May 17th, 2018
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This past Sunday morning, after ten hours of being on the floor, the House adjourned after passing the FY19 operating budget, which prioritizes public safety, education, and includes a $1600 PFD. Aside from the budget there were several important bills that passed in the final days. More on those below.
I’m looking forward to visiting with neighbors at upcoming community council meetings, picnics, and summer events.
Update on Personal Priorities: Honoring our Hmong Veterans and Addressing Adverse Childhood Experiences
HCR 2: Adverse Childhood Experiences
We worked hard to get this measure, that calls on the Governor and Legislature to draft a trauma-informed policy for our state, passed this session. We know this is critical to addressing our high rates of child abuse and neglect and turning the tide on our high rates of family violence. We want strong and healthy communities and that means we need healthy, thriving families. As we worked to get this passed I was witnessing a change in the level of awareness among my colleagues. During the debate on other measures my colleagues were more and more talking about ACEs and prevention. I felt we were ready to move forward and put a trauma informed policy in statute, rather than just a resolution. I was able to include language into another bill, SB 105, addressing family therapy and health families, that was supported unanimously by both the House and Senate. This is huge success and represents a paradigm shift. We are finally getting to a place where we focus more on prevention and early intervention rather than just crisis management after decades of problems. This paradigm shift can mean big things for our policies. The language added to Title 47, our social welfare statutes, now reads:
“It is the policy of the state to acknowledge and take into account the principles of early childhood and youth brain development and, whenever possible, consider the concepts of early adversity, toxic stress, childhood trauma, and the promotion of resilience through protective relationships, supports, self-regulation, and services."
Update on Important Bills that Passed in the Final Days: BSA Increase, Smoke-Free Workplace, Cocktails at Distilleries,
HB287 and BSA Increase: We secured big wins for education, for this year and for next year. For the first time ever the Legislature funded education outside of the regular budget and signed this bill early. What is great for our students and education professionals is that while House Bill 287 appropriates $1.3 billion for K-12 education and student transportation in FY19 a provision of the bill funds education in the same amount in FY20. The final negotiations added $20 million outside of the BSA this year, about an $80 BSA increase, and then adds an additional $30 million in one-time grants to school districts next year. The $30 million increase for FY20 is equivalent to a $117 increase to the Base Student Allocation (BSA). I’m proud to have been a part of securing early funding for the first time ever, including the much-needed additional support.
In addition to the funding, a couple of good bills were passed related to education. HB 213, sponsored by Rep. Justin Parish changes the way the Public School Trust Fund is managed and as a result will provide an additional $18 million to schools. SB 185, sponsored by Senator Micciche allows school districts to re-employ educators who are retired for six months if the educator is younger than 62, or for 60 days if the educator is aged 62 or older. This will allow school districts to temporarily fill vacancies with qualified retired teachers until a permanent educator is hired.
SB 216, sponsored by the Senate Finance Committee, establishes a new funding mechanism for school consolidation by keeping their funding the same for two years, as if they were still separate schools (pre-consolidation), then slowly levels off their funding over the following two years, providing them with time to adjust before they receive their new consolidation funding amount (post consolidation). SB 216 also allows for communities that have one K-12 school with 425 students or more to be considered one elementary school and one secondary school, and would be funded appropriately.
SB 63: Smoke-Free Workplace
After years of waiting, SB 63 has passed, establishing a statewide workplace smoking ban. State law already makes smoking at places like schools, public meeting rooms, certain buildings, hospitals, and elevators illegal, and certain cities and towns also have their own workplace smoking bans, but once Governor Walker signs SB 63, the ban would be effective statewide. Although there is an opt out provision for municipalities, this is still a huge win for healthy Alaskans everywhere!
SB 76: Alcohol Reform
Although SB 76 failed to pass the Legislature, legislation allowing for the craft distillers of the state to continue showcasing their product as mixed drinks did. Over 500 e-mails were submitted and when special interests threatened the breweries and distilleries of the state, well over one thousand e-mails in support of small and local businesses came through.
Upcoming Events Around Town
Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions, concerns, or ideas! I love hearing from you!
All my best,
P.S. If you have any questions on upcoming events, please don’t hesitate to contact our office or stop by! We’re back in town and more than happy to help answer any questions you might have!