MARCH 7, 2014
Bills Inspired Locally
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
A number of the bills that I have proposed this session are based on comments I have received and concerns I have heard from residents of our neighborhoods. I am now working with other Legislators to have the bills heard, and I encourage you to continue to send me suggestions to improve our neighborhood and our State.
H.B. 238: Food Security
Alaskans spend $2.5 billion annually on food, and if Alaskan grown products were 30% of that market, local economies would grow by $750 million a year. Yet, only 5% of Alaska’s food is grown in state, and 82% of farmers farm on less than 500 acres. An important side effect of the small amount of production is that if transportation to Alaska is cut off, the State only has 3-5 days’ supply of many food items in our grocery store. This bill increases the Alaska Grown purchase preference by municipalities, the state, and school districts. The bill also requires the legislative audit division to conduct audits for the legislature regarding performance as relates to compliance with the purchasing requirement.
H.B. 336: Alcohol Near Schools
For the students at Clark Middle School in Anchorage, the inappropriate behavior of inebriates around their school prompted them to call me up. The middle school is located directly across the street from an establishment which sells alcohol, and some of the patrons consumed their purchases in the area around the school. The students wanted to speak up and help prevent this from happening in other locations. Currently, alcohol laws restrict sales to 200 feet or more away from the entrance to a school. This bill would extend the restriction to 400 feet for future locations applying for liquor licenses and includes a grandfather clause which exempts existing locations with a liquor license. There is no quick fix for the social symptoms of alcoholism. This bill is just one small but helpful step in addressing alcoholism and the problems it causes.
H.B. 355: Youth Mental Health First Aid Training
Alaska has the highest suicide rate per capita in the country, at almost twice the national rate. The rate of suicide for all Alaska youth ages 15-24 is nearly twice as high as the rate for adults over 25. Notably, 90% of suicide victims have a diagnosable, treatable mental or substance abuse disorder. This bill facilitates the creation of Mental Health First Aid courses, which teach people how to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health problems and how to provide initial aid before guiding a person toward appropriate professional help.
People with untreated mental illnesses frequently consume fire and police department time, as well as emergency room costs. By recognizing when mental health treatment is necessary for young Alaskans, a community can begin to take care of itself.
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