MAY 18, 2017
Representing District 17:
Midtown, University, and East Anchorage
I Answer to You!
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1500 W. Benson Blvd #229
Anchorage, AK 99503
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Friends and Neighbors,
Thank you for your support and your participation during this historic 2017 legislative session. A lot of important decisions were made on behalf of our state. Some of these decisions I can take pride in because I cast a vote, or helped push the bill that I knew would have a positive impact for my constituents – and all Alaskans. Yet, there are other decisions where I feel that the legislature did not make the right call. I feel that we could have done more for workers, for our environment, and for minorities. Yesterday marked the end of the constitutional legislative session, and today the governor calls us into a special session.
Conference Committees have met within the last 10 days to start hammering out compromises on our budget and on each body’s plan to fund government from the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve. Unfortunately, the Senate voted down the income tax last week, which will make it more difficult for the conference committees to reach a compromise that funds education, public safety, senior care, snow plowing, and many other essential state services.
Listening to students perform during a rally to support education funding on the Capitol steps right outside my office. In front of me from left to right are Rep. Gara (D-Anchorage), Rep. Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks), and Sen. Gardner (D-Anchorage).
HB 111 – Oil-and-gas tax
On Monday, the Senate passed their version of HB 111, a bill born in the House Resources Committee, which I co-chair with Rep. Tarr. The Senate’s version is, frankly, no improvement on our current tax code, and it still leaves us with one of the most generous oil-and-gas tax credit systems in the world. Following Rep. Tarr’s and my advice, the House voted Tuesday not to concur with the Senate’s changes.
HB 105 – Denali Wolf Closure
My bill to prohibit wolf hunting and trapping in two areas adjacent to Denali National Park & Preserve passed out of the House yesterday. For many years, Denali National Park had been known as one of the best places in the world to view wild wolves—and this pumped money into Alaska’s economy. In 2013, Denali hosted 530,921 visitors who contributed more than $513 million to our economy. But by 2014, less than 6% of park visitors were able to see wolves, a decrease from 45% in 2010. Wolf populations in the Denali National Park and Preserve have declined from 116 in spring 2006 to 50 in spring 2014.
Tuesday in joint session, the legislature failed to confirm one person, Rev. Drew Phoenix, for the Human Rights Commission. He is a transgender man with a history of advocating for LGBTQ rights and is highly educated, with three Masters Degrees. I felt that he was very well qualified, but out of 59 legislators on the floor only 23 joined me in voting to confirm him. Those who spoke against confirming Mr. Phoenix could not speak, concretely, to any reason to vote “no”. There was a lot of stammering going on and it was most unfortunate to witness.
Speaking on the floor last week, during one of the many tough votes we’ve had to make over the last couple of weeks.
The confirmation vote for former Senator Hollis French to the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC) was equally contentious. I’ve known Commissioner French for a long time. He’s a smart person with decades of experience in oil and gas. Senators and Representatives for and against him agreed on his dogged workstyle: investigating, searching for the truth, and learning for himself. Some of my colleagues admired this about him, while his opponents suggested that this was not an appropriate quality for a Commissioner of the AOGCC. In the end he won confirmation by a vote of 35-24. I was proud to cast my vote to confirm.
I look forward to receiving your thoughts on any issues, as it is you, my constituents, that guide every step I take toward a better Alaska.
Thank you and have a great weekend.
I Answer to You!
Representative Andy Josephson
1500 W. Benson Blvd., Suite 229