show on KOAN 1080 AM and 95.1 FM from 4:00-6:00 pm on Wednesday. Eddie Burke, however, will not be there. In his stead will be libertarian Michael Chambers along with Craig Fleener and trooper Terrence Shanigan. The three are inexplicably calling themselves “Fin, Feathers, and Foil.”
It’s official: Former state legislator and former Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker will be Gov.-elect Bill Walker’s chief of staff. Continue reading
Despite a huge push by Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, who is fighting to keep her seat, the Senate by a single vote defeated a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline on Tuesday evening, 59-41. All of the Senate Republicans and fourteen Democrats, including Sen. Mark Begich, voted to approve measure. Incoming Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised to again take up the legislation when the new Senate is sworn in, when it’s expected to easily have enough votes to pass. However, President Obama has threatened a veto.
In a statement, Sen. Lisa Murkowski seemed to blame its failure not on Democratic senators who voted against the bill, but on Obama. “The president’s foot-dragging has only deprived Americans of badly needed jobs, a stable source of energy from a close ally, and our usual reputation for a fair system in which project developers can have confidence that federal regulators are acting in good faith,” Murkowski said.
She also said that Keystone’s passage will be a top priority for her and the new majority.
Organizationally, things may be a bit chaotic in the Executive Branch, as they are bound to be in a new administration which is pushing out an old administration that isn’t ready to leave yet. Things are much calmer on the legislative side, which is to be expected. The faces, in leadership at least, are relatively familiar. However, there will be eight new faces in the House in the 29th Legislature this year: five men and three women. Five are Republicans and two are Democrats and one is an Independent who will caucusing with the minority. Here’s a look at who they are:
Adam Wool (D – Fairbanks) – House District 5
Rep.-elect Adam Wool was a late comer to the race gaining his position on the ballot after the Democratic primary nominee dropped out. He is the only Democratic House candidate that beat a Republican incumbent. He will be replacing Rep. Pete Higgins. Wool moved to Fairbanks in 1983 to attend UAF where he obtained a degree in physics. Three years later, he co-founded Hot Licks Ice Cream with his brother. He purchased what is now known as the Blue Loon in 1996 and continues to operate the business as Fairbanks’ top entertainment venue. His wife, Kate, and he have two young children. He’s said to be a pro-business, pro-hunting Democrat. One insider described him as “More Chris Tuck than Les Gara.” He’s also reputed to be charismatic, and an all-around fun guy to be around, which is going to help to buoy the spirits of the minority.
Dave Talerico (R – Healy) – House District 6 Continue reading
After a phone call to Sen.-elect Dan Sullivan, which I heard was “short,” Sen. Mark Begich officially conceded on Monday evening. (Read my take on why Begich lost here.) The ballots are still trickling in, but as of Monday, Sullivan has 6,211 more votes than does Begich. Here’s Begich’s concession statement in full, which people are saying is a little short of gracious, followed by Sullivan’s statement:
Alaska is a place unmatched by any other, and the opportunity to represent Alaskans and all of Alaska’s communities in the U.S. Senate has been a tremendous honor for which I am eternally grateful. Alaska deserves a bright future with expanded economic opportunity, equality for all Alaskans under the law, and a strong and prosperous rural Alaska. As a born and raised Alaskan, I will always be involved in my community, and the results of an election have never diminished my desire or passion to achieve these goals.
I’m proud of the work my team and I accomplished to open the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska to development, to move forward Arctic oil exploration, and to protect Alaska’s postal service. Saving the F-16’s in Fairbanks, protecting missile defense at Fort Greely, and securing two new squadrons of F-35’s for Eielson Air Force Base will spur the largest economic investment in Interior Alaska since the construction of TAPS. Continue reading
This Loose Lips is coming to you from the Big Island, where I’m currently holed up alone, ostensibly engaging in “deep thoughts” which will lead to “serious writing.” It’s been three days and I’ve entertained long, deep thoughts about a sample of macadamia nut cream pie that I had at the Waimea farmer’s market the other day. There’s love, there’s hate, there’s dread in those thoughts, say nothing of deep regret that I didn’t buy at least a slice. In fact, it has the makings of the great American novel. But I will never write the great American novel because for one, I don’t have the talent and secondly, I’m constantly interrupted by phone calls, emails and texts about Gov.-elect Bill Walker’s transition team, and potential bodies in his cabinet, which has elicited a fascination heretofore unseen by me. (By the way, I just read that Walker is also in Hawaii. So is Anchorage lobbyist Jim Lottsfeldt. And heaven help me Judy Eledge is coming this way. Say what you will about the three of them: they would have bought the whole damn pie.)
Anyway, here’s what we know for sure as of Sunday night: Ana Hoffman, president of Bethel Native Corp., and former Sen. Rick Halford have been named co-chairs of the transition team and that there are going to be 17 transition task forces named to make policy recommendations.
Here are some rumors that are of the mostly solid variety: Former Juneau Mayor and Knowles’ AG Bruce Bothelo, who knows a lot about government, is playing a significant role with the Walker-Mallott transition (thank God); Koch Brothers’ Jeff Cook from Flint Hills Refinery and chair of Fairbanks Memorial Hospital will head up the Department of Health and Social Services transition task force and former ASHNA president and Knowles’ DHSS commissioner Karen Perdue along with Elizabeth Ripley of the Mat-Su Health Foundation will serve with him, among others, on the task force. Continue reading
Gov. elect Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. elect Byron Mallott released a joint statement, following a touching statement by Gov. Sean Parnell conceding the race. Neither Walker nor Mallott spent any time praising Parnell for his six years in office, but the tone of the response isn’t a divisive one. Other politicos and those working for them should take note:
“I met with Governor Parnell this morning. The tone of the meeting was very cordial and focused on ensuring that Alaskans’ interests are protected and served first in the weeks and months that lie ahead. We also recognized the dedicated effort of our respective campaigns and expressed tremendous gratitude for our families and volunteers. This evening, Governor Parnell graciously conceded the race in order to facilitate a smooth and efficient transition process.”
Lt. Governor-elect, Byron Mallott added: “I am grateful to Governor Parnell and Mayor Sullivan for allowing the transition process to proceed. Bill and I have a lot of work ahead of us. The graceful gesture of the Parnell Sullivan team signals to all Alaskans that it is time to rise together and work as one toward a vibrant and productive future for our state.”