The ongoing feud among Alaska’s legislators over where to hold the current special session has had its first political casualty.
Republican senator Mia Costello of Anchorage was ousted from her position as Senate Majority Leader, and the job instead was given to Bethel Democratic senator Lyman Hoffman, who wasted no time voicing his objections to the governor’s massive veto package.
Hoffman is the only Democrat in the otherwise all-Republican senate majority.
Senate president Cathy Giessel made the announcement after Costello and nineteen other legislators attempted to hold a special session of the legislature in the Wasilla Middle School on Monday. There was no quorum, and no business transpired. The remainder of Alaska’s legislature meanwhile remained in Juneau and held special joint session to override Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s vetoes of over $400 million from the state operating budget.
Because it was mathematically impossible to win 45 votes for override with only 38 people present, legislators — Republicans and Democrats alike — instead used their floor time to denounce the governor’s financial strategy, and its potentially devastating impact on everything in the state from the university system, to social services, homelessness, substance abuse, game management, and the arts.
Newly appointed Senate Majority Leader Hoffman spoke about the irony in eliminating funds for public broadcasting.
"I don’t know how many citizens that I represent are going to get the message about what’s happening in Juneau without public broadcasting, public radio," he said. "That one, small, insignificant amount in the spectrum of the budget cuts is one that I feel is complete nonsense. To keep people ill-informed about what’s happening in the State of Alaska. Why should we say that we are going to be open and transparent, and have many people of Alaska not be able to hear that voice? Not to be able to hear that debate? This makes no sense."
Hoffman represents Senate District S, including the Y-K Delta and Aleutian Islands. The governor vetoed all state funding for public radio and television, and for the Alaska Public Broadcasting Commission — a total of about $2.7 million out of over $400 million in cuts.