Representative DAN ORTIZ Alaska State Legislature Mon, 09 Jul 2018 23:36:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Rep Dan Ortiz: Session Successes Wed, 27 Jun 2018 17:45:00 +0000
Southeast Lawmakers Welcome Fisheries Disaster Relief Funds Sat, 23 Jun 2018 00:06:33 +0000

Southeast Communities Will Receive Share of $56 million in Relief


Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Sitka) and Representative Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan) welcome news that Alaska, including
Southeast, will receive $56 million in federal fisheries disaster relief funds.

The 2016 pink salmon fishery’s devastatingly low revenues were felt throughout the state, but the initial request for
disaster relief funds was limited to Prince William Sound, Kodiak, Lower Cook Inlet, and Chignik. Rep. Kreiss-Tomkins and Rep. Ortiz, parallel to the work of Senator Bert Stedman (R-Sitka), successfully advocated for the inclusion of Southeast communities
in the governor’s disaster relief request through their letter of October 21, 2016. (Attached for reference.)

"The investment from the federal disaster relief funds will help the fishing industry which is so vital to Southeast economies
and communities, especially given the sobering run forecasts this year,” said Rep. Kreiss-Tomkins. “All this came about because fishermen contacted their legislators. We turned around and did our honest best to represent their interests and, fortunately, ensure
that Southeast Alaska was included with the rest of Alaska and got its fair share.”

“We heard from fisherman here in Southeast who saw a more than 50% drop in revenue,” said Rep. Ortiz. “I’m glad to see
that all of the communities affected by the 2016 pink salmon fishery disaster will be receiving compensation.”

Alaska Lawmakers Oppose Any Federal Policy Separating Children from Parents at the Southern Border Thu, 21 Jun 2018 00:04:05 +0000

21 Alaska State Senators and Representatives Send a Letter to President Trump 

Anchorage – Today, 21 members of the Alaska State Legislature sent a letter to President Donald Trump thanking him for responding to the wishes of the American people by pledging to end the practice of separating children from families that illegally cross the southern border of the United States. The President has confirmed that he will use his executive order authority to stop the practice, which his administration implemented earlier this year. The lead author of the letter is long-time State Representative David Guttenberg (D-Fairbanks) who notes that the policy was an inappropriate and ineffective use of government resources and taxpayer dollars.

“Many of the families arriving at the southern border are fleeing life-threatening circumstances and persecution in their home country. They came to America searching for relief and asylum and instead they have been greeted with callous separation from their children. What we witnessed at the border is wrong and not in keeping with American ideals and values,” said Rep. Guttenberg.

“The growing daily outrage we heard from business, religious, and political leaders across the country is justified, and I want to add my name to the list of Americans calling for an end to any policy that separates children from families on the southern border,” said Rep. Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks).  

The letter to President Trump from the members of the Alaska Legislature cites the United Nations Human Rights Office, which has called the policy change a “serious violation” of the rights of children. The policy also violates the UN Refugee Convention, which was signed by the United States. The convention clearly states that asylum-seekers should not be penalized for entering a country illegally.

“What we have witnessed on the southern border is both heartbreaking and infuriating. I never thought we would have government agents taking children from the arms of parents and caging them like criminals when all they wanted was to find the American dream,” said Rep. Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage), Chair of the House Health and Social Services Committee.    

“Forced separation of children from their mothers does not align with my Alaskan values. With this policy young children could suffer further trauma,” said Rep. Paul Seaton (R-Homer).

For more information, please contact Alaska House Majority Coalition Press Secretary Mike Mason at (907) 444-0889.

Transboundary Mining Prompts Concerns from Alaska Lawmakers Fri, 25 May 2018 20:05:45 +0000

Binding International Agreements Needed to Protect Fishing and Tourism Industries

Anchorage – Several Alaska lawmakers have sent a letter to Alaska Governor Bill Walker stressing the need for action to protect the watersheds of Southeast Alaska from the negative downstream impacts of large-scale hard rock mining in British Columbia. The ten lawmakers are urging the Governor to develop partnerships with other states that border British Columbia to demand binding international agreements mandating a transparent environmental review process for mining projects. In the letter, the Alaska lawmakers insist the environmental review process satisfy the concerns of U.S., Canadian, and Tribal governments.

“The Tulsequah Chief Mine in B.C. has been closed for over 60 years, but that has not stopped this failed mine from polluting a tributary of the Taku River with acid mine drainage for decades. I would label the response from the British Columbia government as inadequate. The cultural, economic, and social importance of the Taku River can’t be overstated, and I want to make sure the valid concerns about transboundary mining remain front and center,” said Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Sitka), one of the signatories to the letter sent last month to Governor Walker.

Alaska, Washington, Idaho, and Montana all currently face similar issues and concerns with upstream mining activity in British Columbia. In the letter, the ten Alaska lawmakers stress that the U.S. must demand binding international agreements that include enforceable financial assurances that mines are safe. The lawmakers also want funding for the collection of baseline water quality data and fish and wildlife assessments in transboundary watersheds. They are also calling for long-term environmental monitoring to be paid for by mine developers.

“The threat of environmental ruin from a poorly conceived mine hangs over the head of the commercial fishing and tourism industries in Alaska. It also threatens the traditional and customary ways of life of all Southeast Alaska residents. That’s why we need a transparent environmental review process that ensures these transboundary mines can be developed safely and responsibly,” said Rep. Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan), who also signed the letter.

Other signers of the letter include Speaker of the House Rep. Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham), Rep. Harriet Drummond (D-Anchorage), Rep. Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage), Rep. Justin Parish (D-Juneau), Rep. Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak), Rep. Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage), Sen. Dennis Egan (D-Juneau), and Sen. Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak).

The issues related to transboundary mining will be discussed during a public workshop in Juneau on June 1st. The workshop is sponsored by Alaska Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott and will feature representatives from the U.S. and British Columbia governments along with tribal, environmental, and fishery stakeholders. 

For more information, please contact Caroline Hamp in Rep. Ortiz’s office at (907) 247-4672.

The Legislature Passed the Budget Wed, 23 May 2018 20:24:22 +0000
Coalition Members Reflect on the 30th Alaska Legislature Mon, 14 May 2018 00:47:07 +0000

Budget, Fiscal, and Other Legislative Achievements Highlight a Successful 30th Alaska Legislature

Juneau – After a flurry of legislative action, the Alaska House of Representatives joined the Alaska Senate in adjourning the Second Session of the 30th Alaska Legislature sine die early Sunday morning. Members of the Alaska House Majority Coalition reflected on the legislative achievements of the session.

“Goal number one of most politicians is to avoid political risk at all cost. That doesn’t apply to the men and women of the Alaska House Majority Coalition. We took huge political risks over the past two years and set an example for openness and transparency I hope future legislatures will emulate. Too often politics is judged by who wins and who loses. I admit that we lost some, but I stand proudly with my House Majority colleagues in celebrating our wins. We faced more obstacles to success than any legislature in Alaska’s history, and as I step away from the House I judge our Coalition a success,” said Rep. David Guttenberg (D-Fairbanks), House Finance Committee member.

“Nearly every day I speak with people who are concerned about the future of Alaska. I share many of those concerns. Our job as lawmakers is to work every day to help people and to secure a brighter future for our great state. My colleagues in the Alaska House Majority Coalition worked diligently for the past two years on solutions. We did this by ditching the old pattern of partisan politics in favor of hard work and listening to the will of the people,” said Rep. Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan), House Finance Committee member.

“What I will remember from the last two years is the moving public testimony that brought many of us to tears. Sometimes they were tears of sadness and other times they were tears of joy. The legislative process can be very frustrating to watch and often even more frustrating to be part of, but I am deeply grateful for my friends in this Coalition. We cast aside politics to work together. In doing so we addressed some incredibly important issues during what will always be considered a remarkable legislative session,” said Rep. Harriet Drummond (D-Anchorage), Chair of the House Education Committee.

“The most important thing we can all do to protect the future of Alaska is to realize that the politics of winners and losers is counterproductive to real solutions. I took some extremely tough votes over the past two years with the goal of protecting Alaskan jobs, the Alaska economy, and our education system. If the alternative is inaction, there was no choice at all. We did a lot of good things this session, some very good,” said Rep. Adam Wool (D-Fairbanks), Chair of the House Energy Committee.  

“I am thrilled to have passed health care price transparency, protected the Permanent Fund, and secured funding increases for the next two years for K-12 and pre-k education,” said Rep. Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage), Chair of the House Health and Social Services Committee.

“I came into office last year dedicated to addressing our fiscal issues, but also to see reforms that build trust and create transparency for the people of Alaska. As we gavel out of my first term in office, I’m both proud and humbled by what has been accomplished. This legislature, I’ve passed a monumental legislative reform package, been part of a historic vote protecting the Permanent Fund and PFD, and have taken critical steps towards increasing public safety, education, and getting our economic future back on track. It’s been amazing to get to connect with my neighbors and to serve the people of District 22 with everything I’ve got,” said Rep. Jason Grenn (I-Anchorage), House Finance Committee member.

“I’m proud that our House Majority Coalition prioritized public safety by passing rape kit reform legislation along with funding to address our backlog of untested rape kits. This is a huge step forward and will bring justice to victims,” said Rep. Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage), Co-Chair of the House Resources Committee.

“Our Coalition formed with the goal to ignore party labels and partisanship in favor of fiscal solutions for the State of Alaska and all Alaskans. We passed a responsible operating budget that makes sure essential public services are delivered and advanced the dialogue around the need for long-term fiscal solutions. I am grateful that our Coalition stood fast for a larger $1,600 PFD this fall when both the Governor and Senate Majority wanted PFDs set around $1,000,” said House Finance Committee Co-Chair Rep. Paul Seaton (R-Homer).

“The Alaska House Majority Coalition elected the first Alaska Native Speaker of the House, and we are the first non-binding majority caucus in state history. We are the most diverse majority caucus in history with conservative Republicans, progressive Democrats, strong-willed Independents, and everything in between. Every day we went to work for the people of Alaska, and for that I am proud,” said House Majority Leader Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage).

“The Alaska Permanent Fund and the PFDs that represent our shared oil wealth are so important to the Alaskan way of life that I refused to toss them aside in favor of politics. The Permanent Fund dividend will continue to be eyed with envy by politicians, special interests, and outsiders until it’s protected in the Alaska Constitution,” said Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux (R-Anchorage), Chair of the House Rules Committee.

“I am grateful to serve in the 30th Alaska Legislature. Our coalition was successful in early funding public education for the next two years, and we came together to pass some important public safety reforms. A more personal victory was the passage of House Bill 213 to modernize the Alaska Public School Trust Fund. The bill will bring in millions of new earnings from a $650 million fund by modernizing the fund’s management to allow a more predictable draw and continued growth. The bill also creates an education raffle and endowment, the proceeds of which will go to schools on top of their regular funding,” said Rep. Justin Parish (D-Juneau), Co-Chair of the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee.

“We made lives better for children, those battling addiction, and those who deserve to be safe in their homes. I can walk out of this session proud that we passed some, but not all of the things I believe we needed to pass to improve this state,” said House Finance Committee Vice-Chair Rep. Les Gara (D-Anchorage).

“Our Coalition will be noteworthy in Alaska history for bravely confronting Alaska’s enormous fiscal instability and uncertainties. Whatever might be said about this majority, we acted boldly, courageously, and without fear. The House Resources Committee was unique in presenting legislation reflecting the viewpoints of all Alaskans, including but not limited to the voice of resource developers. The Resources Committee heard or advanced legislation on everything from the Pebble Mine to climate change, and from wildlife management to toxic flame-retardant chemicals. Perhaps never in the history of Alaska was there a more balanced showing of the many environmental and natural resources issues confronting Alaska,” said Rep. Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage), House Resources Committee Co-Chair.

“Our Coalition was unwavering in our commitment to improve public safety and respond to the concerns of our friends and neighbors in the community. House Bill 312 advanced the shared public safety priorities of the House, Senate, Governor Walker, and the people of Alaska. That bill, together with the five new prosecutors and other public safety measures we funded in the budget, will make Alaska safer, but we still have work to do to respond to the opioid crisis and to make up for the ill-advised cuts to public safety over the last several years,” said Rep. Matt Claman (D-Anchorage), Chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

“Representing House District 38 in the Alaska Legislature has been one of the greatest privileges so far in my career. And yet, it has also been very challenging at times. Alaska is faced with wide-reaching, complex, issues and I joined the effort to find solutions on day 53. I have worked with my new colleagues for the last 64 days trying to serve the everyday Alaskans who need government to work for them, not against them. With that said, I am looking forward to going home. It’s almost berry picking season,” said Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky (D-Bethel), Co-Chair of the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee.

“Every member of the Legislature brings his or her own set of principles and priorities to Juneau, and they all have value and legitimacy. But to get things done—and to do right by the people—you eventually have to meet somewhere in the middle. It’s not easy to find that balance, and no one enjoys compromising on the goals they have for the state and for the district they serve, but I’m proud that the House raised the dividend to $1600, and that we increased funding for our schools, for safer towns and villages, for fish & game management, and more. Also, I am pleased that a tone of integrity, trust, and cooperation this session helped lead us to its successful conclusion, well within our Constitutional deadline,” said Speaker of the House Rep. Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham).

For more information, please contact Alaska House Majority Coalition Press Secretary Mike Mason at (907) 444-0889.

Coalition Members Will Take Questions After Adjourning the Session Sine Die Sun, 13 May 2018 03:23:35 +0000

Alaska House Majority Coalition End of Session Press Availability Scheduled for Tonight

Juneau – The members of the Alaska House Majority Coalition will hold a press availability tonight to answer questions from reporters covering the 30th Alaska State Legislature. The press availability will be held 15 minutes after the Alaska House of Representatives adjourns the Second Session of the 30th Alaska State Legislature sine die.

The press availability will be held in the Speaker’s Chambers of the Capitol Building in Juneau.

The public and media are welcome to attend.  For media unable to attend in person, participation is available by teleconference by calling toll free at (844) 586-9085.

WHO: Alaska House Majority Coalition members

WHAT: Alaska House Majority Coalition press availability

WHERE: Speaker’s Chambers, room 210, Alaska State Capitol, Juneau

WHEN: 15 minutes after the House adjourns the legislative session sine die

Teleconference: 1 (844) 586-9085

Live stream:

For more information, please contact Alaska House Majority Coalition Press Secretary Mike Mason at (907) 444-0889.

Mike Mason
Press Secretary, Alaska House Majority Coalition
Phone: (907) 444-0889

Budget Deal Reached; State Operating Budget Passes the Alaska Legislature Sun, 13 May 2018 02:38:01 +0000

FY 2019 Budget Funds a Larger PFD and Includes More Money for Public Safety

Juneau – A compromise budget agreement between the Alaska House of Representatives and the Alaska State Senate was reached today, resulting in the passage of the fiscal year 2019 operating budget for the State of Alaska. Today’s budget deal prevents any disruption in essential public services as the State of Alaska enters the busy summer tourism and fishing seasons. House Bill 286 features total General Fund spending of $6.27 billion. The budget includes Alaska House Majority Coalition priorities such as $942 million to inflation-proof the value of the $65 billion Alaska Permanent Fund, $1.02 billion to pay for $1,600 Permanent Fund Dividends for each eligible Alaskan, a $10 million investment in the University of Alaska above the Governor’s proposal, and multiple measures to improve public safety and law enforcement in Alaska.

“This budget is the culmination of a lot of hard work and compromises on all sides. Our Coalition fought hard for a larger Permanent Fund Dividend because we know how vital PFDs are to Alaskans. The continued long-term health of the Permanent Fund, and in turn the PFD, is a key priority for our coalition, so we stood strong in demanding that the fund be inflation-proofed for the first time in three years,” said Speaker of the House Rep. Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham). “Throughout the public process to develop this budget, the people of Alaska were loud and clear that public safety is a major priority. Our Coalition worked to ensure no cuts to State Troopers, and we insisted on funding for more prosecutors and public defenders as part of the budget compromise.”

The FY 19 state operating budget incorporates the rules-based Percent of Market Value (POMV) approach that lawmakers approved earlier this week to access the earnings of the $65 billion Alaska Permanent Fund to pay for essential public services and PFDs. The 5.25 percent draw totals $2.7 billion. $1.69 billion will be used to help pay for public services like public education, State Troopers, fish and game management, and road maintenance. $1.02 billion will be used to fund $1,600 PFDs this fall.

“Developing a responsible budget during a fiscal crisis is no easy task. We partially did that with the budget bills that passed today. I take comfort in knowing that by passing a budget in a timely manner the State of Alaska can deliver the essential public services that keep our state running. Further action will be needed to ensure sustainable income for our public services. I represent an area heavily dependent on the tourism and commercial fishing industries, and this budget allows those industries to go forward without interruption,” said House Finance Committee Co-Chair Rep. Paul Seaton (R-Homer), who served as the lead negotiatior for the House on the HB 286 Conference Committee.

Today, the Alaska House of Representatives approved the budget compromise by a vote of 21-19. The Alaska State Senate passed the compromise by a vote of 15-4. The Fiscal Year 2019 Operating and Mental Health Budgets will now be sent to Alaska Governor Bill Walker for his consideration.

For more information, please contact Alaska House Majority Coalition Press Secretary Mike Mason at (907) 444-0889.

Mike Mason
Press Secretary, Alaska House Majority Coalition
Phone: (907) 444-0889

Legislation Approved to Support Alaska’s Commercial Fisheries Thu, 10 May 2018 22:03:33 +0000

HB 56 Increases the Amount Alaskans Can Borrow to Support Commercial Fishing Businesses

Juneau – Wednesday, the Alaska Legislature passed a bill sponsored by Representative Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan) that will help Alaskans involved in the states vital commercial fishing industry. House Bill 56 passed the Alaska State Senate Wednesday after passing the Alaska House of Representatives last year.

“Commercial fishing is hard-work and creating a successful commercial fishing business is not an easy task. The State of Alaska plays a key role in helping many commercial fishing businesses get the capital they need to start or expand because all too often the risky nature of the industry makes it difficult to get private loans,” said Rep. Ortiz. “House Bill 56 makes appropriate modifications to the state loan fund used by commercial fishermen to account for dramatic changes in the value of fishing permits and the cost of vessels and equipment. The price to enter many fisheries has gone up, but until today the amount that Alaskans can borrow to buy one of those permits has not gone up. This bill makes that change, and I want to thank my colleagues in the House and Senate for their support.”

HB 56 keeps in place the $400,000 cap on the amount that can be borrowed through the Alaska Commercial Fishing Loan Fund. Currently, loans to purchase entry permits are capped at $300,000, but HB 56 increases that cap to $400,000. The bill also adjusts the cap for those wishing to buy Individual Fishing Quotas (IFQs) and to upgrade tender vessels and gear at $400,000, which is up from the current $300,000 cap.

House Bill 56, which was carried on the Senate floor by Sen. Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak), passed the Alaska State Senate Wednesday by a vote of 17-1. The bill passed the Alaska House of Representatives last year by a vote of 38-0. HB 56 will now be sent to Alaska Governor Bill Walker for his signature.

For more information, please contact Liz Harpold in Rep. Ortiz’s office at (907) 465-3824.

Alaska Legislation Votes to Help Grow Alaska’s Mariculture Industry Mon, 07 May 2018 22:53:53 +0000

House Bills 76 Changes State Law to Enhance Mariculture Infrastructure in Alaska

Juneau – Today, the Alaska Legislature passed a bill to change a state loan program to help Alaska’s fledgling mariculture industry. Participants in the industry often have trouble getting financing through private banks. House Bill 76 amends the current program to allow up to 40 percent of the fund to be used for loans to help pay for planning, construction, and operations of shellfish and seaweed hatcheries or enhancement projects.

“There are Alaskan shellfish and marine plant farmers who are willing to put in the hard work but have difficulty finding the resources to get started. House Bill 76 gives them access to capital,” said HB 76 sponsor Rep. Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan). “There is great potential for growth in our small mariculture industry, and I am pleased that the members of the 30th Alaska State Legislature could do something to help the industry succeed.”

The Alaska Mariculture Revolving Loan Fund was created in 2012 with a $5 million investment to provide loans for the development of Alaskan-owned mariculture operations to help diversify the local economies in many coastal communities. Since it was created, the Alaska Mariculture Revolving Loan Fund has made seven loans totaling $598,000. The Division of Economic Development confirms that there have been no delinquencies or defaults under the program. HB 76 includes provisions that allow loan repayments to be deferred for up to six years for most loans and up to 11 years for the new hatchery loans.

By expanding the purview of an existing revolving loan fund, HB 76 provides the financial infrastructure to develop a stable supply of seed for resident marine plants and shellfish at no additional cost to Alaskans.

House Bill 76 passed the Alaska State Senate today by a vote of 19-0. The bill was carried on the Senate floor by Sen. Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak). The bill passed the Alaska House of Representatives last year by a vote of 26-14. After a concurrence vote, HB 76 will be sent to Alaska Governor Bill Walker for his signature.

For more information, contact Liz Harpold in Rep. Ortiz’s office at (907) 465-3824.

Mike Mason
Press Secretary, Alaska House Majority Coalition
Phone: (907) 444-0889