Representative Geran Tarr

MAY 10, 2016  Share on Facebook

Anti-Sex Ed Measure Passes, Wednesday Testimony on Oil and Gas Subsidies & Criminal Justice Reform

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I’m still in Juneau, and we are working almost exclusively on the budget.  I say almost because Representative Keller was able to bring up House Bill 156, that aims to end sex education, in a last minute procedural maneuver and get the one vote he needed for it to pass.  This controversial bill received strong opposition statewide and hundreds wrote or testified to ask for a no vote.  Most opposition discussed how critical this information is if we ever want to address our chronically high rates of sexual assault.  Our rate of rape in Alaska far exceeds the national average. 

Representative Bennie Nageak of Barrow had been a no vote, but in the final and last vote he changed his vote to yes.  This is a bill in search of a problem that doesn’t exist.  It’s anybody’s guess as to why Senator Dunleavy and Representative Keller think it’s appropriate to be meddling in decisions that should be made by local school boards.  It’s state overreach into local decision making from two of the legislators you hear constantly complaining about federal overreach.  Even more perplexing is why this bill got attention when we are supposed to be focused on the budget, especially when this bill also threatens almost $100 million dollars in federal funding.


The House Rules Committee is hearing the latest version of House Bill 247, to address oil and gas tax subsidies, today and tomorrow. Public testimony will be taken tomorrow, Wednesday, May 11, 2016, from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm. You can testify via teleconference at the Anchorage Legislative Information Office and you can watch the hearing live on Gavel Alaska.

This has become a priority issue for the Independent Democratic Coalition because the current system is not sustainable.  When the current system was created we didn’t study what happened below $60/barrel.  Now, we have to fix the system so that it works at all price levels and across all time horizons.


Last week the House spent four days debating Senate Bill 91, the omnibus criminal justice reform bill.  The bill passed the House 28-11, but was held for reconsideration which means there could be one more vote on the bill during the next floor session.  Senate Bill 91 is the result of the work of the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission, created by Senate Bill 64 in 2014.  The process was assisted with support from the Pew Charitable Trust.  This work follows the policy discussion that came out of two Smart Justice Summits, the first in 2008 and then again in 2012.  It’s taken some time to get to where we are today and even with the passage of Senate Bill 91 the work will continue.  The process was data driven, informed with research done in Alaska, and looked to successes in other states to help guide us. 

Here are some issues to consider when you think about the amount of reform that is needed within public safety and the Department of Corrections:

  • Goose Creek cost over $250 million to build and costs more than $50 million a year to operate and at the current rate of incarceration we’ll need to start building a new large prison in the next year or two.
  • We’ve had one of the highest rates of recidivism in the country.  The revolving door of hundreds of prisoners coming out every month is draining our resources.
  • A majority of the prisoners currently being held are in pre-trial status.
  • Most of the offenders in jail right now are for non-violent offenses. 
  • The prescription drug abuse epidemic is another significant problem for public safety.  It is also one of the reasons why the number of children in foster care has skyrocketed.

Some important things to know about the changes in SB 91:

  • Pre-trial services reworks the bail system and creates a pre-trial risk assessment tool to determine whether or not to release someone, rather than relying purely on monetary value. The idea is that people who are low-risk for failing to appear will have access to bail, even if they are poor. The bill also requires these assessments to be done within 24 hours.
  • Electronic monitoring as an option for low-risk offenders is strengthened and allows for people to be released on electronic monitoring pre-trial.  This can help people keeps jobs and help support their family while they await trial.
  • Adds additional funding for substance abuse treatment, mental health services, and domestic violence and sexual assault prevention programs. 
  • The food stamp and adult public assistance provisions allow those with drug convictions to be eligible for these assistance programs after they’ve met certain requirements like successfully participating in a treatment plan.


Students and professors discuss academic research during the symposium.
Students and professors discuss academic research during the symposium.
Students and professors discuss academic research during the symposium.

Last Thursday I partnered with University of Alaska students and faculty to sponsor a symposium at the Anchorage LIO to highlight some of the valuable research being undertaken by students and faculty at the University of Alaska Anchorage.  As we continue to work on the budget this symposium was an opportunity to help educate the public about the importance of these research efforts.  The Republican Majority has proposed a $50 million cut in funding for the University of Alaska.  Such a cut will result in the loss of hundreds of jobs and diminish the ability of the University to conduct needed academic research.

There were close to a hundred poster boards scattered on the first floor of the LIO and in the main conference room that showcased the results of academic research of students within Alaska.  The value of UAA became apparent when you looked at the amazing research being done by our graduate and undergraduate students.  I don’t see any wisdom in lawmakers trying to fill our $4 billion budget gap by shortchanging the future educational opportunities of thousands of Alaska’s students.


National Trails Day!  First Saturday in June

National Trails Day is happening June 4.  If you are interested in leading or organizing an event, visit for information on how to host an event, where to register an event, and how to subscribe for updates.  National Trails Day is the country’s largest celebration of trails.  Events will take place in every state across the country and will include hikes, biking and horseback rides, paddling trips, birdwatching, geocaching, gear demonstrations, and stewardship projects and more.

State Parks Positions!  Alaska State Parks is looking for seasonal employees and volunteers.  Positions include trail crew and backcountry ranger assistant.  Applicants must be at least 18 years old.


signed: Geran Tarr
Representative Geran Tarr


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