Reading the leaked Supreme Court opinion that would take away women’s fundamental right to make their own health care decisions—decisions that in many cases are necessary to save their lives—is surreal. Surely we do not live in a totalitarian country, surely we have not reverted to the Dark Ages. Yet that is precisely what the ultra-right Supreme Court majority envisions. So we have to ask ourselves, what can we do at the federal level and what can we do at the state level to protect women’s fundamental rights to make their own health decisions, and that means protecting women’s fundamental right to live as free people.
Make no mistake: Laws eliminating abortion access are fundamentally totalitarian, and are irreconcilable with the individual rights enumerated in our Constitution.
Federal action needed now: The solution at the federal level is clear: The U.S. Senate should immediately take up legislation protecting abortion rights. Senate Democrats, and Senators Murkowski and Collins, have proposed bills protecting abortion rights, and as Alaskans we should demand not just that this abortion rights legislation come to the Senate floor, but that Senators Murkowski and Collins vote for cloture (to end debate and overcome a filibuster) so abortion legislation receives an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.
Alaska Must Be a Firewall to Protect Women’s Rights: Our Constitution unambiguously protects the right to privacy, and it is imperative we vote “no” on the forthcoming ballot question, “shall we hold a Constitutional Convention?” Misogynists backed with Outside money are campaigning to re-write our Constitution, and their number one goal is to take away women’s ability to control their own health care decisions.
I wish the legislature would be able to provide additional clarity around our Constitutional right to privacy, and pass legislation unambiguously protecting abortion rights. However, in both the state House and state Senate, a majority of members do not support abortion rights.
Other legislative and district updates:
Budget: Both the Senate and House Finance committees have released capital budgets. Further, the Senate Finance Committee has rolled the operating budget (which already passed the House) into the capital budget, creating a “turducken” budget that could give the legislature a single budget vehicle to complete work this session. There are many positive elements of the unified Senate budget, thanks to the hard work of our Finance Co-Chairs, Senator Begich, and many others. However, the Senate budget currently lacks meaningful funding for the Port of Alaska or Port of Nome. Many Anchorage members including myself support adding funding for these projects, but not at the expense of butchering other worthy projects in the budget, like the Pioneer Homes, schools, and so on. When the budget passes and is signed I’ll write a much longer report on district and noteworthy statewide items that are funded.
Child Care Legislation Passes House: I’m happy to report that HB 149, to authorize sectoral bargaining in the child care sector and establish a Child Care Trust Fund, has passed the House with bipartisan support. Along with other legislators and child care providers, I’ve worked on this bill for the last 16 months and believe we must pass ambitious legislation to address the crisis in our child care sector. Unfortunately, with a little less than three weeks left in the session, this legislation has not been scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee, so we are running out of time to get this bill through both chambers.
School Bonds and Inlet View: State and local policy are inextricably related when it comes to both school operations and capital investments. Unfortunately, years of vetoes of school capital funding shifted the cost of schools to local taxpayers, and combined with rising tax assessments undoubtedly contributed to the very narrow failure of the Anchorage School Bond this April. Now that precinct vote totals have been reported, I’ve reviewed the votes across our city—I’m proud that our neighborhoods voted overwhelmingly in support of the School Bond, and had some of the highest turnout of any precincts in the city, despite not having a competitive Assembly race. Over the next year, it will take a collective effort as a community to fund critical school improvements at Inlet View, Lake Otis, and many other schools. Fortunately, this year’s budget does contain school major maintenance and school bond debt reimbursement, which represent a re-balancing of cost share that is fair to local property tax payers. As a state we have to step back up and help match local dollars so we can complete necessary capital improvements and keep our neighborhood schools open.