Yesterday Alaska lost a great legislator, and a great family man. He was a friend of mine and of many. Carl Gatto, a fiercely independent Palmer Republican, fought prostate cancer for roughly a decade, and, though spry and active until very recently, passed away after bravely battling a month of rapidly declining health. Carl and I had a running joke. We were both born in New York, and in our first year as legislators, voters, administrators who sent us our hiring packets, and many others got us mixed up. For a year I got blamed for his votes and he got blamed for mine - which we kidded about. I claimed the confusion got him votes because people thought he was me; he claimed it got me votes because it was obvious people thought I was him. He was probably right.See More
We have a number of priorities that have passed, may pass, or are on life support but could pass in the next 14 days. One of our priorities is NOT an extended Special Session that takes us past the voter-approved 90-day session. And when I say “special,” I mean it in the way an irritated woman in a bar calls an annoying drunk guy with unending and bad pickup lines “special.” I think we can get our work done on time, but I’m one of sixty votes. I won’t detail these bills, but this week there will be a constitutional amendment to provide state money to private and religious schools – something I think will detract from needed support for public education, and will vote against.See More
The state’s no longer on the hook to guarantee to cover all financial losses for the private contractor who will build and operate the proposed Knik Arm Bridge. Oh wait. News flash! Yes it will. Two years ago the promoters of the Knik Arm Bridge promised this billion dollar project would be built, paid for, and operated by a private contractor, which would recoup its costs with tolls. Then the Mayor of Anchorage and Governor changed their minds. Now they want state money to subsidize the private contractor. Then, a funny thing happened on my way to work last Friday. Well, it happened at work.See More
Note from Rep. Gara: Taking Your Marbles & Going Home? Tsk Tsk. The Budget & Higher Ed Scholarship Debate
This week we are debating the operating budget. It’s roughly 4% higher than last year, and while I work in a GOP-controlled House, I also believe in trying to find common ground when I can. I don’t believe in the worst we see from Washington, D.C., where many members reflexively oppose measures sponsored by members of the opposite party. If you want knee jerk politics, there are plenty of people nationally you can idolize. Those people – whether on the state level, or in Congress where folks constantly filibuster to prevent votes and debate, and the ability for compromise, get nothing done. And they harm the constituents they take an oath to represent.See More
Note from Rep. Gara: Home Energy Upgrade $; Controversial Bills; Corporate Election $pending News & Um, HELP!!!
I just wanted to give you a quick update on some of the things we are working on in Juneau. And for those of you who missed last week’s constituent meeting held by our and Senator Ellis’ office – but have questions or concerns – please let us know. I’ll give the hard questions to Johnny. Kidding Johnny. Just kidding. There are two controversial bills that I want to share some information on. First, on HJR 16 the House Finance Committee will take public testimony on a proposed constitutional amendment to use state money to pay for private schools.See More
Note from Rep. Gara: Double Standard? Guv Freezes School Funding, but Grants Inflation Increases to Every Other State Agency
While I look for common ground with our Governor - like our efforts to keep pushing to find ways to build a natural gas pipeline (we agree a large diameter line that exports gas, produces low-cost gas, and brings in revenue is smarter than a small in-state line that brings us very high cost natural gas and no revenue) - I do disagree with him on educational policy.See More
Note from Rep. Gara: Attempting a 99 Yard Touchdown Pass- Time to Push a Constitutional Amendment To $top Unlimited Campaign Contribution$ By Corporation$ & Billionaire$
This election season has been dominated by millions of dollars from unregulated “Super-PACS” – funded by billionaires and corporations because, well, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled they can now make unlimited contributions. Well, this might be crazy, but I think ideas – and not massive wealth by those corporations and billionaires who want to drown out your voice – should decide elections. Unfortunately, given a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions, today the wealthiest people in the nation, corporations, and unions can now make unlimited contributions to support or defeat candidates.See More
Note from Rep. Gara: Holiday Laptop Drive a Success, So We’re Extending It Another 364 Days! And Other Volunteer Opportunities.
I hope you’re having a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah and all around good holiday season. And I wanted to let you in on some good holiday news (and one more volunteer opportunity you might like). Here’s what you don’t want to know. I also found out how long it takes to work off a typical Christmas and Holiday dinner, cookie and bowls of pistachio nut diet. That’s what I’d classify as annoying news. So, really, why dwell on it. I’ll just take this one for the team, suffer alone, and keep that information to myself. And... I will be off to the gym after we get this letter out.See More