Public Education

I can not believe we are already at day 50 of the session, where does the time go? The last Maxine’s message was delivered just hours before the Senate concurred on SB 140, the bipartisan omnibus education bill, by a margin of 18-1. This means the legislation passed by a combined total of 56-3. For those of you who follow the legislature closely, you know that it is rare to see partisanship set aside to do what's right for the people of Alaska. The bill was subsequently sent to the Governor and it is on his desk awaiting a signature. As you may have heard, a few days after the transmittal, the Governor held an hour long press conference where he laid out the "issues" he has with the bill and the deficiencies in his eyes. He essentially proclaimed that he will veto the bill if the legislature does not codify several of his personal priority education initiatives. These include his teacher bonuses plan, changing the charter school approval and management process, and a different approach to Alaska Reads Act funding than what was included in the bill that passed. I know this ultimatum is frustrating to hundreds of Fairbanks residents (and Alaskans across the state). I have heard frustration from many because the bill we passed already had broad bi-partisan support and was already a compromise---the result of many days of negotiations. No legislator, school district or advocacy group got everything they wanted in the bill and there are actually serious nods to the Governor's initiatives included.


I am receptive to listening to the Governor’s proposals and I am encouraged by the negotiations that are currently taking place. I am hopeful that these negotiations will result in SB 140 being enacted into law. Alaskans know firsthand schools are suffering from a myriad of problems such as high inflation, large class sizes, and educator retention. These issues are compounded by a decade of flat funding. If enacted SB 140 does take small steps in remedying some of these issues. It is worrisome that even if the bill becomes law, the Governor may still line-item veto some of the BSA appropriation. I hope the Governor can find a way to pledge to our schools that he will leave the BSA increase intact.

The deadline for Governor Dunleavy to sign or veto the bill is March 14 (or if he takes no action it also becomes law). Time is of an essence. If you have views regarding this bill and other of the Governor's initiatives please take time to call his Fairbanks Office at: 907-451-2920 or email him directly using this online form. I am hopeful that we can arrive at a fair solution that results in this historic bill becoming law along with assurances from the Governor that the BSA boost will remain at a minimum of $680 (which is less than half of what school districts need to stop the bleeding).


Representative Dibert along with the other members of the House Minority Caucus (Alaska House Coalition) meeting with Representative Peltola after her address to the Alaska Legislature.

Legislative Update

While we have been focused heavily on public education, the House has taken action on several other key pieces of unrelated legislation. The most significant of these in my view is HB 89, the childcare bill. I am very proud to be a co-sponsor this bill. This important legislation passed the House with broad bipartisan support. It was supported by a wide swath of citizens and businesses across Fairbanks and the state. It contains two very important elements relating to growing the workforce. First, it incentivizes businesses, through tax breaks, to provide or subsidize child care for their employees. Secondly, it expands the eligibility criteria for families seeking child care assistance by increasing the income thresholds for which parents can apply for and receive support. The bill hopefully marks the beginning of many such legislative efforts that will allow more Alaskans, young and old, to join or rejoin the workforce. I am very optimistic that the bill will be adopted by the Senate and signed by the Governor. Passage of this bill is a major victory for working families and businesses in Fairbanks and across Alaska. It is another example of the bipartisan work that serves all Alaskans. This is what my constituents have told me they want from their leaders. Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike came together to do what's best for Alaskans. Thank you to all the legislators who worked on this legislation in committee, to the other co-sponsors and especially to Representative Coulombe for bringing this legislation forward.


Other bills and resolutions that have been passed by the House over the past two weeks include: a bill to increase the Alaska Performance Scholarship, HB 148, encouraging more of our students to stay in Alaska and study at our University with improved financial support updated to match the rising tuition costs that are a barrier to keeping our best students here, a bill, HB 273, expanding Alaskan home buyer opportunities by reducing barriers (especially down payment amounts) to buyers seeking financing from the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, a resolution, HJR 19 , encouraging the federal government to fund the building of the Northern Rail Extension from Canada northward, and a resolution, HJR 20, requesting that the permitting process for exploration and drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska (NPRA) involve more local input and that development not be as limited as has been proposed by the federal BLM. I supported all of these pieces of legislation. It's worth repeating that all these bills and resolutions passed with broad bipartisan support, a sign that this legislature is working to get things done, despite our sometimes deep political differences.

Representative Dibert Introducing Tamara Kruse Roselius on the House Floor, note Tamara standing in the gallery behind.

Primary Sponsored Legislation



I am currently carrying the following bills as a prime sponsor:


HB 147: Lifetime Retired Teacher Certificate-

This bill is sitting in the House Education Committee which currently is not meeting. We are hopeful that due to the strong bipartisan support of this bill it can be brought to the House Floor soon.


HB 188/SB 163: Animal Adoption Records-

Our house version is still waiting for it’s first hearing in State Affairs, but Senator Myers' version has passed out of Senate Judiciary and it is waiting to be heard on the Senate Floor. From there his version of the bill will meet ours on the House side, and I will carry it on the House Floor where it will hopefully pass and head to the Governor's desk and become law.


HB 283/SB 189: Extend Alaska Commission on Aging-

This bill is waiting for it’s first hearing in House Health & Social Services. Senator Kawasaki had his Senate version heard and held for Senate Finance on Thursday, March 7th. 

 

 

HB 366/SB 231: Adolescent Psychiatric Facilities-

This bill was introduced on the last day to file legislation for the 33rd Legislative session. This bill would increase transparency and parental oversight over Alaskan children who the State decides to institutionalize due to behavioral health challenges. House Bill 366 proposes three important reforms that will reduce the risk of abuse, strengthen family connections, and improve the transparency of Alaska’s psychiatric hospitals and psychiatric residential treatment facilities. First, the bill would ensure that children can maintain communication with their parents or legal guardians while institutionalized. Second, the bill would require unannounced and thorough inspections by state public health officials twice annually. Third, the bill would ensure that facilities are transparent about the use of seclusion and restraint. HB 366 has been referred to House Health & Social Services and House Labor & Commerce. Senator Matt Claman has introduced the Senate version, SB 231. It is waiting it’s first hearing in Senate Health & Social Services. 

 

 

HJR 15: Restore Expanded Child Tax Credit-

This resolution urges a restoration of the credit which served to reduce child poverty in Alaska by more than 50% when it was in place two years ago. This resolution has been referred to Health and Social Services.

Representative Dibert participating in a House Resources Committee meeting. Members are listening to a bill hearing and preparing questions for the presenters.

Executive Orders


Many legislators, including my office, have been receiving a high volume of emails and calls regarding the Executive Orders (linked article by James Brooks published January 29 in the Alaska Beacon) that were introduced by the Governor. Such orders can be voted up or down in a joint session with a simple majority vote. A formal joint session has been called and scheduled to address the Executive Orders introduced by Governor Dunleavy. It is being held Tuesday, March 12, at 10:30am. The session, as with all floor sessions, can be live-streamed at Gavel Alaska.


For those that don't know, Governor Dunleavy introduced a dozen Executive Orders which propose to eliminate several peer licensing boards like the those for Barbers, Midwives and Massage Therapists, and also to limit Alaskans’ participation in decision making regarding areas such as Wood Tikchik State Park and the Chilkat Eagle Preserve. These proposals to eliminate boards were ostensibly done in the name of governmental efficiency, but in my view boards and commissions can be quite beneficial as they allow for greater community involvement and broader access to government. I have heard many concerns voiced by every day Alaskans as well as professionals who would be affected by these Executive Orders. I am not convinced these EO’s are necessarily the best way to accomplish efficiency. It takes a majority of members in the Joint Session (31) to disapprove an Executive Order. I plan to listen to the floor debate, consider it along with the public feedback I have received, and vote accordingly on each.

Representative Dibert, along with Representatives Carrick, McCormick, and Vance participating in the Tribal Affairs Committee meeting. Here they are preparing to hear HJR 17, a resolution urging the United States Congress to establish the Truth and Healing Commission by adopting the Indian Boarding School Policies Act.

Committee Update


I serve on the following committees, here are a few brief updates:



Resources- House Resources has recently heard numerous bills and presentations on what is happening to the Cook Inlet gas supply. Cook Inlet gas has been a steady, reliable and affordable energy source to power homes, businesses, and industry for decades for more than half of Alaska’s population. Projections indicate a rapid decrease in gas supply from Cook Inlet in the coming years, so the Resources Committee and the entire legislature is prioritizing a search for solutions. 


Along with presentations, the committee heard HB 223 by Representative Rauscher which deals with production tax and royalty rates on gas in the Cook Inlet. In addition, the committee heard HB 387 by the House Resource Committee this past week. The bill would give tax credits to bring a new jack-up rig to Cook Inlet. Jack-up rigs are specialized offshore drilling rigs necessary for developing Cook Inlet gas reserves, and Cook Inlet currently only has one such rig available. The bill would provide a carry-forward tax credit equal to the cost associated with the purchasing and transporting of the rig to Alaska to help increase exploration and production of gas in the Cook Inlet. 


Finance Subcommittee- The Department of Natural Resources sub-Finance committee on which I serve closed out on Wednesday, March 6th. The budget now goes back before the House Finance Committee as a whole and is examined by Finance Committee members who ultimately decide on the final budget for this Department. 


AET- The Special Committee on Arctic Policy, Economic Development, and Tourism has not met in the last two weeks, and has no scheduled meetings next week. There are several important areas of concern that are the domain of this committee and I am hopeful that we will be able to convene again soon to review relevant arctic subject matters and proposals.


Tribal affairs- The Special Committee on Tribal Affairs met multiple times this week on the topic of Indian boarding schools within Alaska. The existence of these schools is widely known, and the infrastructure and graveyards from these sites still exist such as at Sheldon Jackson College- which is currently still in use. The committee heard first-hand accounts of harm and trauma experienced while attending Indian boarding schools in Alaska. The stories were hard to hear, but it was obvious that the stories were even harder to tell. I am so thankful to those who were brave enough to share their first-hand accounts. The committee also heard and passed House Joint Resolution 17, sponsored by Representative CJ McCormick, and which I co-sponsor. This resolution urges the United States Congress to establish the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act, also known as S 1723. This piece of legislation currently has 29 congressional co-sponsors, including Senator Lisa Murkowski. The impact of Indian boarding schools on the indigenous population has caused trauma for generations, yet remains largely overlooked by the State of Alaska, and the rest of the United States. The prevalence of unmarked grave sites at recognized boarding schools, cemeteries, and unrecorded missionary schools throughout Alaska underscores the urgent need for the acknowledgment and prioritized reconciliation efforts with the state.

Representative Dibert listening to Representative Peltola as she delivers her annual address to a Joint Session of the Alaska State Legislature.

Office Visits Provide Opportunities to Listen and Discuss Priorities

My office continues to meet with constituents as well as representatives from non-profit organizations, department heads, utilities, businesses large and small, advocacy groups, and more. My goal is to listen to people and to use their input to guide and inform my work. I look forward to more Fairbanks visits over the weeks to come. When I am home in Fairbanks, I will endeavor to make myself available as much as possible. Please don't hesitate to reach out directly to my office to set up an in person conversation with me. Not only do I view this as my duty, I truly enjoy meeting with people from my community of Fairbanks.

Representative Dibert with Laureli Ivanoff, Executive Director, Native Peoples Action.

Representative Dibert with Ashleigh Snead, Alex Sallee, and Steven Cornfield of Alaska Film Industry.

Representative Dibert with Theresa Bakker- Interim Executive Director, University Advancement at UAF. Also District 31 constituent. Advancement works with Alumni Relations, University Relations and Office of Development who work to advance UAF’s mission and strategic goals.

Representative Dibert with Deputy Chief Richard Sweet and Brenda McFarlane, Crisis Now Coordinator. Crisis Now connects people with the most appropriate resources from the onset of a crisis through their recovery and follow up. Their model is the combination of national best practices woven into a framework tailored to meet Fairbanks’ needs.

Representative Dibert with Trina Bailey, childhood friend, who was in Juneau advocating for the Presbyterian Hospitality House, PHH. PHH provides mental and behavioral treatment through their community-based program that serves as an alternative to institutional or juvenile detention placement. Their proposed capital improvement plan will result in a new facility in Fairbanks that will expand and modernize their ability to serve the community.

Representative Dibert with Jillian Simpson of the Alaska Travel Industry Association. Ms. Simpson spoke of their many initiatives and creative marketing campaigns that highlight the unique experiences and awesome beauty that our great state has to offer. Year-round tourism is an important part of our economy in the Golden Heart City.

The 33rd Legislature in Action

If you are interested in what's going on during session, you can read about and watch all the action in Juneau. You can watch every single floor session, hearing, and committee meeting live or on an archived basis at Gavel Alaska. The upcoming week (March 11-15) is packed with action including the joint session on Executive Orders, the annual revenue forecast, the deadline for action on SB 140, the education package, and the initial public testimony on the FY25 budget. So you will want to stay glued to Gavel. Reach out to my office if you need help locating any of these items or if you want to testify on the budget (Fairbanks priority testimony on the operating budget is slated for Thursday, March 14th.5:00pm to 6:00pm. Go to the LIO to testify or for more information).


See below for useful links for citizens to track what's happening:



If you need something specific and you can not locate it, let my office know and we would be glad to assist.



Fairbanks Warming Shelter, HopeLink, is now open. Fairbanks HopeLink, located at 317 Wendell Ave, is an overnight warming center, open 7 nights a week, "meeting people where they are and keeping them warm, safe, and connected to community resources." The shelter is committed to providing a low-barrier environment for individuals experiencing homelessness during cold winter nights. If you know of anyone needing warm shelter, please pass the word. If you would like to get involved and help out, please contact them or visit the shelter.

Have you applied for the PFD yet? The deadline approaches quickly!

The 2024 PFD filing season is coming to a close. The deadline is nearly upon us. The application period is open until 11:59 PM Sunday, March 31, 2024. You can get more information and apply online HERE.

Select Job Opportunities


List of current positions for:

-Fairbanks Pioneer Home

-State of Alaska positions in Fairbanks

-Fairbanks School District - Job Openings

-UAF Job Openings



Alaska’s Job Centers

* Job seekers: fairbanks.jobcenter@alaska.gov

* Employers: fairbanks.employers@alaska.gov

Thanks for staying engaged! I hope to see you in Fairbanks the next time I am in town. Thank you to the hundreds of you who have corresponded on issues that you feel are important.


Please feel welcome to visit my office in person or to give us a call anytime. We are here to help.


In humble service to the People of Fairbanks,

View this E-News as a Webpage

Stay in Touch and Stay Informed

Contact Our Office

• Representative Dibert: Rep.Maxine.Dibert@akleg.gov


• Chief of Staff: Sarah.evans@akleg.gov


• Legislative Aide:

Tammy.Smith@akleg.gov


 Office Phone: 907-465-2138


Web: https://akhouse.org/rep-dibert/


Alaska State Capitol

Room 424

Juneau, AK 99801

Alaska Legislature Web Page

(contact info for every legislator)


Governor Dunleavy

(907) 465-3500


Senator Scott Kawasaki

(907) 907-465-3466

Senator Dan Sullivan

(202) 224-3004


Senator Lisa Murkowski

(202) 224-6665


Representative Mary Peltola

(202) 225-5765

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