District P Sen. Gary Stevens of Kodiak phoned in to KBBI Thursday afternoon with a report from the state capital. It turns out Coronavirus is foremost on the minds of the Legislature. Stevens' call came just a couple of hours before the governor announced the first case of Coronavirus in Alaska, an international air traveler who self-reported in Anchorage.
Jay Barrett: The first thing I want to ask you is that I saw that the legislature might be thinking about getting out of there early, which I find incredibly optimistic. What's the status on that?
Sen. Gary Stevens: Well, we're trying to figure it out, you know, we just don't know. You know, nobody has, has been tested to have the corona virus in the state of Alaska. But you know, everything we hear from all the experts is that it's just a matter of time that it's inevitable. And so we're very concerned about that, because we have some things we have to do. And we can't afford to lose members to illness or whatever. Because sometimes we need a three-quarter vote. So surely what we have to do is to pass the budget. That's a constitutional requirement to pass the operating budget. So we're trying to figure that out. We did pass the mental health budget yesterday and that included the coronavirus funding. Four-million dollars from the state $9 million from the Fed. So, so we didn't do that yesterday. So we were pretty fast when we have to. The second thing that is really crucial is we have to confirm the Governor's appointments or not confirm them, commissioners and also the various commissions. If we don't confirm or deny those, then everyone who's on that list drops off and cannot be reappointed by the governor. So there's some very good people on that list. We want to make sure that we take care of that before we leave.
Barrett: Yeah, what are the odds you folks will get out early, much less, you know, in 90 days or 120 days?
Stevens: Well, I can tell you if there is a coronavirus, breakout in Alaska, we will adjourn because we can't just can't take the chance on it hitting the legislature not having the votes to operate. You know, what they're saying is you need to put yourself in in stay at home for a couple of weeks. If you have any symptoms. Well, that would make it very, very difficult for us to do our job.
Barrett: So the legislature has no provisions for absentee voting or teleconferencing into a meeting, I guess?
Stevens: Well, we can teleconference to a meeting, a committee meeting and so that is entirely possible change our rules a little bit. He changed the rules, so you can actually vote, from a distance on a on a on a telephone call. But constitutionally, it'd be very, very difficult for us to change the rules to allow us to vote on the floor. You know, when when we're on the floor. When we're in the House or the Senate. It's virtually impossible for us to allow anyone to vote who's not there. That's just one of the basis of parliamentary government, type of government that we have, that it's essential that we can actually be there and participate. Otherwise, how do you know the right person is voting how they know the person isn't so ill that they're not really making sense. And so you know, it is crucial. I don't see any way around that.
Barrett: You know, it struck me how quickly and definitively you answer that question that if it shows up there, you are going to adjourn. And it struck me as well, that they're taking this very seriously. What's the mood, like in the Capitol right now?
Stevens: Well, you know, we want to make sure that people don't get fearful or people don't get, you know, going to deep edge here. You know, but there is concern, you know, you know, folks have families back at home, you want to be with your family, if this gets worse and worse tonight. You know, this is a funny thing, Jay, this could be all over tomorrow. You know, we see actually in China, there seems to be a decline in cases but no one knows the truth of this coronavirus. I mean, could it flare itself up again could go on. And, you know, we're hearing that the President said by spraying when things warm up it'll disappear. While the experts aren't really saying that they don't really know, so it could continue, they might not continue. But I don't mean to make people hysteric about this. That's not what we want to do. We're trying to figure out a very calm and very definitive way of doing things. Should it get worse in Alaska.
Barrett: Well, Gary Stevens, Senator from District P, thank you so much for joining us today on KBBI.
Stevens: Hey, great, thanks so much, Jay. Good talking to you. Welcome back.