Note from Rep. Gara: End of Session Inching Closer. Or Not.

Sunday is the official end of session, but there have been tensions between the House Speaker – who gave a speech suggesting a possible extended session – and Senate leaders. Presently, since I have learned over the past nine years that I can’t change any of the minds that will make that decision, I’m walking around those folks in a ducking position and looking right and left a lot to make sure I don’t end up in crossfire.

Except – I did end up in crossfire yesterday, first in a fight over the Governor’s scholarship bill, and then on a last minute move that took increased K-12 education funding out of a bill last night.

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Governor Moves to Weaken Scholarship Bill

JUNEAU- Governor Sean Parnell is calling on the House of Representatives to remove an amendment to his merit scholarship bill that would allow more students to qualify for the scholarships. This week the House Finance Committee passed an amendment by Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage) to give the Alaska Department of Education the discretion to allow the merit scholarship for students who take required courses after graduation or to GED students who otherwise prove high academic achievement.

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Legislature Requests TSA Hearings in Alaska

Air travel, airport procedures of upmost importance to Alaskans

JUNEAU – Today, fifty-nine of sixty members of the Alaska Legislature sent a letter to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs requesting hearings be held in Alaska on the often invasive procedures used by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA).

“Alaskans depend on air travel more than most other Americans,” said Rep. Max Gruenberg (D-Anchorage) who drafted the letter and gathered signatures from his colleagues in the State House. “The committee needs to hear from Alaskans about our unique concerns.”

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Op-Ed: Parnell’s Plan Still Needs Facts

The debate on the Governor’s proposal to roll back the state’s share of oil revenue by nearly $8 billion over the next five years has been political, not factual. It’s time we shared what we’ve learned in committee testimony so people can hear the facts.

There are smart ways to require more investment, and more oil production. If the state is going to offer tax reductions, we should get something in return – more jobs and more needed development. Isn’t that how you’d write a contract if you were going to give away $8 billion?

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House Acts to Protect Public Fishing Stream Access

Today, the Alaska House of Representatives passed HB 144 protecting access to Alaska’s favorite fishing spots. The bill, sponsored by Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage), would require the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to submit an annual report on its efforts to maintain and enhance public access to fishing streams.

“Protecting and enhancing public access to the hunting, fishing and recreational uses along the state’s waterways is of primary importance to many people and a wide variety of user groups,” said Ricky Gease, Executive Director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association. “This legislation ensures that these areas will remain open for the public.”

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