Given that all three of those issues are primed to goose key progressive base turnout (lower-income workers, environmentalists and young voters, respectively), it was shocking to see them on November's ballot. With freshman Democratic Sen. Mark Begich locked in a neck-and-neck battle for reelection, Republicans should've done everything in their power to hold those initiatives in August, leaving Begich to fend for himself in the general. So what the heck happened? I reached out to an in-the-know Alaska source for more info, and I got a bucketful of great intel, all below the fold.
First of all, the "process" part of why the initiatives were moved to November:
Because the state moved up the primary elation by a week, and the regular session extended beyond the 90th day (law says 90 days, constitution says 120, so they can "extend" without having to adjourn), the initiatives were effectively moved to the Fall ballot.Had Republicans taken care of business in the 90 days, these initiatives would be decided during the primary. They didn't.
This is definitely good news for Mark, as all three initiatives lead in the pols (Pebble by 70+, Min Wage 60+, and Pot at 55 - we say "Pot, Pebble and Pay" here). The caveat is that the Legislature has the ability to pass "substantially similar" legislation and get initiatives off the ballot. The only one of these three that is possible in that scenario is Minimum Wage, where a Republican led effort to pass a Min Wage bill (opposed by Labor and Ds) passed the State House and currently sits in Rules where a labor-sympathetic Republican Senator has sat on it under tremendous pressure to release it so as to eliminate the Min Wage initiative which is viewed as the most likely to correlate with potential D votes.Here's where things get interesting. Why didn't the legislature finish its business in its allotted 90 days? Two factors. The first is Big Oil, which is in an all-out fight against SB 21, a ballot initiative already on the primary-day ballot that would eliminate a huge tax break for the oil extraction industry.
The same big oil that has raised over $7 million to defeat the "repeal SB 21" initiative wants absolutely no risk that the repeal will succeed. The [pot, pebble and pay] initiatives posed risk. It is not likely that it would have (those favoring repeal have raised about $50K and Labor is split on the issue and, as money has been spent, the initial lead that repeal had has evaporated).The second is plucky minority Democrats in the state legislature, aided by those Republicans doing the bidding of Big Oil.
The House and Senate majorities are quite fractured, the minorities are not and are very ably led. They honestly kept debate going and slowed the works down (aka Wendy Davis) and took advantage of a desire of some Majority Members desire to do whatever they can for oil.Put another way, it really came down to Big Oil tax cuts versus retaking the Alaska Senate seat. Given the choice, there were enough Alaska Republicans who preferred keeping their oil industry patrons happy to taking out Begich. As my source said: "Crazy that oil can still get politicians to vote against their own electoral survival, but they can."
If the deal on the table is the Alaska Senate seat in exchange for continued tax cuts for Big Oil ... well, that's a bipartisan deal I'm willing to take.