April 20, 2018
Day 95: Why Are We Still Here?
Rep. Kawasaki, third from left in front row, organizes with all legislators and staff for 30th Legislature photo
As the legislature worked past the voter-approved Day 90 session deadline for the fourth year in a row, legislative leaders continue to negotiate. I will continue to work hard and get the job done, but it has been frustrating for me because deadlines are important. Here are the main pieces still remaining:
- State Operating Budget: the Conference Committee met this week to agree on several differences between the House and Senate budgets. The Conference Committee will continue to work each day to hammer out deals on the state budget, from health care to public safety, until the full budget is funded and agreed upon on both sides.
- Capital Budget: The Senate has not yet passed the capital budget to the House for consideration. As introduced, the capital budget would leverage $1.1 billion in federal dollars for construction projects on roads, rails and runways.
- Public safety legislation: members are working to include language to tighten pretrial release procedures and give more discretion to judges in order to address increasing crime rates and SB91, the omnibus crime bill.
- Education Budget: The House and Senate agreed to fund education first in HB 287 earlier this week. It represents flat funding for several years, but it is a start and ensures Fairbanks understands how much state support will come from Juneau.
In addition to the budget, leadership and the Governor continue to push for changes to the Permanent Fund to pay for government. As I have said before, Alaska deserves a comprehensive fiscal plan and reducing the PFD is the most regressive way to pay for services. Seniors, rural Alaskans, children and those in poverty have already been most adversely impacted by cuts to the PFD. A new study shows how the PFD has been able to lift tens of thousands of Alaskans out of poverty each year.
Committees are expected to shut down so members can focus only on the big pieces of essential public services. The feeling in the Capitol optimistic about coming to an agreement to get out of town and move forward so we can all go home well before the constitutional session deadline.
Update: My Bills on the Move
On Saturday, the Senate unanimously passed HB 236, my bill to extend the Senior Benefits Payment Program another 6 years. Big thanks go to all the senior advocacy organizations, family members and seniors across the state for their voice in protecting this important program that helps low-income seniors make ends meet after spending a lifetime building Alaska. I am working with the Governor for a good time, date and place to sign the bill into law in the weeks ahead.
Last Friday, the House unanimously passed my bill HB 262, which would help military spouses use their occupational licenses from another state here in Alaska. It is my hope that spouses of servicemembers can integrate in our communities as they transfer their career to Alaska and contribute to our local economy.
Also last week, during Work Zone Safety Awareness Week, the House Rules Committee helped save the legislature some time by including my bill HB 204 in another related bill (SB 163). HB 204 was inspired by a constituent call last year. It requires drivers to vacate the closest lane or slow down upon approach of a construction maintenance vehicle that is doing road work. This will help make our highways a safer place for both workers and drivers.
Click here for a full list of bills I sponsored and cosponsored this legislature. Please contact my office if you have any questions about the status of any legislation or budget priorities of interest to you and my staff and I are happy to help.
Be safe out there during breakup season! Also make note of upcoming construction projects in Fairbanks—click here for more information.
Working Hard for Fairbanks Families,
Representative Scott Kawasaki
Alaska State Representative
City of Fairbanks
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