Time is Flying By

A big hello from Juneau! Wow time is flying down here. We have already passed the 50th day of the session. I continue to read, listen, and actively participate in the ongoing legislative process including the House Floor sessions, the committee meetings, the caucus meetings, the lunch-and-learns, the individual and small group meetings with members of both bodies, and meetings in my office with constituents and organizational representatives. I am learning more and more with each passing day. I continue to explore all of the ways I can use the position you have trusted in me to advocate for you, the people of Fairbanks, and all of Alaska. Thank you to everyone from Fairbanks who has reached out to my office with words of support and advice.

Pictured left to right: Superintendent Bill Hill, Representative Maxine Dibert, and Senator Löki Tobin

Alaska Reads Act Panel

A few weekends back I was invited to participate in a panel discussion on reading instruction in our schools and the planned implementation of the Alaska Reads Act. The panelists included Senator Löki Tobin, Chair Senate Education Committee, Susan McKenzie, DEED Director of Innovation and Education Excellence, Superintendent Bill Hill (Bristol Bay School District), Superintendent Clayton Holland (Kenai Peninsula Borough School District), and myself, District 31 Representative. We had a robust discussion regarding the Reads Act, its implementation, and the potential ways it could serve to help our schools improve student learning and especially reading skills across the State.

Education Legislation Update

While I was in Anchorage visiting friends last weekend, I had a chance to visit classrooms at Bartlett High School where I got to visit with students and teachers and deliver a few words regarding my experiences in Juneau thus far. I learned that schools in Anchorage have many of the same critical needs seen in our Fairbanks schools. Much of the input I have heard from constituents this session is focused on education funding and specifically the need for a significant increase in the Base Student Allocation, BSA. There has also been much attention paid to the need for a defined benefits retirement program especially as it relates to teacher recruitment and retention. Two bills, one in each chamber, are focused on raising the BSA. In the Senate, SB 52, and in the House, HB 65. I expect an opportunity for public testimony soon in the House Education Committee on HB 65, a bill which I am a co-sponsoring. Rep Ortiz’s bill proposes raising the BSA by $1,250. This bill will likely see public hearing opportunities the week of March 20, so please send your feedback to the committee and when the opportunity presents itself, please testify. Over in the Senate, SB52 proposes a $1000 increase to the BSA in FY 2024 and a $348 increase in FY 2025. It also provides for an inflation adjustment in FY 2026. Please avail yourself to testify on SB 52 when the opportunity arises (soon). Thank you all for staying engaged! In regards to a better retirement for teachers, public safety workers, and critical public employees, Senator Cathy Giessel has introduced SB 88 which would create just such a new retirement system. Committee hearings on SB 88 began this week. In the House, HB 22 proposes a defined benefit retirement for public safety employees including police officers and firefighters. In a move that has frustrated advocates for an improved retirement system, the House has paused committee debate on HB 22 through a procedural move that sent the bill to a newly formed subcommittee to study the issue. I share this frustration and would prefer it be routed more directly to the floor for debate. I will continue to advocate for establishing a defined benefit system that will allow us to recruit Alaskans as teachers and that will stop our brightest and best teachers from leaving our state.

Additionally, the Governor introduced a pair of bills relating to education. One, HB 106 proposes to offer temporary bonuses to Alaska teachers. The other, HB 105 proposes various restrictions on sex-ed classes and requires transgender students to use the bathrooms designated for the sex they were assigned at birth. As for the first bill, I certainly welcome the Governor's support for teachers and his recognition of the teacher retention crisis, but I do wonder if short term bonuses might, in fact, exasperate our retention problem. In addition, the bill does not address the critical shortages in the hundreds of other types of employees schools need to to improve student learning and to operate smoothly. I still believe an increased BSA is the best path to solving some of these staff shortages. The second bill is, in my view, a divisive distraction from the important push to improve educational outcomes in our youth. See our coalition's press release regarding the Governor's bills:

House Coalition Welcomes Governor’s Funding Proposal for Teacher Retention; Culture War Legislation Will Be Nothing But A Distraction

Senator Kawasaki and Representative Dibert admiring Fairbanks area student art hung at the Capitol. These are 'Boreal Forest' works from Ronda Schlumbohm's Salcha Elementary class.

Visitors Visitors Visitors

Over the Past two weeks I have had dozens of meetings with constituents and visitors from many different organizations. I took meetings with the Interior Gas Utility, Planned Parenthood, Doyon Limited, the ACLU, the Center for Non-violent Living, University of Alaska Student Leaders, Moms Demand Action, and the Alaska Truckers Association, among many others.

Planned Parenthood, Morgan Lim and Rose O'Hara

Jessica Stoffel with the Center for Non-violent Living (in District 31)

University of Alaska Coalition of Student Leaders visited legislators in Juneau

Tamara Kruse (constituent) with Moms Demand Action

Manh Choh Mine Update

I have heard from constituents in person, through phone calls, and emails on their stance on the proposed Manh Choh Mine. Last week I sent an email reminding folks that there was an opportunity through the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to submit public comment (through March 13th at 5PM). If you are reading this before the 5pm deadline please note::

• Comments may be submitted via email at: manh.choh.comments@alaska.gov

• For more information about the mine, and to comment online, visit this site.

• You can read comments that have already been submitted here.

Regardless, I hope many of you were able to submit your comments regarding this project including the ore haul plan. I have heard from both supporters and those in opposition to the ore haul plan. I believe public input is a good thing. I will continue to communicate with the Department of Transportation and urge them to find ways to solicit additional public comment as the project plans continue to unfold and evolve. As you know, I am a very strong supporter of responsible resource development, including mining and the development of new mines, but I do have some safety concerns regarding the proposed ore haul plan. For your information, official resolutions relating to the Manh Choh Project have been adopted by the North Pole City Council, the Fairbanks Citiy Council, and the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly. I will continue to keep you updated as information becomes available.

Willow Project Update

Just as we are preparing to hit send on this E-letter, we have heard that the Biden Administration is approving the implementation of the Willow Project in the NPR-A. While support for this project was not universal, it is a good thing in my view that the President listened to the majority of Alaskans, our legislature, and our congressional delegation in making this decision. This project has the potential to bring substantial economic growth and high-paying jobs to people in Fairbanks. It should also serve to lower energy costs for Alaskans. It is my hope that the project will function as as a bridge while we transition our country to an accessible and affordable renewable energy system in the future.

Update on our Legislative work

In the Resources Committee, we moved HB 50 "An Act relating to the geologic storage of carbon dioxide" on to the next committee for consideration. We are now considering the related bill HB 49, "An Act authorizing the Department of Natural Resources to lease land for carbon management purposes; establishing a carbon offset program for state land; authorizing the sale of carbon offset credits; and providing for an effective date." If you have comments on this bill, we will be taking public testimony this week, most likely on Wednesday, March 15 at 1:00pm. Visit the Resources Committee Page for specific information on the hearing or contact my office.

The special committee on Tribal Affairs on which I serve on has begun meeting. After some introductory presentations on ANCSA, we heard information on Representative Story's Bill, HB 26 "An Act renaming the Alaska Native Language Preservation and Advisory Council as the Council for Alaska Native Languages; and relating to the Council for Alaska Native Languages."

Sponsorship Update:

I am currently co-sponsoring the following Bills:

HB 28 Access to Marijuana Conviction Records

HB 44 Cultural Education Program

HB 46 Child Care Provider Collective Bargaining

HB 65 Increase Base Student Allocation (BSA)

HB 89 Day Care Assistance and Child Care Grant Program

HJR 9 Constitutional Amendment regarding the long term preservation of the Permanent Fund

HJR 11 Addresses Air Pollution in Fairbanks

For a glance at some actions taken and some advocacy and opinions the I and my colleagues have been releasing, see below:

House Votes to Reject Compensation Commission Report

Group of Lawmakers Proposes Constitutional Amendment to Prevent Legislature from Overspending the Permanent Fund

• Constitutional Issue: As you probably know, several Attorneys General from other states and Alaska's Attorney General Treg Taylor joined together to pressure pharmacies into not providing access to abortion medication such as Mifepristone. In response, Walgreens decided to stop providing this medication in Alaska. Because of this decision by Walgreens to ignore Alaska’s Constitution and eliminate access to life-saving medication, members of the House Coalition (including me), House Majority, and Senate Majority authored the following letter to the CEO for Walgreens. We have subsequently shared this letter with other pharmacy companies to urge them follow the Alaska Constitution and to maintain access to medications. See those pharmacy letters here.

Fairbanks Air Quality

Interior Delegation United in Opposition to Proposed Air Quality Regulations for the Fairbanks North Star Borough

   Our Letter to EPA

The Fairbanks Chamber urges input from citizens. They ask that you visit:

The Chamber Air Quality Page and use the resources to make resident voices heard on this issue. We have made progress on our air quality in Fairbanks, and we DO want clean air but certainly not at any cost. The Chamber argues that Fairbanks residents cannot afford the expensive new pollution control measures put forward by the EPA that will likely provide limited benefits. Citizen comments must be submitted to the EPA by March 22nd.

By the way, residents can help with improving our air quality and save some money as well by participating in the Borough wood stove exchange and change out programs or by pursuing Natural Gas conversion grants and rebates at interiorgas.com.

It Takes a Village

Meals on Wheels! Please take a moment to visit the Fairbanks Senior Center web page and participate in their "It takes a Village" campaign to raise funds for the Meals on Wheels program. The campaign is also geared to encourage residents to volunteer to help our seniors. You can contribute online at the web site or you can make a pledge by phoning 907-452-2562. The Center’s goal is to collect $50,000. March 27 to 31 is designated as “In Memory of ” week. Donors may make a donation in the name of anyone living or dead. Please donate or volunteer today!

Fairbanks Jobs Corner

I've decided to try and do my part and add a jobs corner to Maxine's Message. If you have listings you would like to see added to this Jobs Corner, let me know, and I will add them to the list. Also if you would like information on training for any of these or other positions my office may be able to point you in the right direction.

-AFL-CIO: Interior Labor Coordinator

-Apprenticeships in the Trades: Apprenticeships-openings

List of current positions for:

-State of Alaska positions in Fairbanks

-Fairbanks Native Association

-Doyon Limited

-Fairbanks School District - Job Openings

-Foundation Health Partners (hospital, TVC, and more)- Job Openings

-Foundation Health Partners training opportunities and apprenticeships

-Tanana Chiefs including Chief Andrew Isaac

-UAF Job Openings

-Northern Alaska Tours company

-HollandAmerica Princess

-Rural Alaska Honors Institute (RAHI)

Thank you from Juneau.

Reminder the deadline [March 31] to apply for an Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend is fast approaching!

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

In humble service to the People of Fairbanks,

View Maxine's Message 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

 Office Phone: 907-465-2138

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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