Dear Friends and Neighbors:
Today marks day 39 of session and the close-out of our budget subcommittees. I chair the University of Alaska, Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development (DCCED), and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) House Finance Subcommittees.
During last year’s budget subcommittee process, I put intent language in DCCED’s budget directing the Regulatory Commission of Alaska to provide the Legislature with a report on Alaska’s current and future broadband coverage. I know that many of you have been frustrated by the lack of connectivity in our district and the first step to addressing this problem in Fairbanks and around the state is to understand where the problems are.
The RCA report identifies the challenges in the state. This year, I’m introducing language that refines our mapping efforts and modernizes outdated telecommunications regulatory standards. Increasing broadband access is so important to Alaska’s future and I will continue to work hard and ensure that Alaskans have the same tools the rest of the modern world has.
In the University of Alaska Subcommittee, we added $19 million to the Governor’s budget request. The University has taken over $50 million in cuts over the last four years as a result, programs and faculty have been lost. The University of Alaska Fairbanks leads the world in Arctic Research, this is only one of many things that makes the University great. I don’t want to see the University lose that top spot due to budget cuts.
Public testimony for the budget will begin next week on:
PHONE CALL: Testimony is limited to two minutes.
Arrive at the Fairbanks Legislative Information Office 15 minutes before the end of the allotted time period for testimony. Please sign in at the LIO no later than 4:15 pm.
LIO Address: 1292 Saddler Way, Fairbanks, AK
If you do not have access, call the Fairbanks LIO at 907-452-4448 to join the live teleconference on Saturday. You can also call the Juneau LIO ahead of time at 907-465-4648 to get the number to phone in
on Saturday. Hang up immediately after testifying to keep lines open.
In the interest of time, if you are a member of a group with the same message please select a spokesperson to testify for the entire group.
WRITE: E-mail your written testimony to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
HB 240: Pharmacy Benefit Managers:
Healthcare is another one of my top priorities and I am currently carrying a bill that addresses high pharmaceutical costs. HB240 is a bill that establishes fair audit criteria for pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs) who audit Alaskan pharmacies. PBMs are middlemen in the drug supply chain. They were created to manage pharmacy benefits for insurance plans and use economy of scale to get the best possible pricing in negotiations with pharmaceutical manufacturers. Since their beginnings in the 1970s, they have grown into a multibillion dollar industry where a handful of major players control over 65% of the market.
One of the major functions of PBMs is to audit pharmacies to prevent waste, fraud and abuse. While these audits are an important part of controlling costs in our medical system, pharmacists from all over the state have told me that audits are being conducted in a way that jeopardizes their businesses. Many independent pharmacies have been hurt and if we don’t establish clear rules that help everyone know what to expect, many more will. The bill was passed out of House Labor & Commerce and is now in House Finance. I’m hopeful we will be able to pass this legislation that will help Alaskans and small businesses thrive.
Ester, Goldstream 1 & 2, Steese East/Gilmore, Steese West, and University Hills