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Senator Lisa Murkowski
Senator Dan Sullivan
Congressman Don Young
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Thank you for taking a moment to read this brief update. The legislature is moving swiftly to adapt our procedures to allow us to conduct business under the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.
By taking action to prevent spread of the virus, we intend to keep the Legislature fully operational for emergency actions as well as our regular work while still keeping the public involved and informed.
Staff and legislators are banned from traveling out of state for non-emergency purposes. Hand shaking has been a thing of the past for about a week, and hand sanitizer stations have been placed throughout the capitol.
We have approved emergency authority for leadership to restrict nonessential access to the capitol building, should that become temporarily necessary.
Advocacy groups planning to come to come to Juneau have been asked to cancel their trips. Instead, we will assist them with conducting their legislative meetings electronically until the situation is resolved.
To this end, the House Education Committee has cancelled in-person public testimony on the Alaska Reads Act this Saturday. We will be conducting the meeting entirely electronically through a newly beefed-up phone system with 90 available lines.
Public Testimony on the Alaska Reads Act this Saturday
When: Saturday, March 14 starting at 1:00 pm
More about the Alaska Reads Act
The Alaska Reads Act, which I am sponsoring in the House in HB 153, seeks to expand voluntary Pre-K in Alaska while providing resources to school districts to boost state reading scores. In the last district survey I conducted 63.5 percent of people support the idea, with 25.5 percent opposed and 11 percent undecided.
I am glad the idea has so much support because early social emotional development as well as the ability to read well by grade three are essential to the future success of children.
It is an irrefutable fact that illiteracy and delayed early development are directly correlated with the mass incarceration of our citizens. Half of the world’s prison population are held in the U.S., China, or Russia with the U.S. being number one in the world—a shameful record.
Although we are suddenly dealing an unexpected global financial crisis and a worsening pandemic, I will continue to push forward on this legislation.
It may cost hundreds of dollars to get a struggling child reading at grade level, but it costs over fifty thousand dollars a year to house a prisoner.
The Alaska Reads Act is clearly the right thing to do.
State officials continue to urge Alaskans to take necessary precautions, including:
The Department of Health and Social Services will notify the media and post on social media with important updates. For the latest information from Alaska, visit coronavirus.alaska.gov and check cdc.gov for national updates. Alaskans who have questions about COVID-19 are encouraged to contact their healthcare provider, or call Alaska 211 for answers and additional resources.
As always, please call or email with any thoughts, ideas, or concerns.