Columns 2015

To Alaska’s Republican legislators… welcome to 1950.

Since this coming Sunday is Mother’s Day, I thought I should write a column about that and take a break from writing about our incompetent, pathetic legislature. But it’s not easy. No matter how hard I try, they keep handing me ammunition that is impossible to ignore. Let’s take, for instance, the two-week break that Republican legislators felt they owed themselves for the backbreaking labor they’ve been doing for the past three months.

A lot of people who work very hard to make ends meet don’t get any vacation time at all no matter how long they work. Many of them are the people Republican legislators would prefer to think don’t exist so they don’t have to feel guilty about not considering Medicaid expansion. The rest of us have to work a full year to earn a vacation. But our esteemed legislators found a way around that. They said they needed to come home to hear what their constituents had to say. Welcome to 1950.

That was possibly the last time you actually had to go back to your district, unless you were a Bush legislator, to find out what your constituents wanted. Soon after that, phones became ubiquitous even in Alaska. And since the 19th century there’s been telegraph service. Going back even further, Alaska has had the services of the US mail ever since it became American. And, of course, on the other side of that timeline, in the 21st century, we have e-mail and tweets. To say nothing of the time honored Alaskan tradition of actually spending the money to fly to Juneau to express your concerns.

But all that was not enough for some of our legislators. They were pretty sure that the hundreds of people who went to Juneau to testify and the thousands of e-mails and phone calls they received were the result of some cabal out to get them to do the wrong thing and thus anger their real constituents. You know them, the ones who didn’t write, call or send an e-mail because they apparently didn’t care enough about any one topic to do that. These are the people the legislators are going back to see, I assume with the hope that they can find at least five or six constituents who agree with them. These few will then be touted as proof that the legislature is, in fact, carrying out the will of the people. Not necessarily the will of the majority of people, but nonetheless, actual and verifiable people.

Now if I was really a cynic, I’d think that they were also coming back to their districts to talk to their money people and figure out whether they should continue along a path that may lead to political suicide in future elections or should they throw a bone to the majority of Alaska’s citizens and add a few million to the education budget. I hate being that cynical though. I’d honestly prefer to think they wanted the break so they could be home on Mother’s Day.  But no matter how hard I try, I can’t buy into that scenario.

I wonder why we have all these methods of communicating our wishes if our legislators don’t believe what we say or write. It seems that instead of believing what they didn’t want to hear, the legislators thought they’d take a two-week holiday to see if people might forget or change their minds in the interim.

I don’t know about your mothers, but in my home if I’d approached my chores the way Alaska’s legislature approaches their tasks, I would still be grounded in my childhood bedroom until I learned the meaning of actually completing work. My Saturday morning job, before I could go out and play, was to wash the kitchen, dining room and bathroom floors. Now that is not as cruel as it might sound to modern ears since we lived in a small apartment over dad’s grocery store. But nonetheless, I resented doing it and tried more than once to do a quick and ultimately sloppy job so I could go join my friends. My mother very quickly taught me that the job wasn’t done until it was done correctly and I wasn’t going anywhere until that occurred.

It’s too bad my mother has passed on. It sounds like she had a lesson to teach that our legislators need to learn.