An October Update

Seasons are changing! We waved goodbye to the last cruise ship of the season on Wednesday, and temperatures are getting cooler. Luckily, our rain levels are helping out reservoirs.

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February Officially Recognized as Black History Month

It has been a busy week! I was in Sitka for Southeast Conference and then went to Anchorage for the bill signing ceremony of Senate Bill 40, a bill establishing Black History Month in statute. My first bill signing took place at the Martin Luther King memorial. I appreciate this bill establishing every February as Black History month; it is educational and celebrates our diversity. Senator Elvi Gray-Jackson’s words touched me. Here are some of her remarks:

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Override the Vetoes for Our Health and Safety

I was very sorry to see the governor veto programs that keep Alaskans healthy. One of these programs is the Medicaid Adult Preventative Dental, which provides dental benefits to over 30,000 Alaskans. If you or someone you know are eligible and need dental care, I encourage you to seek out care immediately as the program expires September 30.

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Your Advocacy Made A Difference

Fall appears to be upon us in the Capital City, and though we are not in session, I wanted to give you a short update on the the governor’s vetoes of programs and projects in House Bill 2001. HB2001 passed the legislature with a total of 40 (out of 60) votes, showing widespread and bipartisan legislative support.

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Working Together in Difficult Times

Vetoes, Pioneer Homes Rate Increases, and the Loss of A Colleague
On Tuesday, after having taken significant actions last week, the legislature adjourned the second special session of 2019. Just yesterday, with the ball in his court, the governor acted, vetoing nearly $35 million in projects and programs from the capital budget. Along with the Pioneer Home rate increases approved by the administration this week, and the great loss of Senator Birch, it was a week for contemplation and decisions on how to move forward.

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The Work Ahead

This week has been one of a lot of action in the Alaska Legislature — and at the bargaining table — as well as a week of continuing anxiety among thousands of Alaskans.

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Taking Steps Forward

Try as we might to reach a solution, the legislature is still in session wrestling with tough decisions that have huge impacts on Alaska’s economy and finances. In summary, a bi-partisan majority in the House this week restored most of the vetoes and approved payment of a $1,600 PFD.

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Working Towards Compromise

This week the House Finance Committee heard from thousands of Alaskans from across the state and from all walks of life about the governor’s vetoes, the state budget, and the PFD. Many citizens pleaded with the legislature to protect programs and services they care deeply about. Others spoke of the need for further cuts. Various testifiers recommended paying a full PFD or, alternately, reducing the PFD to pay for services. Some said it’s time to talk taxes. Regardless of their perspective, it was an impressive showing of diverse Alaskans speaking out about what matters to them, their family, their business, their community, and their state.

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A Crossroads – Not a Dead End

This has been a week of democracy in action! Hundreds of Alaskans in Juneau and thousands across the state have taken the time to express their despair about the vetoes. I appreciate all who have contacted me through email and phone and been moved by those who have personally participated to urge support for vital public services. My heart goes out to those who will be hurt by these cuts.

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