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House Leader Responds to End of Session Accusations

Senate’s playing chicken with child sex trafficking and suicide prevention is disgusting, says Johnson in response to Ellis accusations

Monday, April 16, 2012, Juneau, Alaska – Alaska House Rules Chair Craig Johnson reacted with shock and disgust today upon hearing allegations made by Alaska Senate Rules Chair Johnny Ellis that the House made a deal with the Senate on end-of-session bills and that the House broke the mythical deal.

“I am shocked that Senator Ellis would make such a ridiculous claim to try and  save face for the Senate’s failure to pass the governor’s child sex trafficking bill and other critical public safety and military veteran support bills,” Johnson, R-Anchorage, said. “It’s simply not true – we would never trade bills over something like child sex trafficking, suicide prevention – which we passed, and honoring veterans. I’m disgusted. Alaskans should be as well. The Senate chose to do nothing on these bills until the very last minute and then, after their high-stakes game of chicken with the lives of women and children failed, are trying to lay the blame on us. That is despicable.”

Ellis told reporters at the Capitol today that the House adjourned out from underneath the Senate. Ellis said he had agreed to hear a number of bills after the House agreed to hear four Senate bills on the floor. Johnson said that’s not true either. “His office came in contact with ours with about 40 minutes left in session to try and get bills for his peers using the governor’s child sex trafficking bill and other House bills as leverage. That’s unacceptable and disgusting,” Johnson said.

Senator Ellis’ office had earlier tried to hold hostage a House bill on the Statewide Suicide Prevention Council, HB 21 by Rep. Anna Fairclough, as leverage to get SB 137 on suicide awareness and training by Sen. Bettye Davis passed. Johnson said he never agreed to trade the bills, instead calendaring Davis’ bill on his own (the House passed it on April 14) because it was unacceptable to play politics with a bill dealing with an issue as serious as suicide. “It is an epidemic in our state and we calendared the bill because it was important and could help people, not because we wanted some credit or to play politics,” Johnson said. “Ellis’ office communicated with mine that they wanted to ‘trade’ the suicide bills but I refused to engage in that.”

Johnson’s office has as proof recorded messages left by Ellis’ office announcing that they weren’t going to calendar the Fairclough suicide bill on April 13, but “might do it” on a supplemental calendar if Rules Chair Johnson agreed to the trade. He did not. Another recorded message, left the next day following the House passage of Davis’ bill says they will try and get the Fairclough bill on a supplemental calendar on April 14 - after they saw the House pass the Davis bill. “It disgusts me that they had no problem threatening to hold up a bill on suicide,” Johnson said. “Then they try to shift the blame to the House on other issues – it’s unconscionable.

“The reason the child sex trafficking bill is on the special session call is because the Senate failed to pass it. Not us. We overwhelmingly, in fact, unanimously, passed the bill to them with ample time to take it under consideration and they decided instead to use it as a pawn. Alaskans need to know that: the Senate tried to turn these three issues into political pawns instead of passing them on the merits.”

The Senate also failed to pass numerous laws relating to veterans that the House passed, despite Ellis’ claims. The bills include HB 281 to name Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day, HB 282 on military training credit for temporary licensing, HB 345 to waive CDL skills tests for certain veterans, and HB 234 to ban protesting and picketing at funerals. “All of those bills passed the House and were killed by the Senate, despite the House passing a Senate veterans bill on the session’s final day. Actions speak louder than words, Senator Ellis.”

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