Demboski calls for Coghill to lose Senate chair over hearing
A member of the Anchorage Assembly is calling for state Sen. John Coghill's removal as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, after a weekend hearing on high-profile bills which he suddenly gaveled out Saturday.
Amy Demboski, an Eagle River conservative who ran against Ethan Berkowitz for mayor in 2015, took aim at Coghill -- a fellow Republican -- on Facebook over his refusal to hear three controversial measures in his committee.
Demboski referred to Coghill's move as "complete and utter tyranny."
A measure to constitutionally protect the Permanent Fund dividend, a move to rename measures against teen dating violence "Bree's Law" after slain Anchorage woman Breanna Moore and a bill to repeal troubled Alaska crime bill SB 91 were all supposed to be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee Saturday.
Panel members banded together earlier this week to invoke a rare rule that forced Coghill to hear the bills -- but members didn't get past the first of the three measures Saturday.
Coghill abruptly called the hearing to an end after Sen. Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) tried to force a vote on his PFD bill, Senate Joint Resolution 1.
"Since the first hearing was violated, I said, 'Okay, let's stop, we've got to figure out where we're going to go from here,'" Coghill said of his decision to gavel out sooner than scheduled.
Demboski claims Coghill is wrongfully blocking all three measures, which she says have strong public support.
"Alaskans are waking up to what's going on, and it is time to clean house," Demboski said in a Facebook video Saturday afternoon. "So, I expect Senate leadership to do exactly that, lead. It is time to remove Coghill as chair of Senate Judiciary."
In a phone interview Saturday, Coghill said he was within his authority as chair to prevent the measures from moving forward.
"Almost every chairman in the House and the Senate have done similar things, and my disagreement with those different bills are for three very different reasons -- but it's the same things that chairmen have been able to do for a good, long while," Coghill said. "This was a particular case where I had committee members that felt very differently and so we dealt with it, probably, in a very awkward way."
Coghill says he's still considering whether to hear any or all of the measures when the Judiciary Committee gavels in again.
"I fulfilled the agreement that they used, the rule to get the hearing on, I fulfilled that, and it's under discussion how we'll deal with the criminal justice issue," Coghill said.
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