Observations as adjournment nears

Capitol Notebook

Posted: Sunday, May 06, 2001

Cindy Cashen of Juneau has found her first session as a citizen lobbyist to be a mixed bag.

Cashen, a constant presence at the Capitol for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, calls legislators hard-working and accessible, and has come to believe that individuals without big money behind them can have an impact on the legislative process.

"The legislators don't get the credit they really should get," she said.

But she uses strong language to talk about the apparent outcome on a proposed increase in the alcohol tax. She's furious about the decision by the House Republican caucus not to force the tax over the objections of Finance Committee Co-Chairman Bill Williams of Saxman.

"For the sake of politics, they chose that over human lives," said Cashen, a registered Republican. The law enforcement and treatment programs that the tax could fund would save lives before next year, she believes.

Cashen gets to speak her mind pretty freely because she's a victim and it wouldn't look good for the alcohol industry to get personal with her. Her father, Ladd Macaulay of Juneau, was killed April 19, 2000, by a drunk driver on the Seward Highway.

"That's a sick way of having the upper hand," Cashen said. "But they don't know what I go through. ... I miss him so much."

Cashen sold her bed and breakfast to devote time to MADD, and said she's committed to the cause.

"Where normally I would be scared out of my wits to talk, my father's soul is with me. It's actually been quite calming."

Democrats have lost some moral high ground recently with the occasional closed caucus or "open" caucus that was retroactively described as off-the-record. For most of the session, the minority has vigorously promoted attendance by journalists at its caucuses to make a point about the always closed-door Republican get-togethers where major state policy effectively is decided.

Republicans made time during the hectic penultimate week of the session to advance a resolution urging retention of the electoral college. The argument is that it helps small states by amplifying their impact. By implication, then, this is more important than having a president who got the most votes.

Of course, a small state actually influences the conduct of the campaign only if polls show likely voters to be closely divided. As Alaska was firmly in the Republican column well in advance even of any declarations of candidacy, the state was never visited by the eventual nominees, even though Bush lived and worked here for a period in the 1970s.

It might have read: "Georgianna Lincoln - like you've never seen her before!"

Democrats sent out an e-mail this week noting the appointment of three of their legislators to the governor's task force on tolerance. Photos were included of the three: Rep. Mary Kapsner of Bethel, with a vertical shot placed horizontally, and Lincoln, a Rampart senator, actually upside-down.

The photo of Sen. Bettye Davis of Anchorage completed the triptych with a normal, straight-on placement.

Sen. Pete Kelly, a Fairbanks Republican who has supported various pieces of legislation that critics say deepen the "urban-rural divide," remarked on the Senate floor this week that he's tired of hearing about discrimination because Alaska is not a racist state. That led Davis to comment that she's tired of hearing about a lot of things on the floor but doesn't always feel compelled to say so.

Quote marks:

"If you don't vote for this, all the crazy people in Anchorage will come to Fairbanks." - Rep. Eric Croft, Anchorage Democrat, urging the Fairbanks delegation to support a bill on the Alaska Psychiatric Institute in Anchorage

"I've got alcohol on the brain." - Rep. Lisa Murkowski, Anchorage Republican and author of the alcohol tax increase bill, after she said "alcohol" when she meant to say "tobacco"

"Mr. Speaker, I would move this small technical amendment." - Rep. Eldon Mulder, Anchorage Republican, on revised legislation for cruise ships setting a standard that's unprecedented worldwide

"I can only assume more people want to share in the success of passing a good bill." - Gubernatorial spokesman Bob King, on the three Senate committee referrals for the cruise ship bill

"I'll be short. It comes naturally." - House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, Anchorage Democrat, alluding to his vertically challenged status

"I'm not a very smart guy and I admit that on a regular basis and prove it daily." - Rep. Jim Whitaker, Fairbanks Republican, joking that anything that's clear to him is really obvious

Bill McAllister can be reached at billm@juneauempire.com.

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