May 17, 2024


Dear Friends, Neighbors, and Fellow Fairbanksans,

 

Welcome to the 67th edition of the Carrick Capitol Connection! The second regular session of the 33rd Alaska State Legislature ended Wednesday night about an hour after midnight. The dust will be settling from the always chaotic end of session for some time, but nonetheless there is a lot to talk about! Over the next couple of weeks, I am going to do a series of deep dive recaps on specific policy areas like education, energy, and the budget. In this week’s edition of the Carrick Capitol Connection, I am going to recap some of the big policies that were passed in the last few days, (or even hours!) of session. Importantly, the Legislature was able to get its work done on time and has avoided the need for a special session. Continue reading about the fast-paced end of session and some of the highlights!

 

Major Policies Passed in the Last Days of the 33rd Legislature

I am really proud of the major policy wins that the House Minority Coalition was able to secure working with the Bipartisan Senate Majority, the House Majority, and the Governor. In upcoming subsequent editions of the Carrick Capitol Connection, I will go into a few more major policy areas in more detail, so stay tuned for more! For now, here’s what’s on my mind after wrapping up the session this week.

Rep Carrick cleaning out her desk on the House Floor in the State Capitol


Passing a Responsible and Balanced Budget

The Legislature has one main constitutional duty, and that is to pass a balanced budget. I am proud that the budget that passed the Legislature on the last night of session was balanced and did not need to draw from savings.

 

Broadly speaking, the budget that passed includes a fiscally responsible $1360 Permanent Fund Divided as well as a $295 energy relief payment for a total PFD of $1655. The energy relief payment is tied to the price of oil, so if the price of oil goes down the size of the dividend will go back to $1360. Additionally, the budget included a one-time $680 per student increase to the Base Student Allocation, which is our education funding formula. While this is a band-aid solution, it does provide essential support for districts across Alaska for the upcoming school year. Then, there was the Capital budget which passed the Legislature last week, and which represented the largest Capital budget in nearly a decade. In this budget, I am proud of helping to secure $28 million for deferred maintenance projects at the University of Alaska. Among many other important investments in the Capital budget, we were also able to secure $62 million for school major maintenance.

 

At the end of the day, it is the House and Senate Majority’s responsibility to craft a budget and provide for fair and balanced investments that allow our state to grow economically without super-sizing either the Dividend or our spending. Our House Minority Coalition, myself included, was pleased with many of the line items in the final operating budget that was passed. Still, we voted in block against concurrence with the budget because there is still much more to be done to invest in education for all students no matter whether they are correspondence, charter, or brick and mortar public school students. There are also critical conversations that still need to be had around energy infrastructure, public services such as food stamps and road maintenance, and other areas of our budget. I hope to keep working on having important conversations on these and other priority topics with my colleagues of all political stripes as we now take a deep breath and enjoy the long summer season.

 

Helping Hungry Alaskans with Eligibility Expansions

On the last night of session, the Legislature passed HB 344, which included an expansion of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (food stamps) known as Broad Based Categorical Eligibility (BBCE). The language that was added into HB 344 in an amendment on the Senate Floor began as HB 196 sponsored by my House Coalition colleague Representative Genevieve Mina (D – Anchorage). I am a proud cosponsor of HB 196 and am pleased that this was able to pass at the 11th hour! With the passage of this bill, thousands more Alaskans in need will be able to access food stamps, all while reducing the administrative burden on the Department of Health and thus reducing the likelihood of future SNAP backlogs. This measure also helps to alleviate what is called the “benefits cliff,” whereby individuals are forced to make impossible choices to limit their income and asset accumulation in order to continue receiving the critical services that they need. This bill will help lift Alaskans out of poverty, lead to better food security across our state, and create new opportunities for struggling families. 


Greater Energy Transmission and Reliability

In the waning hours of the 33rd Legislature, both the House and Senate considered and passed several important energy bills that will improve our transmission and energy systems along the “Railbelt” that runs between Homer Electric Association in Homer all the way up to our own Golden Valley Electric Association in Fairbanks. HB 307 is an overall good bill, which began life in the Governor’s office. Among other things, HB 307 will integrate the transmission systems along the Railbelt, making energy more efficient and reliable for all communities and improving the current system which has been often described as similar to hooking up multiple extension cords to one another.

 

Another bill that was passed was SB 152, which will increase options for renewable energy development by establishing a legal framework for community energy facilities. Included in that framework is net metering, which allows rate payers to have their rates adjusted based on the amount of renewable energy they use. This legislation helps ensure that we can add and maintain more renewable energy options on our grid and keep savings from these energy systems with the individual homes and businesses taking advantage of the technology.

 

Addressing the Childcare Crisis

Earlier this session, I was proud to vote in favor of HB 89 from my freshman caucus colleague Representative Julie Coulombe (R – Anchorage). This bill would expand childcare tax credits to allow for greater investment in childcare. This bill ultimately passed as a rider to SB 189 which we added on the House Floor on the last day of session, and was concurred to by the Senate later that evening. This bill will allow thousands more Alaskans to access necessary childcare services. Rather than a subsidy program or a bail out to these childcare providers, this bill allows an incentive for the continual thriving and development of additional childcare venues. This is a desperately needed measure across our state, as high costs and increased staff turnover have led to affordability and availability constraints for Alaskan families with young children.

From left to right: Rep Carrick, Rep Himschoot (I -- Sitka), and Rep McCormick (D -- Bethel) on the House Floor on the final day of the Legislative Session



Certainty for Correspondence School Families

In late April, a Superior Court judge struck down much of Alaska’s correspondence school program as an unconstitutional avenue for state money to help fund private schools as well as religious education. I take my oath to the constitution very seriously, and addressing this issue with correspondence schools in a way that can alleviate the current crunch on allotments while also finding a path forward in the wake of the court ruling was a key end of session priority for most members of the Legislature, myself included.

 

I believe that it is critical to not only address the constitutional concerns of the program, but to do so while also providing stability for the 22,000 students and their families that take part in correspondence school options. Late at night on the last day of session, a grand bargain was reached to address these correspondence school issues, with the House voted unanimously in favor. This compromise was added as a rider in the Senate to HB 202 of which I am a co-sponsor.

 

There is still a lot of work that needs to be done for our education system, including permanently and meaningfully increasing the Base Student Allocation, our education funding formula. We must make sure that ALL our kids, not only those in correspondence programs, are receiving investment and attention. In the short term, I am pleased that the Legislature was able to come together to address the near-term challenges faced by correspondence school families. Without passage of this legislation, the Governor may have also called for a special session, costing huge amounts of money for the state. For this and other reasons, I am glad this agreement was able to come together on the last night of session, and I look forward to doing more next session to keep helping Alaska’s kids.

 

Transparency in Higher Education Costs

I am pleased to report that on the last night of session, the Textbook Cost Transparency Act passed the House unanimously. Senator Robert Myers (R – North Pole) and I have worked together on this bill throughout this Legislature. This bill will require the University to have notifications in the course catalog on UA online that will transparently show if the materials for a course are low cost. The course catalog will also show those courses with no cost for materials. As the Representative for the district that includes the University of Alaska Fairbanks main campus, I consider all students at UAF and throughout the UA system as my constituents, and I am pleased our UAF students will benefit from this new transparency measure on the costs of their higher education.

 

Permanent Investment in Workforce Development

In last week’s edition of the Carrick Capitol Connection, I discussed my bill, HB 55, which had passed the House nearly unanimously a few weeks ago. HB 55 is my bill that extends the sunset date of the Technical Vocational Education Program (TVEP) which had been scheduled to sunset at the end of this fiscal year. With the full docket of the Senate Finance Committee at the end of session, they were unable to take up HB 55 and instead added the TVEP Extension to HB 148. If you read through the version of HB 148 that passed the Senate, sections 13-15 of the bill include the TVEP extension. In a momentous change, the Senate Finance Committee made the TVEP program permanent. The biggest recipient of TVEP money is the state’s largest provider of workforce development in the state- the University of Alaska. Our UA system campuses receive nearly $6 million every year from TVEP. With the passage of HB 148, the University will receive its TVEP allocation indefinitely, allowing them to keep providing necessary workforce development without interruption, with a higher percentage allocated for this purpose to be collected from the unemployment insurance receipt trust funds that form the funding source for this program. 

 

Stay tuned for more detailed information about these subject areas and much more in a few upcoming future editions of the Carrick Capitol Connection. If you have any questions about any of these bills or immediate thoughts or concerns about any of the work done in the hectic last days and hours of the 33rd Alaska State Legislature, please feel free to contact my office. 

From left to right: Rep Carrick, Rep Louise Stutes (R -- Kodiak), and Rep McCormick (D -- Bethel) in the Capitol on one of the final days of the Legislative Session

Events Happening in Our Community

Chena Tool Library Tool Swap

Clean out those shops and garages and sell your unused tools! Bring your old tools to the Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts between 9am and 11 am on May 18 to sell. This is a great opportunity to give your unused tools a new home. Twenty percent of all sales go to support your local Chena Tool Library. Shop the swap from 12pm - 2 pm; reduced prices start at 1:30 pm. The Chena Tool Library is a proud member of the North Star Community Foundation.

 

2024 Really Free Market

It’s the 14th year for the Really Free Market! This is a free recycling event, which helps find new homes for items donated by the Fairbanks community. It will once again be held at the Lola Tilly Parking Lot on the UAF campus on May 18. Donated items must be clean, safe, and usable. Clothing, sporting goods, furniture, appliances, tools, gardening equipment, kitchen and bath items, tires, toys, and even toilets are some of the items that have been donated in the past. The market has a drive-up lane, and volunteers will be there to help unload donations from 8am to 10am. Organizers say more volunteers are needed to help with set-up during those hours. The market will only be open to shoppers from 10am to 11am. No selling, bartering, or swapping will be allowed. Unclaimed items will go to Green Star of Interior Alaska, the Closet Connection, and the Literacy Council of Alaska. For more information or to volunteer, contact UAF Summer Sessions and Lifelong Learning at 907-474-7021 or email summer@alaska.edu.

 

Aviation Day at the UAF Community and Technical College

The Fairbanks International Airport Operators Council is sponsoring Aviation Day on May 18 from 7am to 2pm at the UAF CTC Aviation Facility. This free event includes aviation exhibits, children’s activities, free young explorer flights for youth ages 8-17, airport tours, a hands-on riveting challenge, drone displays, aircraft displays and a walking tour, flight simulator, and walkthrough of a Boeing 727. Inflatable bouncers will be available outside for the kids, and a fire department apparatus will also be on display. For more information, click here.

 

Fairbanks Community Band Concert

To celebrate their thirtieth anniversary, the Fairbanks Community Band will hold a concert at the C.W. Davis Concert Hall on the UAF campus on Sunday, May 19 at 4pm. This concert is free, and children are welcome and encouraged to attend. Go enjoy some great community music this week!

 

“Start the Conversation” Class

A free class called "Start the Conversation" will be offered at the Resource Center for Parents and Children on May 24 in collaboration with the Fairbanks Public Health Center and the Interior Aids Association. This class is for caregivers to learn how to talk to their pre-teens and teenagers about sex, consent, drugs, alcohol, and vaping and to hear from experts. Caregivers will learn up-to-date information regarding these topics and best practices on educating teenagers as well as how to start those conversations. Dinner will be provided. The class starts at 6:00pm with a planned run time of two hours. An optional training on how to use Narcan will be available after the class for those who are interested.

 

Time to Head Back to Fairbanks… See You Soon!

With the conclusion of the legislative session, my office is relocating back to Fairbanks for the summer. My staff and I will be taking the ferry to Haines and driving back to Fairbanks during the coming week. During this transition my office will have intermittent office hours and I am hoping to have my Fairbanks office open again beginning on Monday, May 27. In the meantime, please feel free to stay in touch by calling 907-452-6084, emailing me at Rep.Ashley.Carrick@akleg.gov, or by following me @RepCarrick on social media. 

 

If you know of anyone who would like to sign up for an emailed edition of the Carrick Capitol Connection, please pass along this link to sign up online, or email me to be added to the list. Again, your comments are always appreciated. Please let us know if there are any specific topics in which you may be interested!

Representative Ashley Carrick

Proudly Serving House District 35 -- West Fairbanks


Rep.Ashley.Carrick@akleg.gov

907-452-6084


1292 Sadler Way, Ste 324, Fairbanks, AK 99701

*Global Credit Union building (formerly Alaska USA Credit Union), across from Home Depot, Walmart, and Fred Meyer east.

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Contact my Staff

Stuart Relay

Chief of Staff


stuart.relay@akleg.gov

907-452-6084

Cherie Bowman

Legislative Aide


cherie.bowman@akleg.gov

907-452-6084


Contact the Fairbanks Legislative Information Office


1292 Sadler Way Ste 308

Fairbanks, AK 99701


Office: 907-452-4448

Fax: 907-456-3346


LIO.Fairbanks@akleg.gov


Contact the Governor's Fairbanks Office


675 7th Ave, Ste. H5

Fairbanks, AK 99701-4596


907-451-2920


gov.alaska.gov


Contact your Congressional Delegation

Congresswoman Mary Peltola

Anchorage Office:

121 W Fireweed Ln, Ste. 260

Anchorage, AK 99503


Phone: 907-921-6575


Email


Website:

Peltola.House.Gov

Senator Lisa Murkowski

Fairbanks Office:

250 Cushman Ave, Suite 2D

Fairbanks, AK 99701


Phone: (907) 456-0233

Fax: (877) 857-0322


Email


Website: Murkowski.Senate.Gov

Senator Dan Sullivan

Fairbanks Office:

101 12th Ave., Ste. 328

Fairbanks, AK 99701


Phone: (907) 456-0261

Fax: (907) 451-7290


Email


Website: Sullivan.Senate.Gov