February 15, 2017
Fiscal Plan Rollout, Survivor Benefits, Wrongful Convictions
Rep. Kawasaki and the Lathrop basketball team.
Last week was a big week in Juneau: two bills central to the Alaska House Majority Coalition’s fiscal policy platform were introduced, my Pre-Kindergarten bill was heard the first time and I added an amendment to Survivor Benefits legislation to include coverage for families of fallen correctional officers, probation officers and others that were originally included in last year’s bill I supported. Read on for details.
Moving Forward on Pre-K: Public Testimony Opportunity
The first hearing for the universal Pre-Kindergarten bill, HB 52, in the House Education Committee was a success! Rep. Zach Fansler and I are both excited to push for more opportunities and better futures for Alaska’s children. The bill will be heard again later this month and it will be open to public testimony. We will send out more information on how to testify when the hearing date is scheduled, but in the meantime you can send letters of support directly to me.
Survivor Benefits Extended to Correctional Officers
After a similar bill was introduced last year and another passed unanimously in the House, HB 23 was introduced this year to provide families of fallen police officers and firefighters with medical coverage. I thought it was incomplete as last year’s sponsors originally included correctional officers and probation officers, so I introduced Amendment 10, which was adopted into the latest version of the bill that is expected to pass out of House Finance Committee next week.
Spouses and children should not have to bear any further financial hardship in the event they lose a loved one in the line of fire. While we hope the Peace Officers and Firefighters Survivors’ Fund will not have to be used, families of public servants who protect our community should know we have their back in the event of tragedy.
Left to Right: Rep. Grenn, Majority Leader Tuck, Speaker Edgmon and Rep. Kawasaki during a House Majority Coalition press conference.
Alaska House Majority Coalition Introduces Fiscal Plan
Majority members of the House Resources Committee and the House Finance Committee each introduced two central components of a comprehensive fiscal package: HB 111 and HB 115.
HB 111 scales back subsidies to oil companies that have cost the state $8 billion in the last 10 years. During a time of fiscal crisis, we should not have to cut education and public safety before we consider finding a way to stabilize our oil tax regime. It is important to have a competitive oil and gas industry in the state, but this financial burden is simply unsustainable. Read the press release here for more information. The House Resources Committee will review this bill in the week ahead.
HB 115, the State Revenue Restructuring Act, combines revenue from the Permanent Fund earnings and a progressive income tax to create a stable and balanced revenue stream for the state. It also ensures the Permanent Fund Dividend is a more stable, reliable source of income for residents and provides the option to apply the PFD to state tax liability. While the House Finance Committee continues to find smart spending cuts without eliminating core services, the coalition stands by finding stable revenue sources that are fair to all Alaskans. Read the press release here for more information.
The House Finance Committee will review this bill throughout this week and hear public testimony on Friday, February 17, at 1:30pm. You can submit public testimony to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wrongful Convictions Compensation Legislation Reintroduced
I also introduced HB 118, which would provide compensation for Alaskans wrongfully convicted and imprisoned. Our judicial system is meant to incarcerate the guilty and protect the innocent. If the system fails, then the state is responsible for helping innocent Alaskans back on their feet.
Specifically, HB 118 creates a process where victims of overturned criminal convictions can request compensation from the state for time served. While there is no price on the emotional and personal suffering of those who were wrongfully imprisoned, HB 118 would bring Alaska up to the federal compensation standard to help right the state’s wrong.
As always, I am available for you anytime. Remember to follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagramthroughout session and beyond.
Working Hard for Fairbanks Families,
Representative Scott Kawasaki
Alaska State Representative
City of Fairbanks
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