Dysfunction has defined the 2015 Legislative session that will not die, and yet somehow a Wasilla senator — aided by his Republican colleagues from the Valley and Anchorage — managed to find a new low with his disgraceful attempt to gut the sexual abuse and assault education bill known as Erin’s Law.
On May 19, Senate Education Committee Chair Mike Dunleavy introduced a substitute to House Bill 44, which passed 34-6 on April 18 during the regular session, that reverses the law’s intent by removing the mandatory requirements for school districts to implement the K-12 curriculum designed to prevent sexual abuse and assault.
Further, Dunleavy’s substitute bill would prohibit school districts from contracting for services for education on issues such as sexually transmitted diseases from organizations like Planned Parenthood that also provide abortions.
Dunleavy didn’t pull this off alone, and committee members Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla, and Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, should be ashamed of themselves, too, for helping to spike a bill that passed overwhelmingly in the House across party lines and that had passed the Senate unanimously in 2014.
Self-awareness is often lacking in those who seek to impose their personal values on others, but Dunleavy’s bill is so hypocritical that it deserves its own entry in the dictionary.
Dunleavy clothes himself with the mantle of a champion of local control for school districts to decide whether to even offer the Erin’s Law curriculum and then in the following paragraphs restricts who school districts may work with to develop that and other related curriculum.
By simultaneously requiring a local option while also restricting those options, it makes one wonder whether Dunleavy has the necessary equipment to experience cognitive dissonance.
That isn’t to say Dunleavy isn’t a smart guy. Just look at his Senate bio and he will tell you so himself. He just happens to be driving the Valley Values bus and it has a huge blind spot.
He’s also reportedly considering a challenge to Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the 2016 Republican primary, and there’s no better way to polish his bona fides with the Joe Miller wing of the party than to turn a noncontroversial, bipartisan bill into a battlefield in the culture wars.
Allowing a parental opt-out for their children is a reasonable measure agreed to by the bill’s advocates, but the fact such language wasn’t in the Senate version that passed last year is damning evidence that Dunleavy’s act is nothing more than a political clown show.
In a state with the ignoble distinction of having the highest rates of sexual abuse and assault in the nation, allowing school districts to opt out of Erin’s Law is like giving them the choice whether to offer math and science.
There are clear differences both practical and philosophical between Republicans and Democrats and the governor on the budget and Medicaid expansion. Where there has been very little separation, either in the House this year or the Senate in the last, is the support for Erin’s Law.
The session isn’t over yet, so the race for biggest disgrace isn’t over, but suborning the will of overwhelming majorities to the fringe elements being courted by Dunleavy is easily the current clubhouse leader.
-Alaska Journal of Commerce