(Rep. David Eastman shares concerns over high levels of coercion in AK Legislature)
Yesterday, I joined current and former Mat-Su Republican Senators Shelley Hughes, Mike Shower and Mike Dunleavy, in having my committee memberships within the legislature revoked.* You can hear my remarks above.
Ironically, even some of the Republican legislators who have joined me in speaking out in recent weeks against the high levels of coercion within the legislature, proved the existence of the problem by voting yesterday to enforce the coercive policy.
Coercion is so prevalent within the Alaska Legislature today that many legislators can’t fathom what the legislature would even look like without it.
They should look Outside to how legislators interact with one another in other states. We should not be the caboose behind 49 other states in our toleration of the blatant coercion of our elected officials.
The Alaska Democratic Party celebrated the punishment today (Note to my fellow Republican legislators: when the Democratic Party is publicly celebrating your vote, it is not because your vote furthered your conservative agenda).
Republican leaders in the legislature contacted the ADN earlier this week to explain that I needed to be punished for my public opposition to HJR9 (which requested taxpayer funding for a program to replace 5,000,000 $1 bills with $1 coins here in Alaska). I was the only legislator to vote against the program.
To be clear, I did not travel down to Juneau expecting to receive Christmas presents. Any Alaskan who has seen the way Juneau treats conservative legislators, especially those from my district (Mike Shower, Mike Dunleavy and myself), knows that Juneau only has coal for legislators who vote consistently for conservative policies.
The challenge has been making this known to the 90% of Alaskans who don’t have the time to follow closely what goes on in Juneau, and can be mislead by the cries (usually by those on the moderate to liberal side of the spectrum) for more “bipartisanship”.
Bipartisanship is the code word for conservative legislators to cross the aisle and support programs their constituents neither want nor need. It is not a code word for progressive legislators to abandon those same programs.
Also mentioned to the ADN is that I remained standing last week while waiting for the legislature to follow its own rules during debate on a $299 million spending bill.
Following a violation of legislative process, I appealed a decision of the House Speaker, which is a right that any legislator may exercise at any time. An appeal immediately triggers a debate and a vote on the appeal.
Rather than move forward on the appeal, and debate the violation, legislators simply refused to do anything at all. The only legal business that could be done was to address the appeal, which they refused to do. And so I remained standing as I waited for my appeal to be acted upon. I waited quite a while. The response to my appeal, and not sitting down and withdrawing it, was threats and now punishment.
Sometimes Alaskans, with our natural sense of fair play outside of politics, assume that Juneau is a neutral place. It’s not. On Election Day, more than five times as many votes were cast for Clinton as were cast for Donald Trump in the precinct where the State Capitol Building is located.
Conservative legislators willing to head down to Juneau on behalf of their districts should realize that they will not be swimming downstream. It will be an upstream swim all the way in order to adopt conservative policies. Some in Juneau will oppose conservative policies for ideological reasons. Others in Juneau will oppose them simply because change is uncomfortable. But opposition should be expected from both groups.
There is the chance of smooth sailing for those willing to maintain the status quo, but there is no such thing as smooth sailing for legislators who are actively working to change it. And a lot in Juneau needs changing.
Juneau perpetuates a self-serving myth that it wants conservative legislators to be more “effective”. An effective legislator, from Juneau’s perspective, is one that goes along to get along; that doesn’t oppose the direction that Anchorage is going, since 40% of the legislators in Juneau represent Anchorage. That’s why you heard a legislator yesterday, on behalf of his Anchorage constituents, advise Mat-Su voters that they should reconsider the kinds of legislators they keep sending to Juneau. In the speech he was defending his vote to leave Anchorage with more than 70% control of a key committee and remove the Mat-Su’s only representative from that committee.
Not to worry, Anchorage will look out for the Mat-Su. They will represent the Mat-Su fairly. In fact, the general sentiment from Juneau seems to be that the Mat-Su doesn’t need to send any representatives at all. They’ve already got things covered.
Please join me in supporting House Bill 297, so that elected representatives from the Mat-Su, and all parts of the state, can have the freedom to vote and speak on behalf of the constituents they represent, not on behalf of another part of the state, or a political caucus in Juneau.
* A statewide list of legislators who have had their committee memberships revoked over the past year for either following the law or voting against the binding caucus would include: Sen. Lora Reinbold, Sen. Mia Costello, Rep. Tammie Wilson, and Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux.