What's Happening in Juneau
Dear Friends, Neighbors, and fellow Fairbanksans:
I hope you're enjoying the sunshine! As I had hoped in my last update to you, we haven't finished up with the session yet. I wanted to write and give you a quick update on what's happening in Juneau and a few community updates.
The House Passed the Crime Bill:
I was glad to vote for SB 91, also known as the "Crime Bill", last week. The statistics I learned while looking at this bill were shocking to me. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world of almost 700 people per 100,000 adults and Alaska's rate is even higher, closer to 900. In Alaska, our prison population has skyrocketed in the last decade, growing by 27%, much if that in the pre-trial population. Without serious changes to reduce the number of people in our overcrowded prisons we would need to build another new prison soon, which would cost us $169 million or more.
This bill makes common sense changes to our laws by allowing more people to serve time on electronic monitoring for minor crimes and investing more money into substance abuse treatment, domestic violence and sexual assault prevention programs, mental health services, among many other provisions. It also looks at other sentencing guidelines and pre-trial restrictions.
It's important that we start to focus on keeping people from returning to prison by helping them change their lives, rather than locking them up with no treatment or assistance and hoping for the best, which doesn't work. I talked about why I think this bill is a good idea on the House floor, and you can listen to it here.
The Oil Tax Credit Bill Is Still Too Generous:
This week there were finally hearings held on a new version of the oil tax credit bill for the first time in three weeks, and we will be considering it on the floor tonight and likely tomorrow as well. The new version of the bill is still not great for Alaskans. Hopefully we can amend it and make some serious improvements. As I said in my last e-news, the state is expecting to get $68 million from oil production taxes this year, but at the same time we will also be paying out $775 million in oil tax subsidies. To me, it's common sense that the oil companies should be paying their fair share just as we're asking Alaskans to consider paying an income tax or reducing the size of the PFD.
Other Community Updates:
Spring is always a great time of year, as school wraps up for the year and we celebrate graduations. Congratulations to all who graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks on Sunday, and to those who will be graduating from our high schools this week!
Are you interested in what's happening in our schools and think you'd be a good fit for a leadership position? There's an opening on the Fairbanks North Star Borough School Board for someone who would like to serve as a school board member for four months until the municipal election in October. You can find more information, including the application, on the school district's website here.
It's approaching summer, and every Alaskan knows what that means… road construction season. I'll be sending out more information about road projects close to our neighborhoods soon. In the meantime, you can stay up to date on construction projects that may cause delays or road closures at Alaskanavigator.org. The site has information about projects all over the state, so if you're driving out of Fairbanks you can be aware of where construction is happening.
As always, please feel free to call or email me with any questions, concerns, or ideas.