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Saturday, March 12

Greetings,

It’s been another busy week in the Capitol. We're expecting things to pick up as the Spring revenue forecast arrives next week, and the FY23 budget begins to take shape in the House. The Finance Committee is meeting twice a day to hear bills in between the hearings on the budget.

My bill creating the state Office of Broadband had its first hearing in the House Labor & Commerce Committee.

I was pleased to meet with representatives from the Nushagak Cooperative and present them with a legislative citation recognizing the amazing work that was done to restore power after a severe winter storm last December.  Among others, thank you to Marilyn Casteel from SAFE in Dillingham, Eileen Arnold from the Tundra Women's Coalition and Mary Peltola from the Kuskokwim River Intertribal Fish Commission for stopping by.
Building Better Broadband
1st Committee Hearing for Broadband Bill
  • HB363 (sponsored by Representatives Edgmon, Zulkosky, Foster, Hopkins, and Schrage) creates the framework for the state to compete for billions of dollars of federal funding to build out modern broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas in Alaska.
  • It creates a new section of law in Alaska statutes for broadband, and is constructed from the recommendations coming from the Governor's Broadband Task Force
  • The bill creates the Office of Broadband, the Broadband Advisory Board and the Broadband Parity Adjustment Fund. 
  • The bill has broad support, including the Alaska Municipal League and numerous stakeholders who will be part of the effort to get high quality and affordable broadband to everyone in Alaska.
Municipal Harbor Matching Grants
Sand Point Harbor
Harbor Funding Back in the Budget

On Thursday, the House Finance Committee heard a presentation on the Harbor Facility Grant Program.
  • The Harbor Facility Grant Fund is a 50% matching grant fund program that was created in 2006 by the legislature.
  • The program is a funding source to help sustain Alaska municipal harbors.
  • Projects funding requests come from local governments.
  • Projects are prioritized based on the ability to fund match requirements and future maintenance, the ability to address documented safety issues, and the degree to which the project serves a public interest.
  • Projects are divided into two tiers. Tier I projects get first priority and consist of major maintenance and repairs to municipal harbors that were previously owned by the state. Tier II projects are other harbor facilities or facilities that were previously owned by the state that have already received a Tier I grant.
  • Sand Point’s municipal harbor is currently at the top of the Tier II projects list, should the program get funded by the legislature this year.
  • Unfortunately, the Governor did not include it in his FY23 budget submission.
Alaska Higher Education Investment Fund
Protecting Scholarships for Alaskan Students

This week, the House Finance Committee heard Rep. Josephson’s HB229 that proposes to create a higher education fund that will not be sweepable. The fund was created in 2012 to create a funding source for higher education programs. In 2019, the Dunleavy administration determined it was a sweepable account. In 2021, unfortunately the 3/4 threshold necessary to keep the program from being swept into the CBR was not obtained and the fund was swept.

  • HB229 establishes that the Higher Education Investment Fund (HEIF) is an important tool that helps Alaskan students obtain degrees that will provide them with the knowledge and qualifications they need to be part of a highly skilled workforce that moves the state forward.  
  • The bill protects the HEIF from being swept at the end of the fiscal year, ensuring consistent and sustainable funding for this important program.
  • HB229 helps to ensure that we’re developing homegrown doctors, teachers, engineers and the many other professionals Alaska so desperately needs.
Operating Budget Expected to Come Into Shape Next Week
Full Speed Ahead on Alaska’s Budget
  • The Governor originally built his budget on forecast assumptions of $61 per barrel. When we receive the updated revenue forecast next week, projected prices are expected to increase dramatically for FY23.  
  • The rise and fall of oil prices is a fact of life in Alaska. This past week was no exception. The price of oil hit a 14 year high on Monday, then two days later suffered its biggest drop since April of 2020.
  • This aside, we’re still looking at a banner year in oil revenue for the upcoming fiscal year.
  • Next week, the House Finance Committee will begin hearing budget amendments as we work towards getting the operating budget to the House floor and eventually to the Senate.
On Deck
Items of interest on the legislative calendar
Coming Up This Week:

Monday March 14th
(H) Education 8:00AM
SB 36 U of A Regents Report Requirements
-Public Testimony-
HB 108 Concurrent Secondary & Trade School
HB 48 AK Performance Scholarship; Eligibility
HB 350 School Bond Debt Reimbursement
(H)Resources 1:00PM
Consideration of Governor’s Appointees: Big Game Commercial Services Board – Clay Nordlum, Board of Game – James Cooney
-Public Testimony-
HB 299 Microreactors
(H)Finance 1:30PM
HB 322 AK Marine Hwy System Vessel Repl. Fund
HB 395 Funds: AK Marine Highway System

Tuesday March 15th
(S)Health & Social Services 7:45AM
Division of Public Assistant Update
(H)Community & Regional Affairs 8:00AM
HB 298 Alaska Food Strategy Task Force
HB 256 Law Enforcement: Registry; Use of Force
-Public Testimony-
(H)Tribal Affairs 8:00AM
Presentation: Rural Wastewater and Sanitation
(S)Finance 9:00AM
SB 111 Early Education; Reading Intervention
(H)Energy 10:15AM
HB 301 Utilities: Renewable Portfolio Standard
(S)Finance 1:00PM
Presentation: Medicaid Update by Department of Health and Social Services
(H)Finance 1:30PM
HB 322 AK Marine Hwy System Vessel Repl. Fund
HB 395 Funds: AK Marine Highway System
(S)Health & Social Services 1:30PM
SB 124 Mental Health Facilities & Meds
SB 211 Missing/Murdered Indigenous Women; Report
-Public Testimony-
(S)Transportation 1:30PM
SB 226 Funds: AK Marine Highway System

Wednesday March 16th
(H)Finance 9:00AM
Presentation: Spring Forecast by Department of Revenue
HB 281 Approp: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds
HB 282 Approp: Mental Health Budget
(H)Finance 1:30PM
HB 281 Approp: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds
HB 282 Approp: Mental Health Budget
(H)Labor & Commerce 3:15PM
HB 363 Broadband: Office, Grants, Parity
Presentation: Child Care Trust Fund
(S)Resources 3:30PM
SB 204 Hunting Permit/Tag Auctions/Raffles

Thursday March 17th
(H)Community & Regional Affairs 8:00AM
HB 298 Alaska Food Strategy Task Force
HB 256 Law Enforcement: Registry; Use of Force
-Public Testimony-
(H)Tribal Affairs 8:00AM
Presentation: MMIP and the Violence Against Women Act
(H)Finance 9:00AM
HB 135 Geothermal Resources
HB 273 Increase Base Student Alloc. Inflation
(S)Finance 9:00AM
SB 132 Controlled Sub. Data: Exempt Veterinarian
-Public Testimony-
SB 202 Renewable Energy Grant Fund
-Public Testimony-
SB 81 Village Public Safety Officer Grants
(S)Education 10:00AM
SB 34 State-Tribal Education Compact Schools
(H)Energy 10:15AM
HB 301 Utilities: Renewable Portfolio Standard
(H)Ways & Means 11:30AM
Presentation: Oil and Gas Update: Global Markets, Geopolitics, High Prices, and other Influences on State Revenue and Production by Dan Stickel, Chief Economist, Department of Revenue; Deputy Commissioner John Crowther, Department of Natural Resources; Larry Persily, Oil and Gas Analyst and former Deputy Commissioner of Revenue
(H) Finance 1:30PM
HB 281 Approp: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds
HB 282 Approp: Mental Health Budget
HB 60 Public Schools: Mental Health Education
-Public Testimony-
SB 9 Alcoholic Beverage Control; Alcohol Reg.
(S)Health & Social Services 1:30PM
SB 124 Mental Health Facilities & Meds
SB 175 Health Care Services by Telehealth
(S)Transportation 1:30PM
SB 170 Marine Highway Corporation
(S)State Affairs
HB 187 State Agency Publications
-Public Testimony-
SB 207 Access to Marijuana Conviction Records
-Public Testimony-
SB 214 Liability: Social Media Censorship
-Public Testimony-
HB 123 State Recognition of Tribes

Friday March 18th
(H)Finance 9:00AM

HB 281 Approp: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds
HB 282 Approp: Mental Health Budget
SB 33 Seafood Product Development Tax Credit
(H)Finance 1:30PM
HB 281 Approp: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds
HB 282 Approp: Mental Health Budget
HB 149 Child Care Provider Collective Bargaining
HB 289 AK Marijuana Industry Task Force
 
I ran into some familiar faces from the Bristol Bay Borough at the Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference last week. From left: Rhonda Waynor, Mary Swain, Adelheid Herrmann and Ralph Zimin
Thanks to Marilyn Casteel from Safe and Fear Free Environment, Inc (SAFE) in Dillingham for coming to Juneau. We had a good conversation about what the Legislature can do to support her work to address the problems of domestic violence and sexual assault, and to help victims in our communities.
I met with representatives from the Nushagak Telephone and Electric Cooperative and presented them with a legislative citation
From Left: Will Chaney, Henry Strub, Pete Andrew, and Bob Himschoot
It was great to catch up with former Representative, Mary Peltola, who's now the Executive Director of the Kuskokwim River Intertribal Fish Commission
Representative Hopkins introduces his daughter, Isidora, on the House floor
Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium is hosting a virtual health fair this week. The event will focus on building connections to prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), substance misuse, and suicide.
Don't forget to file your application for the 2022 Permanent Fund Dividend!
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or my staff with any issues or concerns.

All the best,
Office Phone: (907) 465-4451
Toll free: (800) 898-445
 
Contact my staff:
Amory: amory.lelake@akleg.gov
Seth: seth.whitten@akleg.gov
Laib: laib.allensworth@akleg.gov
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