Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Juneau Choose Respect March

The Governor's Respect March t to raise awareness about sexual assault and challenge Alaskans to Choose Respect went down Main Street from the Capitol steps. 

The colorful orange and yellow feathered wings are worn by a group of local Filipinos originally from Panay Island in the Philippines.

There's Sen. Fred Dyson with the tie.

I figure there were around 250-300, but that's a very rough estimate.  That's about a 75,000 NYE (New York Equivalent.)

The speech making was very brief.  The electricity was not working.  And I get the
impression Governor Parnell is a low profile person. 

Here he is talking to the news media after the brief talk.

I spotted about ten legislators, though I'm sure there must have been more there.  I feel like with all those people and media there, it would have been a great time to let some people talk about the problem and the programs the Governor has in mind. This was a lunch hour march, so maybe the Governor kept things short so that state workers would get back to work.

Alaska State Song - Messing Up A Classic?

[Update April 9:  SB 43 was passed out of House Judiciary after a long and emotional hearing.]

I've done several posts already on SB 43 which would officially add the second verse to the Alaska Flag Song.  In two hearings before the House State Affairs committee, the opposition to the bill has been about the meaning of Native and why it is necessary to identify a specific people in the song,  about the sanctity of history and culture which shouldn't be changed, and questions about the implications of the copyright of the song. 

An email alerted me to  long time Fairbanks NewsMiner reporter Dermot Cole's piece opposing the second verse based on aesthetic grounds: 
The simplicity, originality and imagery of the Alaska flag combine to make Benny Benson’s design a work of art. The same qualities distinguish the poem “Alaska’s Flag,” written by Marie Drake in 1927 and set to music by Elinor Dusenbury in 1938. It was adopted as the Alaska song in 1955.

With all due respect to the late Carol Beery Davis, who wrote  a proposed second verse in 1986, the state song needs an addition about as much as the state flag needs a ninth gold star or “Hamlet” needs an extra act.  [See the rest of the piece]
 Rep. Peggy Wilson did hint at problems with the quality of the verse when she asked how someone would sing it.  Particularly the third line.  And I had some problems with that myself.  

So I do think aesthetics is a reasonable factor to consider here.  But it shouldn't be the only one.  And as good as the first verse is, it isn't Hamlet. The second verse can be seen like a sweater knitted by a favorite aunt.  Some people may think it a bit lumpy, but they don't understand the significance of the pattern she knitted in for you or they don't share your love for her.

Besides, these two verses have been a couple for years.  It just isn't official.  Do they have to have a civil union or can they finally get married?

Left Overs

I ran into DMV director Whitney Brewster in the Capitol hallway Monday. Whitney (disclosure - she's a former student of mine) was there to be ready to answer questions about CSHB (Committee Substitute for House Bill) 3 titled

"An Act relating to issuance of identification cards and to issuance of driver's licenses; relating to regulations concerning identification cards and driver's licenses; and providing for an effective date."
This act is an example of how easy it is to think you know something and really know very little.  I had actually seen parts of the bill, but not all of it.  I knew that Rep. Gruenberg was trying to amend HB 3 to strengthen existing language in statute that  has prohibits state employees from implementing the federal Real ID Act.   But I didn't understand why he was doing that.  It turns out HB 3 would limit non-citizens from getting Alaska driver's licenses that lasted longer than their US visas.   I also didn't realize that Monday the House was having its first evening floor session - beginning at 5pm.    In the picture, Rep. Fairclough is explaining the negative consequences of the bill on domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking victims.   Rep. Chennault, Speaker of the House, looked like he was in pain sitting at the podium. 
Rep. Seaton talked about international students, legally in the country, who get visas that last for the semester, plus short term bridge visas until the next semester.  He mentioned one student, had the bill been in force, who would have had to get eight drivers licenses.  As you can see it failed 23 - 17.  One Democrat - Mike Doogan - voted for it.  Only two women (out of ten) - Charisse Millett and Cathy Muñoz - voted for it. 

As I got almost home Monday evening, I noticed a pair of bald eagles looping over the trees on the nearby hill.  They are a common sight, but always an uplifting one. 

 And Tuesday night we went to the second night passover community seder at Temple Sukkat Shalom on Douglas Island.

Finally, I came across an Alaskan blog
Borderland that has an assessment of national education standards from an insider's perspective that's worth reading.  Here's the lead of that story:

As everyone  has heard, “Alaska and Texas are the only states that declined to  participate in the [national]  standards-writing effort.” Unreported, though (except  here) has been the fact that the State of Alaska was planning a  comparative review of the new standards with what we have in place  already. And now, Megan Holland has picked up the story,  opining  for the Anchorage Daily News
As 48 other states are participating in a rewriting of  their education standards, Alaska is taking a look at its own and  wondering if it should get onboard and raise the bar for students. But  while some educators say Alaska kids deserve to be held to the same  standard as the rest of the country, others are saying we are different  and the current, laxer standards are just fine.
But… that’s not quite how it went. Since I was one of the “educators  from across Alaska” who participated in Alaksa’s  Common Core Comparison, it’s time for me to add some actual  substance to Megan Holland’s confused commentary.[the rest]

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Alaskans Choose Respect - March at Noon March 31

As I've said since he announced his sexual assault initiative, it's heavy on the stick and light on the prevention, but it does put a spotlight on one of Alaska's most critical issues.  And others are pushing for more prevention so it will evolve.    Here's an email that went out to State Employees. 

  Choose Respect - the March

Dear State Employees, Tomorrow, March 31st, we will launch Alaskans Choose Respect, a statewide series of events designed to raise awareness of the epidemic of domestic violence and sexual assault in Alaska. I encourage you to spend your lunch break participating in the event in your community. Marches and rallies are taking place in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau at noon, and at various times and locations in 15 other partner communities around the state. It is my hope that you will join us – the administration, Alaska’s non-profits, stakeholders, members of the Legislature, and all Alaskans – as we raise awareness and challenge Alaskans to “Choose Respect.” I will kick off the statewide event in Juneau by leading a march from the steps of the Capitol at noon, and rain or shine, I hope you’ll join us in taking a stand for what is right and choose respect. The march will conclude at Marine Park at 12:45pm. Working together, Alaskans can make a difference and create a culture of respect in our state. More information on community events, times, and locations can be found on the Choose Respect website  

If you have any questions, please call my office at 465-3500. Best regards,

Rep. Gatto Discusses Culture, History, and Change

In the House State Affairs committee this morning, discussing SB 43 on adding a verse to the Alaska state song, Rep. Gatto, at the end explained why he was voting against the bill.  It was a discussion on history and culture and why they shouldn't be changed.  I've transcribed his comments as accurate as I could from the tape.  You can listen to the tape too.  It begins at 64:44 on the tape below. 
[Photo:  Reps Johnson, Gatto, and Seaton after the meeting.]

Rep. Gatto often points out his interest in words and how they are used.  Bear that in mind as you read his words. 

(64:44) Gatto: I don't want anyone here, and I don't think anyone does, believe that I don't have a lot of respect for my state and the Native culture and all cultures here.

I want you to know that's is exactly why I object.  Because I believe we have a certain  history in the state.  And that we don't need to modify the history for any reason I can see.

We have named . . . I don't know that we have anyone in the room who can probably name the state insect, the state flower, the state bird, the state mammal, describe the flag and do all of those things.  But we accept it as part of our history.

And I believe our  history should not be changed. And that's what we're doing.  We're taking something 20 years old, I'm not sure how old it is, 20 years old and saying,  'I'm ok with what was done  20 years ago and I think we need to add something to it.' Which, Mr. Chair, is a change.  There is, and as the sponsor spoke, no reason why a person could not simply sing this song in its entirety, by itself as a second verse you can add a third, fourth, and fifth verse. You can take the first or second. All of that is allowed and no one would object that you can sing it anyway you like. Or not sing it.  But what we are doing is something entirely different.

We aren't okaying a person "now you can sing this song if you like, but you can't do it unless we vote you can." You can sing it.

No one sings this song and says you know it's the Alaska song and then have to stop and say "by the way I'm going to continue my singing after I tell you that the second verse is not the Alaska song.  But just sing it if you want to sing it.

So I am here, really, to protect our culture; more so than anybody who votes to change it.
And that's why I have to vote no on this.  

Is that if you want to change our culture get out there and change it all.  Make this a 2010 Alaska culture if you want to.  But I don't want to do that.  And I would hope no one else would want to do that.  I'm ok with the culture as it exists.

Because it is the written history.

And no one goes back and decides to investigate the Bible and say, "You know what?  I'm going back to that verse?? over here.  I think I've got some new information .

You can do that but you can't change the bible. It is what it is.

And if you want to change it, it better be a new edition. Not the old edition with some added language, because we're not making this a new edition.  We're not making this a 2010 Alaska Song.

We're saying we're going to keep the old one and change it. Mr. Chair and members of the committee, I'm not for changing it. I'm not for changing the  insect or the bird or anything else.  Although we could have some people offer to do do that.  and say, "You know, the seal itself,  our state seal. does not have an issue of Alaska Natives on it. It doesn't. Maybe it should have, but it doesn't.  I've been here the whole time.  Those issues of changing things have always failed. I don't think this one will fail, I think it will pass,  but it won't pass with my vote.

This begins at 64:44 on the audio.  Give it a minute to load.

As forcefully as Rep. Gatto makes his argument against changing history, it still seems a bit slippery to me and I still have some questions.  For example:
  1. We can't change the bible, but if we do it has to be a new edition.  Does that mean if the bill renamed this the 2010 edition of the State song it would be ok? 

  2. So, what people have done in the past, for better or worse, is our culture our history, so we must live with that and never change it.  Does that mean Rep. Gatto is against amending the Constitution? 
    Alaska used to belong to the Russians.  Should the US not have changed that?  It used to belong to Alaska Natives?  Should we have not changed that?  What things are ok to change and what things aren't?
Other posts mentioning the second verse of the flag song.

      State Affairs - SB 43 Adding 2nd Verse for Official Flag Song

      Several things were covered in the discussion of the bill this morning which was passed out of the committee to House Judiciary with a 5 yea 2 Nay vote.

      Here's the overview and below I have more detailed notes.

      1.  Changes to the Bill. [37:30 of the audio below.] Bill sponsor Linda Menard said there were some changes added in Sec. 2.  The major change was to add language to note that the song was copyrighted and other than non-profit use needed approval.  There were some typographical changes as well.

      2. What Does Native Mean?  This became a heated discussion and I've gone over today's audio to get as close a transcript as I can.  Rather than try to describe it you can read it and listen to it on the audio.  It begins at 42:16 on the audio. 

      3.  Copyright Issues.  Rep. Johnson began this discussion.  To what extent do the copyright restrictions in the new section 2 restrict people from singing the song?  It does seem to allow non-profits to use the song.  Rep. Wilson wanted to know if a local group reproduced the song to sing and didn't include the copyright language what would happen to them?  Rep. Petersen citing his musical experience said it was only intended for people who want to make a profit off the song.  Rep. Gruenberg said he didn't know this part of the law and that since the bill was going to Judiciary next, where legal issues are considered, the committee should pass it on for Judiciary to deal with.  They amended the bill, with the consent of the sponsor, to remove section 2 which includes the copyright information. And the bill passed. 

      4.  Changing History and Culture.  Rep. Gatto made a final statement about his opposition to changing history and culture. This is so interesting that I'm going to make it a separate post so people can carefully consider Rep. Gatto's argument against change. 

      Below are my notes which give more details.  AGAIN Regard these as my rough running notes and use the audio to check for detailed accuracy.

      1.  Changes to the bill.  SB 43 to CSSB 43. (Committee Substitute for Senate Bill)[Begins at 42:16 on the audio below.]
      My name is Senator Linda Menard, I represent District G.
      Three very small changes that arose from copyright infringement.
      Added to be sure on line 5 made clear who is the composer of the song second verse. Multiple words and punctuation were changed to be sure it complies with copyright. This was an oversight of the drafter. Copyright to University of Alaska.
      Line 13 removes comma between northern and midnight, etc.
      Very simple changes to get this as exact as we can get it.

      Wilson: Thank you Mr Chairman. I can't think how it can be sung on page two, line nine. With the words, sentence ending in the middle there. Just my head. It will still be sung the way the wording was. . . I don't know how that will come out.
      Lynn: That's common in poetry.

      2. What Does Native Mean? [This section is pretty close to verbatim] [42:16 on audio]

      Gatto: Sen Menard. Is there a definition or a  difference between the word Native and the word Alaska Native?
      Menard:  I don't believe there is. I don't know what your concern is Rep. Gatto.
      Gatto: Well, I'll tell you. My children are natives, born in Alaska they are native Alaskans, but they are not an Alaska Native. I believe Mr. Chair, the purpose of the song was to honor the native or the Alaskan Native and I don't see that distinction made anywhere. 
      Menard: This would be, probably, an argument for semantics. Whatever your interpretation is.  I can appreciate you are of the belief that your children are native. And, of course, most of us  given the date this was written were referring to the Alaska Native. 
      Lynn: This is semantic. It's been a controversy for years. Are you Native American or not, well yes I am.  It depends how you define Native.  It's a controversy probably outside the scope of this bill.
      Gatto: I disagree Mr. Chair.
      Lynn:  That's why we have a committee.
      Gatto:  The intent of the sponsor of the bill was not to honor her children or my children or your children. But to honor... tell me . .  was it to honor our children?  Mine?  Whose? Whose?   What's your intent in establishing the second verse, to honor whom?
      Menard: I've stated that.  My intent is not to get into a debate.
      Gatto: I'm sorry your honor, I'm really asking a question and not getting an answer.  This is the place for debate. If we don't debate in a committee, I'm not sure if we have to go to the lounge first?  But this is the committee, I'm a committee member.  I'm asking a question You can refuse to answer or whatever.  But that's a question.
      Menard:  I . . .
      Gruenberg: Mr. Chair, I'm going to impose a point of order. He is harrassing the witness. And I'd appreciate if he didn't do that.
      Gatto:  I'm going to object to that point of order.  These are reasonable questions. . .
      Lynn:  At ease.  [Goes off the record.]

      Back on the record.
      45:29Lynn:  I have a note from House records. I was told  that it is a capital N it refers to Alaska Native, if it is small n it means native Alaskans.  If the N in the bill is capital N then it refers to Alaska Natives, and not those of us who may have been born in Alaska.
      Menard:  Thank you Mr. Chair, I think we've all learned something.
      Gatto:  I've learned something too. I've never heard of that before.  Thank God for House Records. 

      3.  Copyright Issues. [46:25 on the audio.]
      Johnson. My question is on section two. Is this a new section? If I pass out a copy of the Alaska Flag song and I'm not a non-profit,  Is this a copyright violation? [Rep. Johnson has worked in radio.]
      Menard: 20 year limit,
      Leg Legal online:
      Johnson: All other rights reserved.  If I print up the song and hand it out at the hockey game am I violating the copyright.
      Bullard: I don't know a great deal about copyright light law, but if it has this note on the sheet you distribute, the law would be satisfied.
      Lynn: Would this be the same for any other copyrighted song passed out at a game?
      Johnson: Any other song is a member of ASCAP or BMI and that money is distributed to the authors. So if you sing Happy Birthday, it has been calculated and the writer is being paid. When you sing that song it is not free, so I don't agree with that interpretion. If we bring this into the copyright, I want to be sure we aren't doing that.
      Wilson: The comment was made that the 20 year copyright was over. Is there a copyright on the second verse? You were talking about the first verse.
      Menard: The second verse has a copyright. But the foundation doesn't have a concern.
      Rovito: The foundation's concern is that the second verse of the song is fine with how we want to use this, they just want to be sure that the copyright is included in the song.
      Wilson: My concern is that someone would print this up not realizing they had to put the copyright on it. What would happen to them?
      Rovito: I'm not sure. I can find out certainly.
      Seaton: I'd just like to bring up this says, can be produced for public use and non-profit permitted. So, if you were printing them up and selling them, this is waiving the copyright fee for non-profit use. Does the University of Alaska Foundation have the copyright to both the first AND second verse. So this is covering both verses.
      Menard: Yes.
      Gruenberg: I'm very concerned from a legal point of view about the question that Rep Johnson asked. We don't know. It goes to judiciary next. That is why it goes to Judiciary. I'm concerned about the limit of the copyright and will ask the sponsor and be sure we have real copyright lawyers. That will be my lookout in that committee. It must be absolutely properly drafted. Otherwise the tail would wag the dog. Would the University be able to drop section two?
      Lynn: I like what you are saying on that point
      Johnson: I tend to agree with that. They could move this into public domain. If they have no reason down the line to gain. Non-profit permitted, all other uses reserved. I read that to not permitting other uses.
      Petersen: I've been involved in playing and singing music for over 40 years. This is the basic disclaimer on all music. If you buy that sheet music in a music store, you can use that music for yourself, but if you try to make a profit on it. That's when you have to go the BMI group and pay your money. As long as you are using it for a non-profit use - sing it at the ball game - this is the classic disclaimer used in any public sense.
      Johnson: Rep. Petersen makes my point exactly. That is why it is on the music, so the copyright holder.  . . I would encourage that we delete it if we choose and let Judiciary put it back in.
      Lynn: That might be the way out of it. Sponsor's feeling?
      Menard: That's fine. I have an acquaintance, from your district Mr. Gatto, she wants to sing the second verse, but she so much wants to have the recognition of the second verse. I understood from Fran Ulmer who I highly respect. She thinks it is worthy. The University says they will release that second verse.
      Gruenberg: I feel comfortable with that amendment. One question I'd like to have answered. I know nothing about this area of the law. Do we need to put something in to say it is in the public domain? We all remember when you could sing Happy Birthday and now you can't do it because someone owns the copyright.
      Wilson: I'm comfortable with, the sponsor, I just want her to check out before the next committee, because it says "they must have the following notice", if someone doesn't, what is the consequence.
      Gatto: Rep. Gruenberg, please don't interrupt. Is a person disallowed for singing the second verse after they sing the first verse?
      Menard: No they would not be arrested.
      Gatto: I know the person you mentioned. Why doesn't that person sing the second verse.
      Menard: Becasue the state doesn't recognize it as the official second verse. She would like it elevated to official.
      Johnson: I'll make this conceptual [A conceptual amendment isn't the exact language.  Leg Legal will take the concept and draft the amendment.] Section two delete all language.
      Amendment adopted.
      CSSB 43 Any objections.

      4.  Changing History and Culture.  [64:41 on the audio.]
      I'm going to make this a separate post so people can consider Rep. Gatto's perspective on change and culture carefully.  

      Final comments before voting:
      Gruenberg: In response to my friend from the valley. If we look at line 13. It recognizes the Sourdoughs the folks who came from the Lower 48. The second verse talks about the original inhabitants of Alaska. It seems to me the second verse just restores the balance.

      VOTE: Petersen yes, Seaton yes Wilson yes, Gatto no, Johnson no, Gruenberg yes, Lynn yes.    Passes:  5 yea 2 nay.

      Guide to finding things on the audio.

      1.  Changes to the Bill. Begins at 37:30 of the audio
      2. What Does Native Mean?   Begins at 42:16 on the audio. 
      3.  Copyright Issues. Begins at 46:25 on the audio.
      4.  Changing History and Culture. Begins at 64:41 on the audio.

      Other posts mentioning the second verse of the flag song. 

      State Affairs - Division of Elections Overview

      8:00 am   House State Affairs Committee
      Capitol 106
      Audio stream will be available when the meeting starts.
      Overview: Division of Elections
      SB43     Second Verse of Alaska's State Song
      HB241     Divest Investments in Iran
      HB128     Introduction of Measures / Fiscal Notes
      HCR8     Uniform Rules: Measure Sponsors / Readings
      (TV coverage is planned)
      I'm going to do separate posts on the Division of Elections Overview and on SB 43 - second verse of the flag song - and HB 241 Divest Investments in Iran.  This one covers the Division of Elections Overview. 

      The first item on the agenda was a presentation from Director of Division of Elections Gail Fenumiai (Fe (e as in let) Nú-Me-Eye).  The basic issues discussed were (see notes below for more details):
      1.  Preventing Double Voting:  Fenumiai procedures for making sure voters don't vote absentee and in person. 
      2.  Rural and urban vote counting time differential.  People voting absentee in-person in regional centers - Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, and Nome - have their votes counted on election day.  Other absentee votes are not counted until 7-10 days after the election.  Rep. Seaton was concerned that since the parties often organize before all the votes are counted, rural legislators may be at a disadvantage in getting committee assignments, chair positions, etc. and wanted to know if there was a way to get the rural and urban area counts more balanced.
      Rep. Johnson said he was concerned that they were involving the election board in party organization.  Seaton agreed that wasn't proper, and that the Division of Elections was doing its job as assigned by the legislature to be sure there was no voter fraud, and he wasn't asking about vote outcome, but was asking if the legislature's instructions to the Division of Elections had this unintended consequence of differential vote counting time in the rural and urban areas and if there was a way to correct this. 

      3.  Voting Rights Act Compliance in Aftermath of Nick Case 
      Rep. Gruenberg wanted to know whether the State was now fully compliant throughout the State after the settlement of the Nick case, which he said cost the State a million dollars just to pay the legal fees of the party that brought suit.  Fenumiai said she was confident the state was now in compliance and gave examples of things the Division has done. 

      A few other issues were discussed briefly and the discussion was not as neatly divided as I've made this.  Below are my running, rough notes of the discussion. WARNING:  These notes are my best effort to record what happened.  DO NOT RELY on my notes.  I've added the audio of the session at the bottom where you can listen.  The Elections discussion started the meeting. 

      1.  Preventing Double Voting. Gail Fenumiai Division of Elections: Over 99,000 absentee ballots counted in 2008. This includes early voting. In primary found that there were 26 people who voted twice. Talked to those people. Not an issue of fraud. A lot were elderly people who forgot. Applied for ballot. It's three weeks early. They voted. Then three weeks later they go to vote, thinking it was a new election.

      In the general election there were no duplicate voters. We did not count absentee ballots on election night. We needed to get the precinct registers back and get in-person voting history done by district. Then we run duplicate voter check for all ballots received and logged and we compare. If we have an absentee ballot from someone who voted at polling place. We count just the election day vote.

      Gatto: Did you have experience of person voting twice but differently?
      Fenumiai: We have no way of knowing.
      Absentee voting locations and mail-in starts 15 days before election. For processing and logging. All absentee ballots are viewed by bi-partisan board. It takes time. When they come into office. Received and logged. Voter's eligibility determined. Then, absentee review board has to count and validate by 15?th day after election.

      Seaton: What percent was the 99,000?
      Fenumaia: Just under 40%.

      2.  Rural and urban vote counting time differential.
      Seaton: Since regional offices have the precinct books, then those voting at regional offices - Fairbanks, Anchorage, etc.  were counted for up to three days before the election.
      But for more rural precincts - Kenai, SE, Western Alaska - were all counted seven days after election. That third that vote earlier than those who vote on election day because of the close races. Concern that we have most of the ballots counted for Juneau, Fairbanks, Anchorage and known, but then the rural districts will be unknown and in question.
      Important because party organization takes place after election, so if rural districts decided 7 days after election but urban decided right away, this will influence how the political organization process in a way that was not intended. Is there a way to balance the regional hubs and outside regional hubs?
      Fenumiai: A huge proportion of the 99,000 absentee are mail-in which we don't count until seven days later. Our goal is to have the absentee mail-in ballots done by the tenth day after the election.
      Seaton: So absentee, whether cast in Anchorage or Kenai, will be counted the same day?
      Fenumiai: That's our intent.
      Seaton: Distinguish absentee and early voting?
      Fen: Early voting takes place in regional offices, Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, and Nome. I could go to regional office in Juneau.
      Difference: My eligibility to cast ballot is determined on the spot. They have info in that system, It is displayed, printed, verified, nothing has changed, witnessed by voting official, and it goes to be counted on election.
      Absentee in person: Someone votes out of his district. [I didn't get this]
      Seaton: Trying to understand how voting early in regional centers in rural v. regional. So rural ones won't be counted until 7-10 days after the election. But in the urban regional centers, they get their votes counted right away on election night. But rural won't be counted til 7-10 days after. I realize a few people from Homer could vote in Anchorage. But all the people voting in Anchorage could early vote and their vote would count on election night. Correct?
      8:22 Fenumiai: That's correct.
      Seaton: I guess the problem is that people in Homer go to City Hall. Those ballots won't be counted - even though the process is the same as in urban center - the process of counting the votes won't affect the outcome, but how soon we know the outcome. So you haven't figured out a way to get around that?
      Fenumiai: No we haven't. Statutes say where the regional offices are.
      There were over 73,000 other absentee ballots election night. It appears that some elections are determined before election night and nothing is official until after the final counting. We are charged with insuring that everyone who casts a ballot actually was eligible and staff takes great pride.
      Lynn: The parties organize after the election. Didn't the Republican side organize seven days after the election. When we organize - speak speaker of the house, committee chairs, etc. I've seen in the past when we were trying to do that when we weren't sure if someone had won the race or not. Of course, the party could change the time.
      Gatto: Do you separate out the military vote?
      Fenumiai: No we don't. We know how many applied and returned their ballots.
      Gatto: The overseas military. Do they vote?
      Fenumiai: I don't have stats in front of me, but I could get that information to you.
      Gatto: Because it might help me in the future. I'm interested in that number in presidential election years and other years.
      Johnson: I'm a little uncomfortable quizzing the division of elections on how parties organize. The D of Elections' duty is to insure the elections are honest - one person one vote, are you eligible, did every vote get counted. We shouldn't be raising party organization with them.
      Seaton: The question isn't whether the division should be involved. I'm asking if we've set up a differential process so urban centers get counted before the rural. They shouldn't be involved in our party process. The Question is how do the processes we established have had urban/rural differential results or reporting of results. I wouldn't want anything to result in double vote. Question here is whether there is some other policy method to have everything balanced now we've had you be sure there is no double vote.
      Wilson: You said something about 327,000 votes. That was?
      Fenumiai: That was total votes cast.
      Wilson: How many was mail in v. doing something in person.
      Fenumiai: I don't have that, I could get it.

       3.  Voting Rights Act Compliance in Aftermath of Nick Case
      Gruenberg: Yesterday, we passed our supplemental budget. One part was payment of legal fees in Nick case - just for the other side's attorney. Brought on behalf of voters in the Bethel region based on the federal voting act. I'm concerned we might have other suits. What steps are being taken to be sure that other rural areas have the same rights too. Will they have to sue to get their rights?

      Fenumiai: No they won't have to sue. We believe the Nick case gave us an opportunity to improve our language rights system. There are only a few languages that we are required to provide. We believe we have a very effective language assistance program now. We have hired bi-lingual translators and improved our training in language assistance. Our workers are very well aware of sec. 203 of the Voters Rights Act. We were providing assistance, but it had been oral. Over the years I think people assumed it was being done, but it turns out not adequately.
      Gruenberg: I want to follow up with you. I don't know if committee is interested, but I certainly am. ARe you saying there is nothing further the division needs to do to comply with Voting Act?
      Fenumiai: It's our understanding we are in compliance which requires language assistance to be provided and I'd be more than happy to go over this with you.
      Gruenberg: There's nothing further you need to do under the 2000 census figures?
      Fenumiai: Yes that is correct. Having come in two years into the Nick case.

      Seaton: We have early voting system, but also absentee and in-person allowed. What would be the effect if all those early voting people at regional centers were counted as the rest?
      Fenumiai: There would be more votes for the division to log and process after election day.
      Gatto: I've always wondered if we can get a list of people who asked for an absentee ballot. We do know voter reg, but we don't know if people voted.
      Fenumiai: I believe the information that people purchase,
      Gatto: If you don't do that, can anyone determine I voted.
      fenumiai: Anyone can buy that.
      Gatto: Why would we release the name of people who requested a ballot. I thought the vote was private?
      Fenumiai: I don't know.
      Seaton: What was the percent of turnout.
      Fenumiai: 66.0?% statewide.
      Seaton: do you think it was high because of absentee?
      Fenumiai: I don't know. We do get turnouts in the 60s% for presidential elections.

      Below is the audio of the hearing.

      Flag Song Passes Out of State Affairs

      I'll give details later, but the bill passed out of committee 5 yeas 2 nays.  There was debate about the copyright which was handed off for the Judiciary Committee to sort out.

      Other posts mentioning the second verse of the flag song. 

      How Did Racism Become the Topic In The Flag Song Hearing?

      Sen. Menard's SB 43 has passed the Senate and was heard last Thursday in State Affairs. Unfortunately, the audio for that hearing is not available on Gavel to Gavel so I can't exactly trace how race got into to the discussion. Basically the bill would officially make the second verse, written in 1987,  part of the Alaska state song.

      I believe the first person who testified was in the hearing room, the daughter of the woman who wrote the second verse. The next person was online and she opposed the second verse. I can't say for certainty what she said. I know there was something about taking more time. Without the audio or a transcript, and I didn't take good notes, I can only say that at the end, my sense was that the mention of the word Native in the verse was her main objection. She may have said it explicitly, but I just don't know.

      Then others in the room testified for the verse. It was clear that having Natives mentioned in the second verse was important to these witnesses. It was a way of showing respect to the Native peoples of Alaska. But it was just one part of this. A lot had to do with their respect for the white woman who had written the verse before she died.

      Then there was an exchange between testifier  Carol A. Treebian and Rep. Gatto. (This is a part of the video below.)

      Here are some of the questions/comments that Rep. Gatto raised.  I list them because we don't normally have frank public discussions of race these days.  He discusses his own experiences in diverse New York City.  This was an interesting exchange and I think that Rep. Gatto was asking these questions in all seriousness. 
      Gatto: Do you feel racism against, you know, I don’t have racism. I grew up with it,  I didn't like it. Do you feel racism against Natives is different today than it was, say 10, 20, 30 years ago? That there’s more or less?
      Gatto:  Are Natives prejudiced against other Natives?

      Gatto:  Some of my best friends come from other cultures.  They’re the ones that intrigue me the most.  So I don’t have any bad thoughts about other cultures.  But I don’t, and you’ll see my vote, I’m really not in favor of adding another verse and I want you to know it is not a reflection of an animosity to Natives and I will mention my reason when that time comes.
      Gatto: Are we trying to make our state, our country 100% race proof? Or are we willing to say, listen it will never go away. It will simply reach a platform. Some level where it is acceptable. We know that 10% or 20% of the people will forever be racist. And we will never stop it. So are we after the 80% or are we striving for the 100% which we will never get?

      This last question really struck me because it echoes a well-known exchange between a legislator and an Alaska Native woman 65 years ago.  It's an exchange one would hope that all of our representatives would know.  It was just over a month ago that we celebrated Elizabeth Peratrovich Day marking the passage of Alaska's first civil rights legislation. 
      Asked by Senator Shattuck if she thought the proposed bill would eliminate discrimination, Elizabeth Peratrovich queried in rebuttal, "Do your laws against larceny and even murder prevent those crimes? No law will eliminate crimes but at least you as legislators can assert to the world that you recognize the evil of the present situation and speak your intent to help us overcome discrimination."
      [The quote above comes from's long biography of Elizabeth Peratrovich which covers in detail the debate that day in the legislature in February 1945.  It's fascinating and I highly recommend it. You might want to start at "The Battle."]

      From my perspective, it doesn't seem unreasonable that the people whose families have lived in Alaska for as long as ten thousand years might be recognized with a nod in the state song.  But I can also understand that some people might not want any group of people singled out in the state song. I think that is a bit mean spirited, but I could understand the logic.   EXCEPT that the first verse does mention a group of people.  A group of mostly white, and definitely not Native people.
      The gold of the early sourdough's dreams
      If white fortune hunters, many of whom quickly left, are recognized in verse one of the song, I don't understand why people would object to verse two recognizing the people who have occupied this land for millennia.  I don't get it.  When people in Anchorage objected to renaming 9th Avenue Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, they argued it would mess up the "numerical integrity" of our street system.  But this would actually put some balance from one verse to the other. 

      Rep. Gatto said he will explain his objection when the time comes.  The hearing on the bill will continue today, Tuesday March 30, 2010 at 8 am in the House State Affairs committee.

      8:00 am   House State Affairs Committee
      Capitol 106
      Audio stream will be available when the meeting starts.
      Overview: Division of Elections
      SB43     Second Verse of Alaska's State Song
      HB241     Divest Investments in Iran
      HB128     Introduction of Measures / Fiscal Notes
      HCR8     Uniform Rules: Measure Sponsors / Readings

      By the way, Rep. Gatto is the sponsor of the Iran Divestiture bill. 

      Other posts mentioning the second verse of the flag song.

      Monday, March 29, 2010

      House Judiciary - Self Defense and New Personnel Board

      Mar 29 Monday 1:00 PMCAPITOL 120
      + Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED

      Both bills passed out of committee with some changes. 

      HB 348 stems from last year when the Personnel Board met non-stop hearing complaints against then Governor Palin.  The fact that the board has only three members all appointed by the Governor added to people's concern that the board was stacked in favor of the Governor. 

      This bill increases the board to five people and changes the method of appointment - this bill would have the Supreme Court Chief Justice give the Governor 3-5 names.  The Board must have
      at least one member of the political party of the candidate for governor who received the highest number of votes, and one member of the political party of the candidate for governor who received the second highest number of votes, in the most recent general election at which a governor was elected.
      The State Affairs Committee discussed the language of "major parties" and what would happen if a third party member was elected, as in the case of Gov. Hickel.  Major political parties seems to have disappeared, but there is another section that says
      Not more than three [TWO] members of the board may be members of the same political party.
      So, theoretically, the board could have three Democrats, a Republican, and a Libertarian.

      The CS added a new section to the existing statute:
      Sec. 39.25.064. Prohibited conduct by board members and board employees and contractors. A member of the personnel board, an employee of the board, or a person under contract to provide personal services to the board may not,  during the person's term of office or employment or during the term of the person's contract,
      (1)  hold or campaign for elective office;
      (2)  be an officer of a political party, political committee, or group; or
      (3)  lobby, employ, or assist a lobbyist. 
      An amendment took employees and contractors out of this section.  There was a concern about State personnel employees and non-policy positions such as recorder or janitor.  There was also concern that attorneys hired to be hearing officers and everyone in their firms would be bound by these restrictions.

      There was also concern raised by the Court system and the Department of Law about whether having the Chief Justice be the source of the nominees would raise separation of power issues. 

      But when asked directly whether the court actually objects to submitting a list of names? Is there an alternative idea?  Doug Woolover answered that the Court is ok with supplying a list, but prefers not.

      HB 381 has been significantly changed.  Section 2 was dropped completely in the Committee Substitute.   Also the title was changed to "An Act relating to self defense in any place where a person has the right to be."  I'll try to discuss this in another post.

      Thomas Stewart Building Capitol Annex

      Today is the official dedication of the Thomas B. Stewart Office Building - the annex to the State Capitol that opened this session.

       Above is the entrance to the building on 4th Avenue.  Below, from 4th Avenue, is the Steward Building to the right and the Capitol to the left connected by the bridge or passage way.  I don't think a name has been agreed on in actual usage yet.

      Here's the passage way, looking from the Capitol to the new annex.  The door at the end goes into the staff/public lounge.  This is a very comfortable room which is used by people visiting the Capitol - citizens, lobbyists, bloggers - as well as staff.  The staff have full kitchen that requires a key to get into. 

      This is Fairbanks News Miner reporter Chris Eshleman taking advantage of the free wifi in the lounge to get a story in. 

      The House Clerk's Office is also at the end of the bridge - on the right.

      The problem with buildings on hills, is that you can have more than one ground level floor - one in front and one in the back, and maybe even another on the side.  This has caused some problems because the elevator is programmed for 1-4.  Another part of the floor numbering is related to matching the 2nd floor of the new building to the 2nd floor of the Capitol because the bridge connects there.  I've heard from different sources that originally, the 2nd floor in the Capitol was (and still is) called the 1st floor because it was the federal building and had a post office in it.  The federal rules required post offices be on the first floor.  And technically, there is a door to the street on the side, half way up the hill.  So, the fifth floor of the Capitol is the 6th floor.  The bottom floor is the ground floor. 

      In addition to the lounge, which I've used a lot, I spend a fair amount of time at committee hearings in the Beltz Committee Room.

      The quickest way to get from the lounge to the Beltz

      The quickest way to get from the lounge to the Beltz Committee room is this stairwell, which, as you can see, was not finished when the session started.  It's been blocked for much of the time, but now has linoleum. 

      And below are my favorite art pieces in the building.  These are in the lounge. 

      Sheep Creek Trail - Skunk Cabbage, Big Trees, New Leaves

      We drove down to the end of Thane Road today.  It's maybe ten or twelve miles.  The road north goes 40 miles.  And you can drive a bit on Douglas Island.  And that's it.  The rest is by boat or air.  Sheep Creek Trail goes up from the road.  I'm pretty sure the picture is of skunk cabbage.  I'm not used to seeing it at this stage.  But here's a description from The Nature Institute website by Craig Holdrege:

      It's March, the ground is still frozen, and frost comes nearly every night. The days are rapidly getting longer, but the spring equinox is still ahead. Walking through the woods, you see the grey and brown tree trunks, a coloring mirrored in the ground litter of leaves from the previous year. There is no green. Not only the temperature but the whole mood of the woods is cool.
      Then you walk down to the edge of a meandering stream or, in my case, to a wooded wetland. Here, too, the ground is frozen, and patches of ice spread between groups of bushes and small trees (mainly red maples and alders) that dominate the wetland. In this still, quiescent world, little centers of emerging life are visible, the first sign of early spring. What I see are the four-to-six-inch-high, hood-like leaves that enclose the flowers of skunk cabbage. . .
      Both color and shape are striking. Some leaves are completely deep wine-red or maroon, while in others this background coloring is mottled with patches or stripes of yellow or yellow green.

      It's after the equinox and the frost is gone already, but otherwise the description was on the mark.


      Then back into the car, along the water into town.

      An abandoned pier.

      Juneau Pro-Wolf Rally 2 - The Video

      Here's video of the rally I covered yesterday.

      Sunday, March 28, 2010

      Water Birds at Rain Forest Trail Beach

      We took advantage, finally, of having a car for the weekend and drove, after the wolf rally, to the Rain Forest trail on Douglas Island.  I have to say I was a little let down.  The well groomed trail made it feel way too civilized.  I understand how nice this is compared to walking on mud - especially after I slipped on the slimy beach rocks.  I could feel all the plants pushing up against the soil, but for now, only a few green tips had begun to emerge.  When all that lush green fills in, I'm sure it won't feel so empty.  I'm not sure why I haven't felt that way on the Perseverance Trail.

      The trees are incredibly straight.  I can imagine sailors coveting these trees for masts.

      But things do happen.

      Then we got down to the beach.  Rocky, but much smaller rocks than last Sunday.  But very slippery.  There was a large flock of surf scoters busily eating.  Through the binoculars we watched them dive and then gulp down the little fish they'd gotten into to their big yellow beaks.  

      We also saw some harlequin ducks (one of my favorites) swimming nearby the scoters, and I think both some common and red breasted mergansers.