August 26, 2013 (Issue 7)
Let Bylines Be Bygones
Who Really Writes This Thing?
I often get asked, "Who writes your newsletters?"
People are deathly cynical of politics, and who can blame them? The system is impersonal and insincere, practically by design. Politicians are insulated by an exquisite apparatus of spokespeople, press releases, and punditry. Instead of real people talking about real ideas and aspirations to solve real problems, we have a 24-hour news cycle that subsists on phony-sounding soundbites.
Have you ever turned on cable news, muted the volume, and watched the talking heads on CNN, much less those on shows like Rachel Maddow's or Bill O'Reilly's? Try it. The silent theatrics remind me of my short career as a middle school substitute teacher.
Now, I'm mostly describing national politics, and cynicism is not only understandable, it's deserved. Fortunately, and in more ways than one, Juneau is not Washington, D.C. — and for starters, I write my own darn newsletter!
|Pelican, Alaska, from a recent trip.
More in the next newsletter.
While writing about Jay Hammond Day in the previous newsletter, I mentioned "his passing last year." As any patriotic and politically-inclined Alaska very well knows, Governor Hammond passed away in 2005, not last year, and many readers emailed to enlighten me of the flub.
Count me embarrassed for the blunder, but it is surely proof positive of these newsletters' authorship, because let me assure you, the only one in my legislative office dunderheaded enough to make this kind of mistake is yours truly.
The Wholesome Story of HB 186
On June 28, 2013, Governor Parnell signed into law House Bill 186. A simple, graceful piece of legislation, HB 186 is the first bill we — and by we, I mean my wonderful session staffers Nancy Barnes, Tully McLoughlin, Holly Smith and I — helped write that has graduated from the Alaska Legislature to become law of the Last Frontier. It will forever occupy a warm place in the cockles of our geeky political hearts.
This is the wholesome, all-Alaskan story of HB 186, and how ideas become law in the Alaska Legislature:
February 15, 2013: A bill is — or should be — a solution to a problem. Exactly a month into the legislative session, we were approached by Sitka Police Chief Sheldon Schmitt. Besides keeping miscreants off the streets of Sitka, Chief Schmitt moonlights as Chair of the Alaska Police Standards Council, and he informed us of a problem that needed a solution.
When police departments hire a police officer, he or she must pass a background check. The background checks are required by Alaska statute.
But there's a loophole! The law only requires police departments to run background checks for "full-time" officers.
This means officers employed on a "part-time" basis who were granted the line-of-duty privileges of their “full-time” counterparts might well have criminal records. (In fact, stories of such convicts-cum-cops inspired HB 186.) The loophole also applies to police training. "Full-time" officers are required to receive certain training; "part-time" officers can shirk the requirement.
Our bill closes the loophole: "Part time" or "full time," it doesn't matter; if you're going to wear the uniform, you gotta pass a background check and complete Alaska Police Standards Council-required training.
February 20, 2013: I'm in the Minority Caucus. If you want to pass a law, it helps to work with the Majority Caucus — they run the place, after all.
A card-carrying member of the Majority Caucus, Rep. Charisse Millett (R-Anchorage) has an office just down the hall from mine and we're chummy. Tully and I pitch the bill idea to Rep. Millett and her staffer Vasilios "Akis" (pronounced "IKE-ee") Gialopsos. She’s game and a winning partnership is born.
March 25, 2013: Marked for greatness, HB 186 is officially introduced. Rep. Millett is sponsor; Rep. Kreiss-Tomkins is cosponsor. During the morning floor session, Speaker of the House Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski) refers the bill to the State Affairs, its only committee of referral.
April 2, 2013: The State Affairs Committee (on which both myself and Rep. Millett sit) considers HB 186. Chief Schmitt provides efficacious testimony, as do others. The bill receives six "do pass" recommendations and one "no recommendation." HB 186 moves to the House floor.
April 4, 2013: Rep. Millett wows the House with a Toastmasters-worthy speech. Rep. Kreiss-Tomkins mumbles a few words. HB 186 earns unanimous affirmation, 38-0 (with two excused absent), from the Alaska House of Representatives. House Bills 185 and 187 give HB 186 a jealous look as it is transmitted to the Alaska Senate.
April 5-11, 2013: Rep. Millett's staffer Akis Gialapsos, supported by Tully on my staff, shepherds HB 186 through the Senate the way Moses herds sheep. Culminating with a vote on the Senate floor, HB 186 outdoes itself, and the Senate proves itself the less truant body, with a 20-0 affirmative vote.
Following the vote, HB 186 is escorted up a flight of stairs from the second floor of the Alaska Capitol, on which the chambers for the House of Representatives and Senate are located, to the third floor, where Governor Sean Parnell works.
June 28, 2013: See inset photo.
Rep. JKT Media Management
Want on — or off — our email list? Email email@example.com.
Online copies of our last three newsletters are here, here, and here.
Our Facebook is here.
As always, please be in touch if I can be of service in any way,
Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins
State Capitol, Room 426
P.S. We respect email dieting. Newsletters should come weekly, but if you’d rather not receive our updates we would be happy to remove your name. Just say so.
P.P.S. For more-than-daily updates on legislation and other activities of our office: