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Friday, April 15

Greetings,

Last week, the House completed our work on the operating budget and passed it over to the Senate. This is a major milestone as the final month of the legislative session approaches. 

This past week, I attended a federal infrastructure symposium hosted by Senator Murkowski in Anchorage. The House had several floor sessions where bills to protect the state's Higher Education Investment Fund, establish a task force for food security and approve sales of our royalty oil were advanced. My bill to create the State Office of Broadband was also passed out of the House Finance Committee.

I'll continue to monitor progress on the operating budget as it moves through the Senate. Next Tuesday, the legislature will hear an address from Senator Sullivan. Work in committees to hear bills will continue and the House Finance Committee will continue hearing legislation in addition to working on the capital budget and federal infrastructure bill.
 
Budget Moves Off House Floor
Progress on the Operating Budget
  • Last week, the House debated 87 proposed amendments to the FY23 operating budget. Most of them were unsuccessful.
  • The long process concluded on Saturday with a final vote by the House to pass the budget out.
  • Some highlights include:
    • A  2022 PFD and energy relief check totaling $2,600 
    • Public education was fully funded in FY23 with an increase of $57 million for the base student allocation. In addition, the bill uses increased oil revenues to forward fund K-12 schools for FY24, increase support for Pre-K programs, and fund higher education scholarships
    • $2.2 billion was placed in savings accounts
    • Funding for ten additional Village Public Safety Officers
    • $1 million for seven law enforcement positions in victim and witness coordination to properly address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, and $5 million to combat domestic violence and sexual assault 
    • $1.5 million increase for Public Broadcasting, which helps connect Alaskans across the state by providing grants to rural public radio stations.
  • Unfortunately, the House failed to achieve the 3/4 threshold needed to prevent the reverse sweep and the 2/3 vote necessary to provide an immediate effective date. However, there will be a second opportunity to vote on those measures when the operating budget comes back to the House for a concurrence vote.
Broadband Bill Passes House Finance Committee
Prioritizing Broadband Access for Unserved and Underserved Alaskans
  • House Bill 363, my bill that creates the Office of Broadband, the Broadband Advisory Board and the Broadband Parity Adjustment Fund, moved out of the House Finance Committee. Next stop is the House floor.
  • HB363 establishes the framework that's necessary to accept over $1 billion in federal funding to expand broadband access to unserved and underserved areas of the state.
  • HB363 is a critical first step as we work to bring broadband access to all Alaskans.
Redistricting Board Rework
Trying to Get it Right
Interior Secretary to Visit King Cove
King Cove Visit on the Itinerary
  • This upcoming week, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland will visit several communities in the state, including Anchorage, Fairbanks and King Cove.
  • Last year, the U.S. Justice Department told a federal appeals court panel that Secretary Haaland planned to review the record and visit King Cove before taking a position on a proposed eighteen mile road between King Cove and Cold Bay.
  • The proposed road would provide critical access to reliable emergency medical access for all who live in King Cove and bring an end to dangerous medevacs during harsh weather.
  • I look forward to Secretary Haaland's visit and am grateful she'll have the opportunity to hear directly from residents of King Cove about how important it is to improve access to emergency care in the region.
Defending Our Constitution
On Thursday, I participated in a press conference held by Defend Our Constitution, a bipartisan group of concerned Alaskans who are opposed to a Constitutional Convention in Alaska
Coming Together to Protect Our Constitution
  • In 1955-56, the Alaska State Constitution was drafted and authorized by a vote of the people. The outcome is widely recognized as a model Constitution that continues to serve Alaska well some 60 years later.
  • Every 10 years, Alaskans are asked whether a Constitutional Convention should be held to rewrite the entire document. Voters have resoundingly rejected the question every time it has appeared on the ballot since 1972. 
  • A Constitutional Convention would be expensive and could fundamentally change our state. It opens the entire Constitution to unknown consequences on a wide range of hot-button issues and creates the opportunity for outside special interest groups and dark money to change Alaska’s laws to promote their agenda over the interests of Alaskans.
  • Alaskans across the political spectrum are committed to defending our Constitution. 
Infrastructure Symposium in Anchorage
Senator Murkowski Discusses Infrastructure Opportunities
  • On Monday, I attended Senator Murkowski's Infrastructure Grant Symposium in Anchorage.
  • The symposium brought federal agency representatives to the state to help local leaders navigate the Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act (IIJA) that will bring billions of dollars in competitive grants to the state.
  • In her address, Senator Murkowski stressed the need to develop our in-state workforce to make sure Alaskan workers benefit from the anticipated influx of grant funding.
  • While we're still waiting on the final criteria for many of the funding opportunities to be released next month, this event was a good chance to network with regional contacts and federal representatives to clarify expectations and make sure we're putting the right pieces in place to take advantage of this once in a generation opportunity.
On Deck
Items of interest on the legislative calendar
Coming Up This Week:

Monday April 18th
(S)Resources 3:30PM
SB 180 Passenger Vessel Environmental Compliance
-Public Testimony-
SB 219 Transfer Personal Use Cabin Permits
HB 54 Invasive Species Management
SB 227 State Ownership Of Submerged Land

Tuesday April 19th
(S)Finance 9:00AM
SB 241 Approp: Supplemental; Capital=
(H&S)Joint Session 11:00AM
Annual Address by the Honorable Dan Sullivan, U.S. Senator

(H)Finance 1:30PM
HB 414  Approp: Supplemental; Capital

(S)Health & Social Services 1:30PM
HB 62 Marriage Witnesses
HB 184 Require Tribal Child
SB 216 Dementia Awareness
SB 184 Settlement Trusts & Benefits Eligibility
SB 242 Exemptions For Food Products
-Public Testimony-

Wednesday April 20th
(H)Education 8:00AM
SB 111 Early Education; Reading Intervention

(S)Education 9:00AM
SB 196 Public Ed: Speech, Disclose INST Material
HB 132 School Apprenticeship Progs; Tax Credit
-Public Testimony-

(S)Finance 9:00AM
SB 199 Perm Fund; Permanent Fund Dividend
SB 121 PFAS Use & Remediation; Fire/Water Safety
Senate Bill: Relating to Power Cost Equalization
<Pending Introduction & Referral>

(H)Resources 1:00PM
Consideration of Governor’s Appointees: Board of Game, Big Game Commercial Services Board
-Public Testimony-

(H)Finance 1:30PM
HB 289 AK Marijuana Industry Task Force
HB 350 School Bond Debt Reimbursement

(S)Labor & Commerce
Consideration of Governor’s Appointees:
Alaska Worker’s  Compensation Board
- Matthew Barth
Board of Certified Direct-Entry Midwives
-Hannah St. George
SB 238 Money Transmission; Virtual Currency
-Public Testimony-
SB 175 Health Care Services by Telehealth
<Pending Referral>
-Public Testimony-
SB 197 Direct Health Care Agreements
-Testimony-

Thursday April 21st
(H)Finance 9:00AM
HB 220 Retirement Systems; Defined Benefit Opt.

(S)Finance 9:00AM
HB 127 Muni Bond Bank: UA, Loan and Bond Limits
-Public Testimony-
HB 19 Limited Teacher Certificates; Languages
-Public Testimony-

(H)Fisheries 10:00AM
Presentation: Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission by Commissioner Melvin Smith, and Jon Haghayeghi, Executive Director, Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission

(S)Finance 1:00PM
SB 162 Approp: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds
SB 163 Approp: Mental Health Budget
HB 281 Approp: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds
HB 282 Approp: Mental Health Budget

(H)Finance 1:30PM
HB 413 Facilities Constituting A School
HB 61 Register Commercial Interior Designers
-Public Testimony-

Friday April 22nd
(H)Finance 9:00AM
HB 170 Energy Independence Program & Fund: AIDEA

(S)Finance 9:00PM
SB 162 Approp: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds
SB 163 Approp: Mental Health Budget
HB 281 Approp: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds
HB 282 Approp: Mental Health Budget

(H)Finance 1:30PM
HB 172 Mental Health Facilities & Meds
SB 10 Free/Reduced Tuition For Essential Worker

Saturday April 23rd
Joint (H)Resources and (H)Fisheries 10:30PM
Consideration of Governor’s Appointees: Board of Fisheries – Thomas Carpenter, David Weisz, and Floyd “Mike” Heimbuch; Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission- Glenn Haight
-Public Testimony-
 
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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