The Alaska State Capitol with flags at half staff on August 11, 2010, in Juneau, Alaska. (Creative Commons photos via Kimberly Vardeman)
The Alaska State Capitol with flags at half staff on August 11, 2010, in Juneau, Alaska. (Creative Commons photos via Kimberly Vardeman)

The Republican-controlled Alaska House of Representatives last Saturday did their best impersonation ever of the U.S. House, spending all day on legislation that will never make it into law.

It was the same kind of political circus that the nation has endured the past couple of years after a skinny margin of Republicans took control of the U.S. House, beholden to a small group who spend more time on social media than doing their schoolwork. Too bad teachers cannot take away their phones.

Rather than focus on bipartisan legislation that could help the public, the U.S. House majority has put on a big show under the big top of the Capitol dome in hopes of selling a lot of tickets for the next election.

There’s no dome on Alaska’s Capitol, but the circus put on a show anyway Saturday.

With real issues piling up, waiting for the time and attention of members, and while multiple committee meetings were canceled, the state House spent double-digit hours on the floor, debating legislation that would ban transgender girls from participating on girls sports teams in Alaska. Opponents flooded the House with time-consuming amendments, all destined to fail but intended to show the pointlessness of the day.

Regardless of how you feel about the issue, there are several reasons why Saturday’s House session was unproductive — a waste of time at the wrong time.

The state Senate has absolutely, positively made clear that it has no interest whatsoever in considering the legislation. The Senate majority sees it as needlessly divisive at a time when there are more important issues to resolve for the public. Which means that even after the House approved the transgender-ban bill on Sunday, it will die in the Senate.

Sure, passing the bill was an opportunity for the House majority to make a statement, to take a stand against transgender girls in sports, to show their constituents that the conservative social agenda is alive — even if not well — in state government.

But that statement did nothing to help ease the chronic housing shortage that is holding back the Alaska economy or improve schools or reduce the deaths from fentanyl. It was all for show, just like a circus.

And while the House trans-ban performance was underway, nothing else got done. All the bills that need attention languished, such as raising the minimum age for e-cigarettes and vape products, trying to get more nurses in the state, adding mental health to K-12 health curriculum, responding to a looming natural gas shortage in the state’s population centers and many other real-life issues that have nothing to do with gender.

Besides, the state already bans transgender girls from high school girls sports. The Alaska Board of Education did that by regulation last year. The House bill would expand the ban to start in kindergarten and extend through the university level. It would be better if the bill’s supporters devoted their efforts to improving educational opportunities rather than picking winning and losers in sports.

What makes this even more frustrating is that the Legislature faces a constitutional adjournment deadline at midnight Wednesday, May 15. Whatever doesn’t get done by then has to start over next year. The House burned up time it does not have. 

The Legislature could extend itself into a special session to finish the homework it failed to complete on time, but that would require a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and Senate — not very likely.

What is likely is that the House set up transgender girls in sports as an election issue for the fall. I hope voters consider that when choosing the best candidates to govern the state.