Will the Real Sarah Palin Please Stand Up

From Mike Doogan's newsletter

I have some sympathy for Sarah Palin. She's got at least three fulltime jobs that I know of. There's the whole wife and mother thing, which any wife and mother will tell you takes a fair amount of time and energy. Then there's being governor, which is no walk in the park. And, of course, there's maneuvering for the Republican presidential nomination with its attendant appearances, speeches, fund-raising and so on.

Sarah Palin

Now, I know there are plenty of people out there in Saralove land who think she can do all that while performing open heart surgery and preventing Lex Luthor from dropping California into the Pacific Ocean to improve the value of his real estate holdings in Nevada.

But the truth is, she can't. And it really shows in the little dust-up over her mid-session introduction of a couple of bills she says absolutely have to pass this session: one that's supposed to move an in-state gas pipeline forward and the other consolidating Railbelt utilities.

Neither one of these undertakings is simple. One example will suffice. Palin previously ballyhooed her goal of having 50 percent of Alaska 's energy produced by renewable sources by 2025. That's not going to happen without at least one big hydroelectric project serving southcentral Alaska . But the instate gas pipeline won't be financially feasible without shipping a lot of gas to provide heat and lights in southcentral Alaska . There's not enough market for both projects. So which is it going to be?

These and other questions have to be answered before any bill will pass. But for one reason or another - maybe because Palin spent two months campaigning for vice president rather than minding the store in Alaska - the bills didn't get introduced until last week, too late to get the work done this session. But she's issuing press releases saying the legislature should pass the bills this session anyway.

Why? Well, it is in the nature of governors to try to muscle legislatures around. But Palin has added incentive: Being seen as a decisive, forward-thinking governor is important to the image-making surrounding her national ambitions. In that job - the running for president job - she doesn't have to actually get the bills passed. She just has to be able to point to them as proof of her qualifications for national office. And if she fails to get the bills passed, she'll just blame the legislature.

And that's the problem. If she wants to be an effective governor, Palin has to have a working relationship with the legislature. And that's not going to happen as long as she continues to treat legislators as campaign props and punching bags.

Where Are We? I Mean, When Are We?

The powerful House Judiciary Committee, of which I was, fleetingly, a powerful member, moved from hearings on the death penalty to hearings on anti-abortion bills. I guess maybe that when the rest of the world moved from the 20th century to the 21st century, the House Judiciary Committee hearing room moved in the other direction: from the 20th century to the 19th century.

Memo to the Life Maintenance Department

Every once in a while, even powerful state legislators have to do life maintenance. In Juneau that usually means laundry - which is one of my hobbies - and grocery shopping -which definitely is not. (I may not be the world's worst shopper, but according to the woman who lets me live with her, I'm in the bottom 10.)

But this week it meant flying to Anchorage to do some personal errands and, of course, to serve pizza at House District 25 and 26 and Senate District M constituent meeting.

Commercial! Commercial! Commercial!

That constituent meeting will be from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Spenard Rec Center. In addition to politicians and pizza, there will be information booths and a clown. So join Sen. Hollis French, Rep. Lindsey Holmes and me for pie and politics. See you there.

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As a result, I am not in Juneau for the House floor vote on the FY2010 state operating budget.

What? You say. Skipping out on the vote on a really, really spendy and important piece of legislation? What kind of legislator are you, anyway?

Well, that could be debated. But what's not debatable is that the floor vote on the budget is one of the least important events in any session.

Why's that? Because by the time the budget gets to the floor, the deal's done. Unless the majority wants to tweak it, the budget will not be amended. And every member of the majority will vote against any amendment by the likes of me, then vote for the budget. Anyone who doesn't vote that way will very quickly be a former member of the majority.

So I could be there on the floor offering amendments 19 to the dozen and making impassioned speeches and the net result would be . nothing. The budget wouldn't change and it would pass.

Now I'm sure there are a bunch of political science professors and other such do-gooders who read this and think: That's not the way the budget should be handled. And you know what, they might be right. But that's the way it is handled, and will be as long as there are 21 votes to support the procedure.

Best wishes, Mike

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