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March 29, 2019
The State Board of Education and the FY 20 Budget
On Thursday, the House and Senate Education Committees heard an update from the State Board of Education. One of the issues addressed was the decision by the Board to table the Governor’s budget proposal at their most recent meeting without making a recommendation.
Under questioning, Board Chair James Fields revealed that the board received a memo dated March 27 from the Attorney General’s office addressing the issue. Once I got a copy of the memo, I was shocked. The department wrote that the state board has discretion in deciding whether to take a symbolic vote to approve or disapprove the governor’s budget for the Department of Education and Early Development.
This new interpretation of state law is troubling because the Alaska Legislature relies on a budget recommendation from the Board before holding hearings to determine the budget for the Department of Education and Early Development.
This year there were no board recommendations. I am concerned that this non-partisan board is being used to play politics by Governor Dunleavy. I oppose this effort to weaken the authority of the State Board of Education in setting and approving Alaska’s education budget while simultaneously giving more power to the Governor and the Office of Management and Budget.
(Click on the photo to watch my comments during Wednesday’s hearing)
Rep. Chris Tuck during March 28, 2019, Joint House and Senate Education Committee meeting.
Upcoming Bill Hearings: Absentee Voting and Help for Military Spouses
It’s been a busy week in the Capitol Building and next week looks busy as well. I have a couple of bills up for hearings next week.
Tuesday afternoon the House State Affairs Committee will hear House Bill 115 which will give Alaskans a choice to always vote by mail for future state elections. Under current state law, you must submit a new absentee application for each election year. My bill will allow someone to continue to receive their ballots by mail unless they miss an election, or their ballot is returned undeliverable by the post office. Then they would have to fill out a new application.
This simple change to our voting system would make voting more convenient for those who prefer the ease of casting a ballot through the mail. I introduced this bill because our representative democracy is strengthened when we make it easier for Alaskans to cast a vote.
The other bill that will be heard next week is House Bill 93 regarding the state’s program to make temporary courtesy occupational licenses available to the spouses of active duty service members stationed in Alaska. The Alaska Legislature authorized the use of these temporary courtesy licenses back in 2011 but the program has fallen behind in preparing these licenses, and there were no reporting requirements to determine the effectiveness of the program.
HB 93 calls for the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development to prepare an annual report to allow the Alaska Legislature to evaluate the progress of the program. The bill also calls for the department to produce and distribute informational materials about temporary courtesy licenses. These licenses are an important tool to allow military spouses to go to work quickly after relocating to Alaska, while they work toward fulfilling the state’s requirements for their regular occupational license.
Making Progress on the Budget:
Every day the members of the House make progress toward our shared goal of keeping the state open for business by creating a responsible state budget that protects jobs, the economy, and essential state services. The latest development is the committee substitute for the budget bill that was unveiled on Thursday.
This new version of the budget fully funds K-12 public education and rolls back the huge cuts to the University of Alaska put forward by Governor Dunleavy. The members of the House Finance Committee will take up amendments to the new budget proposal next week.
I remain hopeful the full House will pass the budget bill over to the Senate in the second week of April. This should give the Senate more than enough time to consider the budget before the Constitutionally mandated end of the session on Wednesday, May 15.
Funding for Earthquake Repairs:
This week, the Alaska Legislature unanimously approved a supplemental budget bill to help respond to the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that struck Southcentral Alaska on November 30th of last year. Senate Bill 38, which is on its way to the Governor’s desk, authorizes $133.4 million for earthquake recovery. $103 million of that funding comes from the federal government while the state is contributing $30.4 million. Here’s the breakdown of how the money will be used.
PFD Filing Deadline Approaching:
Sunday is the last day to file for your 2019 Permanent Fund Dividend. You can apply online at www.pfd.alaska.gov. To accommodate last-minute filers, the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend Division will open the PFD offices in Anchorage and Fairbanks on Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Mailed applications must be USPS postmarked no later than March 31st to be considered timely. The Permanent Fund Dividend represents individual Alaskans share of the state’s oil wealth so don’t miss out. Get your application filed by Sunday.
I’m here for you, so please keep in touch on matters important to you and your family!
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