With two members absent, Alaska House stumbles on militia vote

Measure would clarify that adjutant general is usually in charge

From left to right, Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, and Rep. Sam Kito III, D-Juneau, are seen during an at-ease during Wednesday’s floor session of the Alaska House of Representatives. (Mike Mason | Alaska House Majority)

A bill to reform the command structure of the Alaska’s state militia unexpectedly failed to pass the Alaska House of Representatives on Wednesday morning as the House Majority continues to struggle with vacant seats.


House Bill 152, sponsored by House Majority Leader Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, failed 20-18 with two members absent. Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage, is recovering from medical complications due to a pulmonary embolism, and the seat representing House District 38 has not been re-filled since the resignation of Zach Fansler in mid-February. Twenty-one “yes” votes are required to pass legislation on the House floor.

All of the votes against the proposal came from members of the Republican House Minority. All of the votes for the bill were from the coalition House Majority.

The consequences of the failed vote are expected to be small. Through a spokesman, Tuck said he intends to ask the Legislature to rescind its vote and re-vote the bill next week. Spohnholz is expected to return to the Legislature on Monday, and District 38’s vacancy will be filled by Tiffany Zulkosky on Friday.

If passed by the House and Senate, then signed by Gov. Bill Walker, HB 152 would update Alaska’s 1955 military code and clarify that the Adjutant General has authority over the militia in most everyday cases, and may call the militia into service in emergencies when the governor is not available.

Board extension passes

In other business Wednesday, the House voted 38-0 to keep the state’s board of psychologists operating through 2026. The state’s professional licensing boards are subject to renewal from the Legislature on a regular basis, and House Bill 274, which now goes to the Senate, covers the board that regulates psychologists and psychological associates.

Egan bill approved by Senate

The Alaska Senate vote 20-0 on Wednesday to approve a bill sponsored by Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau. Senate Bill 204 allows licensed chiropractors to provide proof of disability needed for disabled-veteran license plates. Chiropractors were allowed to provide that proof until 2016, when the Alaska Department of Law reinterpreted the law. Currently, the proof must be signed by a doctor, physician assistant or advanced practice registered nurse. The bill goes to the House for consideration.

PFD guarantee fails again

In other Senate business Wednesday, lawmakers again disapproved of two motions brought by the Senate’s minority Democrats. A move by Sen. Bill Wielechowski to advance a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the Permanent Fund Dividend failed 7-13 despite the support of the Senate’s two independent Republicans, Sen. Mike Shower of Wasilla and Sen. Shelley Hughes of Palmer. Senate Joint Resolution 1 remains in the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose chairman, Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, is opposed to the idea.

In a separate move, the Senate voted 5-15 against bringing up a “sense of the Senate” opinion poll suggested by Senate Minority Leader Berta Gardner. The Anchorage Democrat had earlier this year asked the Senate to vote on whether or not they supported the federal government’s revocation of the Cole Memo, a legal guidance document that had underlain the state’s marijuana industry.

That vote was tabled until today, when Gardner unsuccessfully brought the issue up again.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at jbrooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.



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