Saturday, August 29, 2015

Forbes Tells It Like It Isn't - Bluster Meets The Judge

From a puff piece in Forbes online:
"Gov. Bill Walker and his lawyers plan to argue that Medicaid expansion is required by federal law. Who better to combat that false claim than the very same attorneys who successfully argued the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court in the first place?
Gov. Walker Should Walk Away From Obamacare Plan
Walker’s unilateral Medicaid expansion isn’t just bad policy, it’s also illegal. He now knows that lawmakers stand ready to block his actions. It’s time for Gov. Walker to give up his misguided attempt to circumvent the legislature in order to expand Obamacare in Alaska."
That's dated August 25, 2015.  Alaska Superior Court Judge Frank Pfiffer, a Parnell* appointee, apparently missed this, because yesterday he ruled decisively in favor of the governor's position and rejected the challenge approved by the Legislative Council.

It was written by 
"Jonathan IngramNic Horton and Josh ArchambaultMr. Ingram is Research Director, Mr. Archambault is a Senior Fellow, and Mr. Horton is Policy Impact Specialist, at the Foundation for Government Accountability."
And who is FGA?   According to SourceWatch:
The Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) is a right-wing advocacy group based in Naples, Florida. It is run by former Maine legislator Tarren Bragdon. It is affiliated with the State Policy Network (SPN), a web of state pressure groups that denote themselves as "think tanks" and drive a right-wing agenda in statehouses nationwide.
The FGA describes its own agenda as developing free market public policies that “achieve limited, constitutional government and a robust economy that will be an engine for job creation across [Florida].” The FGA “believes personal liberty and private enterprise are key to our economic future,” the website states.
 SourceWatch also says there are links to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which means there are Koch connections. 

Is this total BS PR-piece part of the package deal the Council got for our $400K when they hired anti-Obamacare DC law firm Bancroft PLLC?  What else comes with this deal?  What sort of future benefits do the key culprits in this waste of Alaskan dollars get?

Bancroft bills itself as a high stakes player. Chenault and Meyer (Speaker of the Alaska House and President of the Senate and Legislative Council members) have been rolled by these high stakes ambulance chasers.  With our dollars. 


*For non-Alaskans, Parnell was Palin's Lt. Gov and became governor when she resigned.  He lost to Walker, a former Republican who ran as an independent in November 2014. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

LA Gas Prices, Freeway And Weather Notes

Last December, I reported on LA gas prices.  We'd just gotten gas fpr $2.39/gal at Costco and I compared that to Anchorage prices (lowest then was $2.83) where the tax is significantly lower.

I also remarked that the Anchorage Costco prices were not even the same.  (Costco told me then, that price depends on the competition near the stores.)


I caught this Chevron sign this afternoon as we were coming back from visiting relatives in the valley.

Lowest price at this station is $3.78.   This is noteworthy because J filled the tank last night at the nearby Costco for $2.99.  I wonder about all the folks who let stations get away with this sort of price difference.  I realize that location is important.  Costco isn't far from my mom's place, but there is also something called planning.  Especially with an 80 cent per gallon difference!  But with the way prices fluctuate, getting gas last week at Costco may not have been such a bargain now.

By the way, I checked on Anchorage Gas Prices and the lowest in Anchorage is $3.13 right now.  But with such websites, people can find the lowest nearby prices easily.  And if they only shopped within ten cents of the lowest local price, I guarantee that 80 cent spreads would disappear soon.

We got home fairly quickly after we got past the jam behind this accident on Ventura Freeway. (Sorry, I'm old school and still call them by their names, not by their numbers.)



By the way, the temperature for where we visited is predicted to be only 101˚F (38˚C) by 4pm today (in 30 minutes).  It's supposed to be only 88˚F at my mom's by 4pm.   It doesn't feel that much cooler - the humidity here (closer to the beach) is 47% but only 21% in the valley. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Mystery Solved - It Was Kardashians

Tuesday was our first night in LA.  We were already in bed.  A little after midnight.  Loud booms.  There were clouds, but thunder?  I didn't think so.  And it kept on and on.  Guns?  Bombs?  More like fireworks.  I looked out the window, but couldn't see anything.  Don't know of any holidays that call for fireworks in late August.  So, we forgot about it. 


But today's LA Times had a story that seems to explain it all. 
Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe will present a motion Tuesday calling for an investigation into a loud midweek fireworks show, reportedly at a boat party thrown by Khloe Kardashian, that angered thousands of Westside residents.
The eight-minute show shined brightly in the sky above Marina del Rey and could be seen as far as Venice and heard in Redondo Beach.
For many residents, the midnight fireworks display early Wednesday was an unwelcome surprise that caused chaos in their households. Children were roused and dogs were left shaken.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Work, Then Play

Spent the morning on the phone doing things like negotiating with Verizon to put my mom's  tv on hold, but keeping the phone and internet.  Cell phone reception in here is terrible and I need the internet when we're here.  Also cancelled her supplemental insurance and arranged for reimbursement for the two months they've taken through their 'easy pay' system.  I don't like any system where someone else is taking money out of my account until I say stop.  Also stopped by the bank to give them some more paperwork.  Everyone was very polite and helpful, which makes it easier to go on and do the rest of these chores. 

We had lunch with friends and then started the second attack on my mom's room.  We made the first attack last July before we left, but there is still so much we hadn't seen yet.  Like this self-defense tear gas permit.  Never knew she had this.


Also found an old invitation to a baby shower for my wife.  And lots of purses and necklaces.  And pens.   Readers, recycling and reusing are both great, but if you haven't used it in the last five years, consider starting the process of giving away, selling, or tossing.  Rubber bands, I've learned, have a short shelf life.  Paper clips last much longer. 

I didn't mention it's hot in LA.  And it's humid.  Hot and humid didn't use to happen in LA.  And it's supposed to be warmer for the next two days.  I was feeling sticky most of the day and needed a break. 

We got to the beach just as the sun was going down. 


I went down and tested the water.  It's almost always chilly when you do that here in LA, but after you catch the first wave, it's fine.  This time it felt only refreshingly cool.  So I got rid of my shirt and watch and went to get unstickied.  It was fantastic.  The surf was not very big and just rolled gently down.  Easy to catch, and even though it was breaking close to sure, it was just deep enough not to scrape the sand.  Body surfing a few waves was heaven. 

I watched others enjoying the small, but catchable surf  as I dried off.


Then before it got much darker,  we walked back to La Fiesta Brava for a little Mexican food.

Now, let's see how my Achilles tendon reacts to the sand walking and sandals.  It's been fine for a couple of months now.  No problems walking, though I still know it's there, and I'm not running yet.  That may be a thing of the past. 

Tomorrow more garbage bags to give away and throw away, plus consolidating the things to keep this round in smaller piles. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My Plan To Save The State Of Alaska At Least $700,000

Before I offer my plan to save all that money, let me offer some background

Decision to sue governor
The Alaska Legislative Council - 14 legislators who represent the other 46 legislators when the legislature not in session  - voted to authorize $450,000 to pay an expensive DC law firm (plus some Anchorage attorneys)  to file a court challenge of the governor's decision to expand medicaid coverage for Alaskans.  (I posted the names of the Legislative Council members and the law firms here.)

I figure the state of Alaska will have to expend at least another $300,000 to defend the decision.  (The Legislative Council leaders are the same folks calling for budget cuts because of the revenue drop.)

Public Opinion supports governor, not the legislators
The Legislative Council is doing this despite the fact that a March poll by Ivan Moore found that 65% of Alaskans favored medicaid expansion then.
Chart from Ivan Moore


Will the suit against the governor win in court?
In any case, these legislators are taking a pretty big risk of losing.  But it's not their money.  It's Alaskans' money, and, as I mentioned, 65% of Alaskans were with the governor on this decision.  So they are spending this money in defiance of what is a pretty large majority in politics these days.

I'll bet they wouldn't take this action if this was their own money.  Or even if they only had to reimburse the state if they lost.  And those 65% of Alaskans (the number could be higher now) probably want them to lose because they feel we're better off squandering the $450,000 than NOT expanding Medicaid.

I looked at the section of the statute that they say the governor violated, the part that says the governor needs a vote of the legislature.

I'm not a lawyer and I don't know the larger context of the law,  but I'm guessing the governor wouldn't make this move without feeling confident of his legal standing and an opinion from Legislative Legal Services for example, to Rep. Andy Josephson, concludes:
"For the above reasons, the governor likely has authority to accept additional federal funding to provide expanded Medicaid coverage.  If insufficient state funds are available, he could also request supplemental state funding.  A request for supplemental appropriations would be subject to legislative action."

The ADN has a link to AS 47.07.020 as the basis for the lawsuit.  Here is a section from the statue in question:
"(d) Additional groups may not be added unless approved by the legislature."
 But that comes after (a) and (b) which state:
"(a) All residents of the state for whom the Social Security Act requires Medicaid coverage are eligible to receive medical assistance under 42 U.S.C. 1396 - 1396p (Title XIX, Social Security Act).
(b) In addition to the persons specified in (a) of this section, the following optional groups of persons for whom the state may claim federal financial participation are eligible for medical assistance:" [emphasis added]
It goes on to list 15 'groups' of eligible Alaskans. I'm guessing that there aren't any additional groups not already listed in the 15.  As I understand this, there aren't any additional groups, but the income level for eligibility for federal Medicaid is higher to include people who can't afford coverage, but I'm not sure. I contacted my representative, attorney Andy Josephson, because he requested the opinion above from the Legislative Legal Office.  He's writing a piece for the ADN on this, so look for that for more detail.  He wrote that besides the legislature's legal office, the attorney general's office also said the governor's move to expand medicaid was legal.   Sam Kito, the only legislator on the Council to vote against suing the governor, also cites both opinions favoring the governor's action.   
Josephson's piece will go into a bit more legal detail.  He also talks about the mandatory/optional distinction.  He starts his opinion piece with a quote from US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts from the Sibelius decision on Medicaid expansion and Josephson concludes:  
"Chief Justice Roberts’ quote . . . makes it plain and unmistakable:  once a state opts to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the expansion population becomes a mandatory group that enjoys coverage.
My bet is the suit against the governor is going to lose.   


My Plan 
So, here's my simple plan:  If the suit is going to lose anyway, why pay so much?   I'm willing to lose this suit for only $1000 instead of the $450,000 they've allocated and that would also save the governor's legal costs defending his action.  After all, if you're going to lose a case, why spend $450,000 if you can do it for just $1000?
An extra note on this:

Why are the legislators spending all this money to thwart the governor and public?
Why is this group (there's only fourteen because the Leg Council takes care of business when the full legislature is not in session) doing this? They tend not to answer questions like this publicly,  but I'm guessing  there are some pretty influential folks who want to keep Alaska (and other states) from doing anything that might make Obamacare more successful.  And these folks seem to have influence over key people in the Legislative Council.  I'm assuming Americans for Prosperity, the Koch funded group that set up an Alaska office last year, is somehow involved.  Their website has this note:

AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY ALASKA REACTS TO LEGISLATURE’S LEGAL ACTION AGAINST GOV. WALKER

August 19, 2015
Following Governor Walker’s attempt to unilaterally expand Obamacare’s Medicaid, Legislature will Sue ANCHORAGE — Americans for Prosperity – Alaska, would like to applaud the members of the Alaska House and Senate for deciding to sue Governor Walker over his unilateral decision to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. Upholding the rule of law is vitally important to Alaska’s future; […] 
 But this is merely speculation.  Rep. Chenault and Sen. Meyer (the leaders of the two Alaska legislative houses)  offer us far more principled, but hard to believe, reasons.   They tell us, for example, at the end of the linked opinion piece, they are doing this "for checks and balances."  These are the folks who kept the minority voice pretty much silent and prevented legislation they opposed - including medicaid expansion - from getting to the floor when it stood a chance of getting a majority of votes.  Pardon my skepticism, but this seems more like a protest that there now is a governor who checks and balances the legislature. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Wasps, Jays, Aurora, Friends, Alaska's Future



One downside to the warmer summer we've experienced, is the increased number of wasps.  To the point where we've had to take our outdoor dinner on the deck inside. 




These two appear to be yellow jackets, though earlier we had less articulated bugs.

I talked to an exterminator who wanted to make sure they weren't honey bees, in which case we should contact a bee keeper, since honey bee populations are crashing around the world.  But these aren't.  And wasps eat insect pests, though apparently yellow jackets eat dead insects.  The Idaho Extension Service has a very thorough description of yellow jackets, wasps, and hornets in Idaho.




In this case, I put out some pieces of smoked salmon which got them still enough to shoot, but even so, I'm not pleased with the shots.

Just recently, we've discovered that we aren't the only ones in town with more and peskier wasps in their backyards.  And as the climate changes continue, I suspect we'll be getting a lot more insects who weren't comfortable here when the weather was colder.





We also have a Steller Jay who's been visiting the deck.  He's been around for a while, but when we got back from Portland, he was downright aggressive.  When he saw me in the kitchen, he flew up against the kitchen window.  It turned out our house sitter had fed him.  While it's nice to see birds close up, I'm not a bird feeder.  If they can't survive here naturally - particularly over the winter - then they should go south rather than get dependent on people feeding them.  Though I know I'm in a minority on this point.




And Saturday night, I finally looked at Twitter after a couple of weeks of not having time to get around to it.  AuroraNotify was reporting sun activity and you could watch reports of great aurora activity moving west around the world - in the north and the south.  It was a bit after midnight and I went out onto the deck.

WOW!  I was blown away by these bright thrusts of light shooting down at me in the small window of open space to the sky from out deck.  But it quickly evaporated and by the time I got a camera there was nothing that spectacular left.  But there was plenty of faint to moderate green activity across the sky.  I was able to get quick google help when I wanted to take pictures of a lunar eclipse, but similar help for capturing auroras - while there - hasn't been as helpful.  This picture is from my little Canon Powershot.  You can barely see the green glow. 
Click for better version of aurora


We've had a bit of time to catch up with friends, but we're headed south again.  We bought tickets for trips to visit my mom while there were lower than normal fares.  Even though my mom passed away in July, there's still a lot of work to do cleaning up.  We're also combining the trips to see grandkids.  (And their parents too, of course.)

Unfortunately that means I'll miss this talk at ISER.    But I'll be able to go to the public talk Sept. 19. 


Moving Our Conversation Forward:
Alaska’s Fiscal and Economic Future
Gunnar Knapp
Director and Professor of Economics, ISER
and
Cliff Groh
Chair, Alaska Common Ground
Alaska’s state government has operated mainly on oil revenues since the 1980s. But now lower oil prices and falling oil production have hit Alaska hard, leaving the state government with a $3 billion hole in its annual budget. And Alaska’s economy will also face big challenges, because it relies so much on state spending.
ISER and Alaska Common Ground are sponsoring a free public forum on Alaska’s fiscal and economic future on September 19 (information about the forum). But in advance of that forum, Gunnar Knapp, ISER’s director, and Cliff Groh, the chair of Alaska Common Ground, will talk at ISER, previewing some of the material they plan to present. They will encourage those at the talk to ask questions and offer suggestions for improvement.
Please join us—and remember that ISER is now at 1901 Bragaw Street, between Northern Lights and DeBarr Road. Parking is still free. Call 786-7710 if you need directions. 

When: Thursday, August 27, 12 to 1
Where: ISER Conference Room
Third Floor, 1901 Bragaw Street, Suite 301


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Note To Carly Fiorina: Solving Nation's Problems Harder Than Rocket Science

From Friday's news:

"For GOP presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina, solving the nation’s biggest challenges is pretty simple — “it’s not rocket science,” as she likes to say."

I watched Neil Armstrong land on the moon in an elementary school classroom in Thailand.  It's one of the moments that moved me to the field of public administration.  I thought to myself, having lived in Thailand for two years by then and with the Vietnam war close enough that I could get the Armed Forces Network out of Saigon on my radio at night, "If humans can land on the moon, why can't we find ways to feed, house, and school  all the people in the world, and provide them basic health care?" 

As I pondered what I would do after Peace Corps, I came across public administration.  It seemed to be a field of study that might address that question - it was a generalist field that borrowed knowledge from other disciplines and applied that knowledge to real human situations.

Public administration seemed broad enough to let me pursue answers to other questions that Thailand raised. Things like: is there a way to combine the best  of the communal aspects of Thai society with the best of the individualistic parts of the US society?

And I was also curious about why the US free press that I grew up believing in was NOT reporting about the US planes that were flying over my house on their way to bomb Laos and North Vietnam.  If I knew it was happening, then the many journalists in Thailand and Vietnam surely knew.  The Laotians knew, the North Vietnamese knew, and no doubt the Chinese and Russians knew.  But officially it wasn't happening and the American public was not reading about the bombing in their newspapers or seeing it on the nightly news.   Why not?

I began to realize that getting people to the moon was relatively easy.  The rocket science part - doing the calculations and building the machines - was basically modeling and crunching numbers.  The hard part was getting people to do things, getting Congress to agree on funding and then coordinating folks scattered across the nation. 

Getting people to agree on systems that equitably distribute resources among the peoples of the world is far more difficult.  The political, social, economic, and cultural webs of humans are hard to weave but easy to rip apart. 

So, from my perspective, if Fiorina thinks handling government problems isn't rocket science, she's right.  But if she thinks, as this quote suggests, that it is easier than rocket science, she's dead wrong.  It's way harder.

In physics, the laws of nature  are stable.  What happened ten years ago will happen again tomorrow.  You can calculate the speed and direction of a rocket and of the moon so that you can land the one on the other.

In the social sciences, there are some observable principles, but the people we study in social science don't obey those laws as scrupulously as the moon obeys Newton's laws. 



It's often difficult to test theories because you can't find two comparable cities (or states or nations)  to use in experiments.  But if we could, another problem arises.  People are sentient and willful.  When they know what scientists think they will do, they can change their behavior - for their own good, like cutting down smoking, or to prove their independence, like not cutting down smoking.  

If government were as easy as Fiorina seems to think, millions of people wouldn't be in prison, wouldn't be homeless, wouldn't be addicted to drugs and alcohol, wouldn't be killing each other in our cities and in war zones.  We would have adjusted our carbon use years ago and avoided the impacts of climate change we are experiencing already.  Members of Congress (and leaders in other nations) would be heroes because they would have supported projects that resulted in prosperity, equity, and the successful pursuit of happiness for all people.


Note:  I'd like to say I went into public administration because getting to the moon was the easy task and because figuring out how to get human beings to collectively solve collective problems was the much harder challenge.  While that is partially true, it's also true that I don't really have much of an aptitude for physics (though both my kids have physics degrees) and I have much more of an aptitude for public administration. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Chuitna River DNR Hearing - Two Different World Views Colliding



There's no wifi in the room so I'm doing this quick during a lunch break (early because they'd allocated more time than people used) but I have to get back from the Federal Building cafeteria where they do have wifi.

I've got lots to sort through.  Lots of learning as I listen to testimony that seems to be coming from inhabitants of totally different planets.  Their views on this are based on completely different world views and assumptions.  More later.  I'll get pics up for now.  Above you can see the DNR table that's listening and asking questions.


Across from them is the spot for people giving testimony.  This is Valerie Brown from Trustees for Alaska at the podium.

During a break - Dave Schade on the right standing up.



This is the Pac Rim attorney - Eric [Fjelstad].  I didn't catch his last name clear enough to try to write it here.

Gotta get back to the room.  There's a tunnel under the street so you don't have to go through security again.  More later. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Dave Schade And The Decision Over Coal, Salmon, and the Middle Fork Tributary To The Chuinta River

Organizing a post is often a problem.   For example, I went to a reception at UAA for grad students in the College of Business and Public Policy (CBPP) yesterday and now I'm asking myself:
  1.   Should this be one post (about the UAA reception)?
  2.   Or several posts about the different aspects I found interesting?
The problems are exacerbated by how long it takes to upload to Youtube (a movie over a minute or two takes a while on my slow upload connection.)  This is all a preface to what's below. [As I'm about to post this, several hours after I began it, I realize this will only focus on one of the people I met yesterday and the hearing he will conduct tomorrow over conflicting mining and salmon claims in the Middle Fork tributary of the Chuitna River.]

The College of Business and Public Policy has a several masters degrees - public administration (MPA), business administration (MBA), and one in global supply chain management (MS) - and the reception was for new students to be able to meet other students, alumni, faculty, and staff.  I was invited as a faculty emeritus and now sometimes adjunct faculty member.  Lots of things caught my eye and ear, but one in particular, is very timely, so let me start [and finish] with that. 

Alaska Public Radio had a piece on the Chuitna dispute between salmon and coal back in June.  Basically, as I understand this, it's about whether Pacific Rim Coal's mine in the area will negatively impact the fish in the river and if so, whose legal claim to the water and resources is stronger.  Read the article linked above to see about the conflict between traditional and reserved water rights.  There are also a few comments by Dave Schade (pronounced Shady), Chief of Water Resources for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  I only found that piece while writing this post.  But I did read Schade's name in the August 7, 2015 ADN article.

Dave's name jumped out at me because he was one of my students in the MPA program back in the early 1990s.  I hadn't seen him since then.  And it didn't occur to me that he'd be attending the grad student reception.  He was there at the invitation of his niece Kaitlin who is a student in the MPA program now.

I remember Dave as a strong and independent student.  By independent I mean he wasn't wedded to any particular ideology.  He was born and raised in Alaska and has a firm sense of himself.  As a student I recall he listened and read and thought and came to his own conclusion.  All he would say to folks last night about Friday's public hearing at the Federal Building Annex was that he's got criteria spelled out in the law and it's his job to try to match the facts to the criteria (see bottom of the post) and then make a decision, by the court mandated deadline of October 6.   Pretty much the kind of thing taught in the MPA program - that such decisions have to be based on the 'rule of law' -  meaning that decisions are based on the appropriate law, regulation, or professional standards that most closely govern the situation.  Not by personal preference or arbitrary whim.   I haven't followed the Chuitna River issue in detail, but there does seem to be a bit of room for interpretation, and even there Schade will, I'm sure, explain why he leans one way rather than another.

OK, as I'm writing this, it's clear that there's enough here to make this a post all by itself.  I've got the agenda for tomorrow's (Friday August 21, 2015) meeting from Alaska Business Monthly.

The current hearing agenda is as follows:
8:45 a.m. – 8:50 a.m.             Introduction of Hearing Officer and Panel
                                               Instructions regarding hearing process
8:55 a.m. – 10:25 a.m.            Chuitna Citizens Coalition Inc.
                                                Trustees for Alaska
10:35 a.m. – 11:35 a.m.          Pac Rim Coal LLP
12:25 p.m. – 12:55 p.m.         Cook Inlet Keeper
1:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.             Alaska Center for the Environment
1:35 p.m. – 2:05 p.m.             Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority
2:10 p.m. – 2:25 p.m.             Alaska Conservation Trust
2:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.             Alaska Miners Association
2:50 p.m. – 3:05 p.m.             Alaska Oil and Gas Association
3:10 p.m. – 3:25 p.m.             Council of Alaska Producers
3:30 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.             Howard Grey
3:50 p.m. – 4:05 p.m.              Resource Development Council
4:10 p.m. – 4:25 p.m.             Chuitna Citizen’s Coalition Inc. – Applicant’s final comments
4:25 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.             Hearing Officer’s Closing Comments
It will be held in the Anchorage Federal Building Annex (222 W. 8th) conference room.  

I tried to find the agenda on the Department of Natural Resources website to be sure it was accurate, but couldn't, so I called their information office, and they couldn't find it and asked if I wanted to talk to Dave Schade.  I smiled to myself and said, 'Sure."  Dave said the agenda was sent out to all the parties involved but not posted online.
Schade:  I'm hoping that we'll get some new information from the testimony.
Steve:  Are there any information holes you're specifically hoping to fill?
Schade:  Now you're asking for specific comments.
Steve:  No, not asking what the holes are, but just if there are any.  
So he offered to send me a copy of the letters he sent out to the parties.

First is the most recent letter which has the agenda (with breaks included) and goes down into administrative details about equipment presenters might need. 





The June 23, 2015 letter narrows the scope of the testimony to objections that have already been made to
1.  to some part of the DNR analyses, and
2.  to granting the reservations

It also addresses the issue I raised above - about information holes DNR might want to fill.  Specifically it identifies questions DNR might ask:
  • how particular objections relate specifically to each application under consideration
  • what back up information supports particular objections
  • what is the basis for any legal or constitutional argument being made
  • what timelines or processes an objector might suggest as an alternative to a timeline or process objected to
  • how DNR should consider particular objections in relation to the criteria set out in AS 46.15.080 (see bottom of the post)




I have to say that from what I can see in these letters, that Schade has spelled out the process in detail for participants and given a sense of the kind of questions they might be expected to respond to. 

They've had this information since June, giving them sufficient time to prepare.  And the things he's asking are what any MPA student is taught to ask for - supporting information for claims, alternatives to things they object to, and the legal basis for their claims.  I remember a student once in class, after I'd asked a question, got an answer, then followed the answer up with "Why?", saying, "I knew you were going to ask that." That 'why?' should be automatic to people doing this kind of work.   Dave needs all the supporting information he can get to be able to make his decision on this.

Since he mentions the specific criteria he's requred to use, I thought I should look them up and post them here. 

AS 46.15.080. Criteria For Issuance of Permit.

(a) The commissioner shall issue a permit if the commissioner finds that
(1) rights of a prior appropriator will not be unduly affected;
(2) the proposed means of diversion or construction are adequate;
(3) the proposed use of water is beneficial; and
(4) the proposed appropriation is in the public interest.
(b) In determining the public interest, the commissioner shall consider
(1) the benefit to the applicant resulting from the proposed appropriation;
(2) the effect of the economic activity resulting from the proposed appropriation;
(3) the effect on fish and game resources and on public recreational opportunities;
(4) the effect on public health;
(5) the effect of loss of alternate uses of water that might be made within a reasonable time if not precluded or hindered by the proposed appropriation;
(6) harm to other persons resulting from the proposed appropriation;
(7) the intent and ability of the applicant to complete the appropriation; and
(8) the effect upon access to navigable or public water.

 You can see there's a bit of room for interpretation - words like 'adequate' and 'beneficial.' 'Public interest' at least is spelled out.  A good public administrator will wrestle hard with the law and the facts trying to come up with the most defensible decision possible.  There are some close calls where both sides have strong claims and where two different hearing officers could come up with different, but justified, conclusions.  And then there are decisions where the answer if fairly clear cut. 

You can get more background information from Pacific Rim Coal , the coal mine developers, and from Inlet Keepers, a keep opponent of the mine.

You can also go to the hearing tomorrow.  Testimony is limited to those parties who have already been involved, but the public may attend and listen.

And one final comment.  The  Water Resource Section of the Division of Mining, Land & Water, of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, is just one of the government agencies that have some sort of jurisdiction over this project. 




Wednesday, August 19, 2015

State Legislature Sues Governor Over Medicaid Expansion

The ADN has the story.  Basically 
"a Republican-controlled House-Senate committee voted 10-1 authorize spending up to $450,000 to hire a pair of law firms to work on a suit against the governor."
WHO VOTED HOW?

Voting in favor of hiring the two law firms were Republican Reps. 

Mike Chenault of Nikiski, 
Steve Thompson of Fairbanks, 
Craig Johnson and Charisse Millett of Anchorage and 
Mark Neuman of Big Lake, 

Democratic Rep. Bob Herron of Bethel  (member of the House Republican Majority)


Republican Sens. 
Anna MacKinnon of Eagle River, 
John Coghill of North Pole, 
Charlie Huggins of Wasilla and 
Kevin Meyer of Anchorage.


Voting against:

Democratic minority member, Juneau Rep. Sam Kito.

Absent: 

"Two Republican senators from coastal areas typically viewed as more moderate, Gary Stevens of Kodiak and Peter Micciche of Soldotna, were absent, as was Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, who belongs to the Senate’s Republican majority.

Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, also missed the meeting. He was in Minnesota undergoing medical treatment but said by email he would have voted against hiring the law firms."
 THE LAW FIRMS TO BE HIRED

The DC Firm:  Bancroft PLLC   - This boutique DC firm, that epitomizes the DC revolving door.  From their own website:
"Bancroft PLLC was founded by former Assistant Attorney General Viet D. Dinh and now includes former Solicitor General Paul D. Clement, former Associate White House Counsel H. Christopher Bartolomucci, and other accomplished professionals focused on our clients’ most difficult and complex legal issues. Among our 12 lawyers are 6 U.S. Supreme Court clerkships, 12 U.S. Court of Appeals clerkships, and 5 Presidential appointments."
One of their top attorneys, Paul Clement, recently had his going hourly rate of $1,100 cut to $300:
"— Judge Mae D’Agostino of the Northern District of New York, giving the reasons for slashing Paul Clement’s customary $1,100 hourly rate to $300 per hour when awarding attorneys’ fees in Osterweil v. Bartlett, a Second Amendment case.
(For what it’s worth, $1,100 was Clement’s hourly rate in 2011, when he was began representing Osterweil. Clement’s current hourly rate is $1,350. Osterweil would’ve been getting a deal!)"
  
Another Bancroft attorney was denied his claim that he worked while driving to the office.

Obamacare is not a new topic for this company.  They represented the 26 states that went to the Supreme Court over  Obamacare in 2012.

Anchorage based firm:  Holmes, Weddle, and Barcott.



Who's Calling The Shots Here?

Not clear.  We know that the Koch supported Americans For Prosperity has been strongly opposed to Obamacare.  Presumably they are working with key members of the House and Senate Majorities on this.  But we shouldn't leap to conclusions.  Maybe others are involved too.   It would be interesting to learn who Meyers, Chenault, and the others talk to behind closed doors and what they talk about.

The members of the Majority seem to believe that they are immune to electoral removal.  Redistricting has given many of them comfortable seats.  But I don't suspect they realize how many people are affected by this who may well be motivated to vote in 2016.

Not only are they still dragging their feet on expanding Medicaid, but they've allocated up to $450,000 on this for their attorneys.  And the governor's office will probably have to spend just as much to defend his decision.  Sure is easy to spend other people's money, it seems.  The Republicans also spent millions of dollars over the years in unsuccessful lobbying efforts to open up ANWR.