End of Session & Update on the Budget
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
A lot has happened over the last 7 days! While I wish I was writing you to say that we’ve completed our 90-day Session and will be heading home tomorrow, that is sadly not this case. As 5:00 p.m. rolls around there’s still a long list of bills to hear and vote for on the Floor, and it doesn’t look like we’ll be packing up and heading north tomorrow. Fortunately, several great things have happened during the unfinished Session:
1. Medicaid reform will improve healthcare delivery for many Alaskans, and save hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s a win-win situation.
2. The crime reform bill is making its way through the House, and getting closer with upcoming hearings in House Finance Committee. This bill will help to reduce prison population, saving hundreds of millions of state dollars, and focus on mental and substance health for those who need treatment.
3. Work on oil and tax credit reform is continuing as my colleagues and I demand reform on our overly generous subsidy program before any other tax that will effect Alaskans is considered.
5. Several other good pieces of legislation have already passed the legislature: a savings account for families with children with disabilities, insurance coverage for telehealth for mental health, and a bill to address our opioid epidemic by our very own Senator Ellis.
This Session could not have been complete without some bad bills. SB 89, sponsored by Wasilla Republican Senator Mike Dunleavy, did not pass the House Health & Social Services committee. The bill would’ve undermined our successful effort in getting Erin’s Law passed. The vote was 2 Yays and 5 Nays (I voted against this bill). Unfortunately, sections of SB 89 have been added into HB 156, School Accountability Measures; Federal Law, providing several amendments that were similar to sections in SB 89, specifically in Section 18. It does not single out Planned Parenthood educators, but requires any individual invited into the school to teach sex education, human reproductive education, and human sexuality education to have a valid teacher certificate. Sounds ok, right? The problem is most nurses, doctors, and public health nurses do not have the proper certification to teach these classes. On top of this, these individuals will have to jump through many hurdles incomparable to other teachers who may or may not have the same level of certification teaching other subjects.
One of the biggest misconceptions about SB 89, now HB 156, is that parents do not have the authority to pull their kids out of classes they don’t approve of. The fact is, parents inherently (and always will) have the authority to take their kid out of any class, or assessment, they deem unfit or inappropriate. It is unnecessary to put in a statute for a procedure that is already widely practiced.
When HB 156 was heard in Senate Finance individuals from all across Alaska gave their testimony. It has passed the Senate side, and now there’s one vote left in the House. More on this later. An overwhelming majority of the testimony was in opposition of the language in Section 18. Also, we gathered a rough number of letters of support and opposition for SB 89. We received over 600 letters and emails on SB 89, and it was 2 to 1 in opposition.
Update on the Budget Bills 4/17
2016 Statewide Trails Conference: May 5-7 in Anchorage at the BP Energy Center
Keynote speakers, Fairbanks author and adventurer Ned Rozell and Sitka Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins. The conference will feature some new topics. See below:
For registration, agenda, speaker bios and more, click here.
YWCA Alaska – APRIL 2016 EVENTS