–President Trump assumed office Friday, Jan 20th, and set about fulfilling many of his campaign pledges made during 2016.
-One of Trump’s first orders of business was issuing an executive order calling for federal officials to find ways to cease funding or implementing the Affordable Care Act. The order was vague, issued across the entire government. It has worried many governors in states that took the Medicaid Expansion, including Alaska. Alaska Governor Bill Walker wrote a letter urging caution to members of Congress, noting that the Expansion helped nearly 30k Alaskans gain access to healthcare.
–Congress has yet to draft a replacement law as it seeks to repeal the ACA through a legislative technique that allows it to escape Democratic votes. Their stated aim is to pass a replacement law by April. There are several competing plans at the moment.
-The day after Trump was nominated, The Women’s March took place in dozens of US cities and saw over 2 million people march worldwide. They walked in defense of women’s rights, with nearly 500,000 marching in Washington, DC. Organizers proudly pointed out they had likely beaten Trump’s inaugural address in terms of crowd size. This became a sore point of contention with Trump and his administration.
–President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) placing a ban on hiring in federal agencies, and froze spending in agencies such as the EPA. In many cases this created confusion as it was unclear which agencies were exempt and which ones were not. Economists have frequently argued that this doesn’t save money, often increasing reliance on contractors.
–Trump promised to look into voter fraud, a claim that he has said robbed him of over 3 million votes. It’s a claim he made without evidence so far, and which experts have said is a very rare crime. Numerous members of Trump’s administration, including his chief of staff and multiple family members were later found to be registered to vote in multiple states. Late Thursday, it appeared Republicans were prepared to launch a nationwide investigation.
-After the Women’s March on Washington, President Trump has focused on the size of the Inaugural crowd on the national mall during his speech as matter of great personal importance, focusing on it in several interviews and phone calls, even talking about it in a speech to the CIA. He apparently ordered the head of the Parks Service to provide his administration with photos of the address to prove that it was a large crowd. It was not as big as Obama’s.
-President Trump has set about installing his landing teams in different agencies, with widely differing results as they issued blanket communications bans. As they took the reins of federal agencies, the bans were put in place as the landing teams sought to implement Trump administration policy views with the goals of the agencies. This was especially contentious with the EPA and Department of the Interior. Trump has previously said that climate change was a hoax created by the Chinese, and has voiced support for privatizing public lands.
-President Trump also signed an EO reinstating the so-called Mexico City Policy, forbidding US Aid dollars to go to aid agencies that discussed or mentioned abortion.
-President Trump issued an EO formally withdrawing the US from the TPP, prompting US allies who had participated in the talks to discuss inviting China into the partnership.
-On Thursday, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto abruptly cancelled a trip to Washington after an escalating war of words with Trump on Twitter. Trump issued an executive order mandating the construction of a wall between Mexico and the US, increasing the border patrol and immigration agents, and vowing repeatedly that he would make Mexico pay for it. Mexican officials have repeatedly refused to fund the wall. Nieto cancelled the trip after Trump suggested he do so if he would not pay for the wall.
-Thursday also saw Trump’s Press Secretary Sean Spicer briefly argue that a 20 percent border tax on Mexican goods would be used to pay for the wall. They later walked that back, saying it was only an option. Most experts pointed out that such a tax would be paid by US consumers long before it balanced a trade deficit.
-The 30th Alaska State Legislature is into its second week, with Governor Walker issuing his State of the State address. Governor Walker reinforced his message that the state cannot afford to continue on its legislative path without drastic fiscal reform. While he has continued cuts in the budget, he also calls for revenue sources and repurposing portions of the Permanent Fund to help fund state government.
-Walker’s budget director underscored the fiscal direness of the situation, saying that “I Don’t Believe Crisis Is Too Strong of a Word.”
–Southcentral Foundation launched a lawsuit over the practices of Alaska Native Tribale Health Consortium’s Board, which it alleged hid actions such as increasing the salaries for board members and executives. ANTHC argues that it was bringing salaries in line with the private sector, versus Indian Health Service salaries.
–Alaskan researchers held a summit where they openly joked about the new Presidential administration’s opinions on science, which broadly seems to disbelieve in climate change. Many Alaskan researchers are dependent on federal dollars for their work, much of which seeks to understand how climate change affects the state and its economies and ecology.
–Tanana Chiefs Conference won a $500k grant from the State Department of Health and Social Services for a 12 bed sobering center in Fairbanks. The city was one of three recipients of $6 million in grant funding to get the centers established. The grant comes with funding through 2019.
-An initiative to create a transgender bathroom bill and broad exemptions for religious groups in Anchorage failed to go on the ballot after city attorneys argued that the disparate elements in the petition had no unifying legal theory.
-Senator Lisa Murkowski has seen her office lines ringing off the hook from calls over the ACA Repeal, women’s rights and the hearings of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
-A judge on Thursday threw out an attempt to write in a spending cap in Anchorage city law, arguing that the initiative would wrest control from the Assembly. That means the initiative will not appear on the April municipal ballot.
–Chugach Alaska Native Corporation signed a multimillion dollar deal to preserve 115,00 acres of its forested land as part of California’s state operated carbon offset program. The program allows polluters to trade in carbon credits on the state’s exchange.