FEBRUARY 14, 2014
Happy Valentine's Day!
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
A Happy Valentine’s Day wish to you. I hope you’re spending today with loved ones.
This week has been a busy one at the Capitol, with many issues being discussed that affect our state and our neighborhoods, with review of bills on health care access, the Alaska LNG project, and a report from our military leaders.
Yesterday, the U-Med Road Project proponents announced their selection for the direct route linking Bragaw Street and Elmore Road. According to the Department of Transportation, there is a “preliminary price tag of $19.4 million, and at this point includes three roundabouts, three pedestrian bridges and a 30 mph speed limit.” In my press release with Rep. Andy Josephson, I pointed out that moving forward with this project ignores the community’s vocal opposition to the access road. Increasing traffic on Bragaw Street puts local students at risk, lowers the quality of life for Russian Jack residents driving to or from home, and tears down local areas of vegetation while increasing traffic pollution.
Please make your voices heard at the public meeting the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) and the Municipality of Anchorage (MOA) are holding on the Northern Access to U-Med Project. The presentation and meeting will be in the commons of East High School on Tuesday, February 18th, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., with the presentation to start at 7:00 p.m.
Committee Updates from the Capitol
Health and Social Services Committee:
This week we heard House Joint Resolution 20, H.B. 269, and H.B. 281.
HJR 20 is a resolution to repeal the Federal Medical Device Tax. The Resolution claims that the tax increases the cost of healthcare and leads to layoffs. It received three of five votes to pass, with Rep. Seaton from Homer and myself voting against the Resolution. It will be heard next by the House Rules Committee.
H.B. 269 allows out-of-state dentists to practice pro-bono dentistry in Alaska with immunity from civil suits for malpractice. Currently, only Alaska licensed physicians are immune from lawsuits when doing pro-bono work. This bill would allow Alaska Mission of Mercy (MOM) to bring out-of-state dentists in to work with Alaska dentists for MOM’s free dental care event in April without incurring more liability than Alaska dentists. The bill was passed out and will be heard by the House Judiciary Committee next.
H.B. 281 allows Alaska licensed physicians to conduct remote examinations via telephone or video conference and prescribe medicine not listed as a controlled substance, without the patient coming in for a physical examination. Currently, the law is not clear as to whether a physician places his or her license at risk when prescribing medicine after a remote exam. The bill was held by the Committee so that they can hear further testimony.
In the Resources Committee, we are digging into the gas line legislation. I want to reinforce what our consultants, the Administration, and other legislators have observed: The Alaska LNG Project is complicated.
House Speaker Mike Chenault summarized the task before us well, saying, "We want a gas line, but not at any cost."
During House Resources Committee hearings this week, we continued to learn more about the complexity of the package, which includes the Heads of Agreement, Memorandum of Understanding, and House Bill 277, the gas line enabling legislation. I am already getting a sense that time pressures may prevent us from performing the due diligence that you deserve. I am working overtime so that we can get this right and pledge to do my very best to ask the tough questions you expect.
Joint Armed Services Committee:
We had our annual update from Alaska’s military leaders. The report is a mixed bag, with good news and bad news.
The good news is that the F-16s are staying in Fairbanks and it’s possible that F-35s will be moved there.
The bad news is sequestration that resulted in cuts to the military and thousands of civilian employees. With more than 65,200 men and women involved with our Alaskan armed forces, the importance to our economy cannot be overstated.
I also sit on a number of budget subcommittees, those for the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Revenue, the Department of Public Safety, and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The work in these subcommittees continues through the end of the month, when they will all go in front of the main Finance Committee.
Next week I’ll update you on some of the other issues affecting us, including an in depth look at a bill I have proposed to protect our children from the horrific and life changing experience of child sexual abuse. I encourage you to e-mail me and let me know if there are any issues which you would like me to cover.
Save Our Schools Rally:
We are holding a rally on the Capitol Steps on Monday, February 17, at noon. The S.O.S. Rally is in support of increasing per-student classroom funding for public schools in Alaska. Great Alaska Schools and local residents have organized sign making parties throughout the weekend and, in a nod to the timeless tradition of school fundraising, the Juneau Parents and Teachers Association will also host a bake sale at the event. With schools closed for Presidents Day, organizers expect a large turnout!
PFD Applications and Pick.Click.Give
The deadline for PFD applications is March 31, 2014. Applications can be submitted electronically here.
While filling out your application, consider participating in the voluntary charitable giving campaign, pick.click.give.
We began an Alaska Correspondence on Education on the Alaska Democrats website. The site features letters and comments on education issues from residents all over Alaska. I’d love to hear what you have to say about the education bills we are hearing this session!
First Lady’s Volunteer of the Year
First Lady Sandy Parnell would like Alaskans to nominate fellow citizens who have performed extraordinary volunteer service for the First Lady’s Volunteer of the Year Awards. First Lady Bella Hammond started this program to recognize volunteers who have “displayed extraordinary personal commitment, have invested a significant amount of time benefiting their community, or who have made a major impact on their community or state.”
Award winners will be recognized during a luncheon at the Governor’s House in Juneau.
Nominations are due by March 1. Application forms are available on to the governor’s website, at the Capitol, and at the Governor’s regional offices in Anchorage and Fairbanks.
Nominate a Health Hero
Has a colleague inspired you to become a healthier, happier person? Has someone impressed you with improvements or changes to their lifestyle? Nominate them as the next health hero by filling out the nomination form and check out the amazing stories of previous Health Heroes.
Vote for Your Favorite Fishing Photo!
Visit the Alaska Seafood page on Facebook and vote for your favorite photo in the Fishing Families Photo Contest. After you ‘like’ Alaska Seafood on Facebook, check out the photo contest app in the upper right corner – one vote per person per day. The photo with the most votes will be declared the Fan Favorite and will win the grand prize of two airline tickets anywhere Alaska Airlines flies.
The voting period closes at midnight, February 17, 2014.
Join Diane Hanson from the Alaska Consortium of Zooarchaeologists and the University of Alaska Anchorage for a Fireside Chat – “From A to Z: Archaeologists, Zooarchaeology, and the Tales Bones Tell.
Zooarchaeologists have to be part biologist, part detective, and part anthropologist to bring the information together. Hanson will bring boxes of bones and show what we can learn about people from animals.
The program begins at 7 p.m. on Wednesday February 19 at the BLM Campbell Creek Science Center (5600 Science Center Drive). The program is free and open to the public. Please call 267-1241 for more information.
Talk to you next week,