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A wealthy Alaskan businessman is campaigning against a statewide income tax, a policy that may take its heaviest cuts from the state’s top earners. Bob Gillam has personally paid for print and radio ads supporting the adoption of budget cuts and lower oil taxes instead of income taxes. “Every state,” claims one radio spot, “that introduced an income tax since 1960, has experienced economic decline.” Gillam founded the investment firm Mckinley Capital in 1990, which now oversees more than $7 billion in assets, according to Forbes Magazine. The same publication lists Gillam as the wealthiest person in Alaska, with a net worth of $320 million. Gillam’s opposition appears to be motivated more by ideology than self-interest. At an Anchorage inaugural gala for President Donald Trump, he reportedly said in a speech that if Alaska implemented an income tax, he would simply “move his income to another state” — in other words, a tax shelter.
A newly elected state legislator wants to make it easier for the public to know when lawmakers have a conflict of interest. Anchorage independent Rep. Jason Grenn co-sponsored House Bill 44 and House Concurrent Resolution 1, which had their first hearings Friday in the House Judiciary Committee. The measures would lower the threshold to declare a potential conflict, and require a public majority vote by the House or Senate before the conflicted lawmakers could vote. Under the current system, abstention requires a unanimous decision. If one lawmaker objects, the representative in question is allowed to vote. The identity of the lawmaker that objects is usually not recorded. Grenn says he intended the legislation to boost the public’s trust in the Legislature.
The Russian parliament or Duma voted to decriminalize domestic violence against family members unless it is a repeat offense or causes serious medical damage, the latest development in Russia’s swift turn towards traditionalism. Activists believe that decriminalization legitimizes abuse, but a powerful segment of Russian society is pleased. Since the beginning of President Vladimir Putin’s third term, the state has enforced and loosened laws to support the values of the Russian Orthodox Church. According to the church, Russian tradition and scripture see “the reasonable and loving use of physical punishment as an essential part of the rights given to parents by God himself.” Public discussion of the issue dates back to last year when the government decriminalized battery, the least violent form of assault in Russian law. The Duma decided to exempt domestic abuse, angering the church. Since Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000, the church has become increasingly aligned with the government, to the point where critics have accused it of becoming a branch of the government itself, or an “official state religion.” Still, the public’s opposition is not entirely religious. Many distrust the ability of Russia’s corrupt police force to enforce laws justly, remembering a time when the Soviet government intruded into the home and families had virtually no privacy. Many women have protested the resolution, and awareness of violence against women has grown, but domestic abuse remains an issue deeply rooted in the culture. An oft-repeated Russian proverb from the 16th century says: “If he beats you, it means he loves you.”