January 30, 2020
Dear friends + neighbors,
The pace of session is beginning to pick up. Between finance subcommittee meetings, standing policy committees and legislative fly-ins, the halls of the Capitol are starting to buzz. I am proud to offer an update on our work this week. 
Quyana,
State of the State
On Monday, the Governor gave his annual State of the State to a joint session of the Legislature. Although I am encouraged to hear his position on meaningfully funding essential state services has evolved since last year, I am disappointed he did not offer any tangible solutions to the $1.5 billion deficit within the budget he proposed to the Legislature.
I was heartened to hear his commitment to working with Alaska’s teachers and school administrators to better understand the challenges around educator recruitment and retention. Unfortunately, he missed an opportunity to share with lawmakers and Alaskans how his administration will work to improve the lives and health of Alaskans that also drives one of the largest sectors of the state budget, Health and Social Services.
I hope to see him honor his commitment to increasing meaningful engagement and consultation with tribal leaders, community leaders, organizations and residents across Alaska to implement funding that aims to improve health, education and safety outcomes for all Alaskans equitably. 
Budget Subcommittee Updates
Health & Social Services
Budget subcommittee work continues during our standing Health & Social Services committee time. We heard budget updates from Commissioner Adam Crum and his staff on the Medicaid program, Pioneer Homes, and an overview of the Department. 
The Governor’s FY20 DHSS budget included ambitious goals to reduce spending through various methods such as cutting much-needed programs and services, unanticipated provider rate reductions and implementing administrative efficiencies. As the fiscal year has progressed, it has become clear that the Department will not be able to meet most of these cost saving measures. They have been proven to be unattainable for a variety of reasons including program regulations in place to protect Alaskans, lawsuits, etc. I was pleased that the Department recognized the areas in which it fell short, and the Commissioner stated his commitment to change course to reinstate funding in many areas for both FY20 and FY21. 
So far the discussions have not addressed the larger economic impacts Alaska would face were we to fully implement broad cuts to Medicaid. Alaska would stand to lose a significant amount of Federal funding. As we heard in the 2019 session, Medicaid expansion and bipartisan Medicaid reforms has been an overwhelming success in Alaska. Approximately 50,000 more Alaskans now have affordable health care, while state Medicaid spending has remained essentially flat since 2012. 
Medicaid Expansion Spending & Enrollment 2012-2018
Education
The Education Finance Subcommittee heard an overview by the Department of Education & Early Development, as well as a presentation from the Division of Libraries, Archives, & Museums. During the hearing reviewing the state’s public library funding, there was a lengthy discussion about the importance of the Online With Libraries (OWL) program, which faces nearly a 50% cut in the governor’s FY21 budget. This cut disproportionately impacts rural Alaska, particularly remote villages on the North Slope. This Wednesday, a joint session of the House and Senate Education committees met for an update from University of Alaska President Jim Johnson. He touched on the challenge of balancing the university’s mission against the steel and unprecedented legislative cuts last session. 
Village Public Safety Officer (VPSO) Funding
 
This year, one of my top budget priorities is to ensure the VPSO program is adequately funded, including restoring the $3 million in program funding vetoed by the Governor last year. As the Legislature prioritizes public safety across the state, we must also meet our obligations to protect Alaskans living across the state and ensure they have the resources they need to protect the families in their communities. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and the Senate to protect this vital program. You can read letters to the editor I wrote on this issue here and here.
Other Legislative Items
Tribal Compacting
 
Over the interim, there was a lot of discussion about expanding state compacting relationships with tribes, particularly in the area of education. Tribal compacting, similar to the state’s partnerships with local government, acknowledges the sovereignty of tribes while including local knowledge experts in the design and delivery of critical programs. Tribal leaders know their communities better than any bureaucrat or politician hundreds of miles away. It is important to remember that while compacting is not a “cost savings” measure, it often has been shown both to improve outcomes while maximizing federal resources tribes receive. State resources must be made available to make any tribal-state compact successful. 
2020 Census
This month, on the same day as our first Legislative day, the 2020 Census kicked off nationally in our District 38 village of Toksook Bay! Along with voting, the Census is one of our most important civic duties as Americans and as Alaskans. Accurate census data determines voting districts, as well as the amount of federal money made available to our communities for health, housing, transportation and other services. Be counted! 
Last year, the Special Committee on Tribal Affairs passed HJR 19; urging the United States Congress to fully fund the U.S. Census Bureau for the 2020 Census. You can read the full resolution HERE. Recordings of the Tribal Affairs committee meetings related to the 2020 Census can be found here and here
REAL ID
Another issue that I’m following closely is the implementation of REAL ID. All Alaskans must obtain a REAL ID-compliant identification by October 1, 2020, in order to travel on commercial airlines (like Alaska Airlines) and visit federal facilities (like military bases). Along with many of my colleagues from rural districts, I’m concerned about the lack of Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) accessibility in our district. I look forward to working with the Administration, as well as my colleagues in the legislature, to ensure rural Alaskans receive adequate and equitable access to this basic state service.
Info graphic courtesy of YKHC
In Case You Missed It
I had the opportunity to speak with KYUK this week about the budget, tribal compacting, and my work as Chair of both the Health and Social Services Committee and the Special Committee on Tribal Affairs. You can listen to the full interview HERE! 
Visit Us in Juneau!
If you will be in Juneau, please come visit me at the Capitol! Contact my office to schedule a time to stop in tosay hello. Also, if you are visiting on a day we have floor session, I would be thrilled to introduce you on the House Floor!
Legislative Citations
I would love to hear from you if you have a suggestion for a legislative citation of importance to District 38!
What is a citation? It is an official document expressing commendation, condolences, appreciation or congratulations to an individual or group.
There are two types of citations:
"Honorarium" recognizes a person, organization, or special occasion.
"In Memorium" honors someone who has recently passed away.
Please feel free to call or e-mail my office if you have any questions.
Katy Giorgio
Health & Social Services
Committee Aide
907-465-5141
Julia Buschmann
Scheduling
Education Committee Staff
907-465-4942
Logan Basner
Tribal Affairs
Committee Aide
907-465-6576
´╗┐Angela Jenkins
Energy Committee Staff
907-465-5008