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Friday, April 22

Greetings,

In the final weeks of the legislative session, the Finance Committee has been busy moving legislation out of the committee and on to the House floor. On Thursday, I attended an unveiling ceremony for a bust commemorating former Governor Bill Egan that will be placed on the 2nd floor of the Capitol. This beautiful piece of art and history was sculpted by Roy Peratrovich Jr., son of Elizabeth and Roy Peratrovich.

Meanwhile, the Senate continues their work on the FY23 operating budget and is expected to have it on the Senate floor sometime in the near term. May 18th is the final day of the regular session and the pace continues to get more hectic everyday.
House Fisheries Committee Hearing on Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission (CFEC) Mission
What Is the Future Role of the CFEC?

On Thursday, the House Fisheries Committee held a hearing on the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission
  • In a hearing earlier this session, I registered concern about what seems like a shift in the direction of CFEC.
  • A large part of Thursday's hearing focused on how the Commission is moving forward with optimization studies in fisheries around the state.
  • Given that the workload of the commission is no longer exclusively focused on adjudicatory issues, the Committee was very interested in hearing about the Commission and its work optimizing fisheries around the state.
  • I'll continue to question the direction being taken by the Commission. Changing the focus of CFEC is a big conversation that should involve all stakeholders, regions of the state, and of course, commercial fishermen.
  • I'll be closely tracking their work as they move forward to ensure the economic health and stability of Alaska's fisheries.
Defined Benefit Option Proposed for Public Employees
Keeping Alaskans in Alaska
On Thursday, the House Finance Committee advanced a bill to create a hybrid defined benefit plan for public employees. Representative Hopkins' HB220 (Retirement Systems; Defined Benefit Option) is a bill that would create more stability for the state's public employees by giving them a choice to opt in to a defined benefit system.
  • HB220 gives employees the ability to choose a more predictable retirement plan, which would help counter high employee turnover, increased training and recruitment costs in Alaska, and inefficient spending of limited state dollars.
  • HB220 is a cost neutral approach that features streamlined healthcare benefits and shares investment risk between the state and its employees.
  • This legislation is a strategic and sustainable investment that will help plan for long term success for Alaska and everyone who lives here.
Telehealth Bill Moves Out of House Finance
Improving Access to Healthcare

On Wednesday, the Finance Committee passed Representative Spohnholz's HB265 (Health Care Services by Telehealth) out of committee.
  • During the COVID-19 Pandemic, we temporarily relaxed our telehealth laws to ensure Alaskans could access the care they needed in as many ways as possible.
  • HB265 is a bipartisan effort to permanently implement some of the changes. The proposal enables broader access to behavioral health and specialty care, creates cost-savings from reduced travel, and opens the door for telehealth to be used as a primary means to deliver healthcare.
  • The bill also increases telehealth access for Alaska Medicaid beneficiaries by ensuring coverage for services for behavioral health, home and community-based services, rural health clinics, federally qualified health centers, and other programs eligible for Alaska Medicaid reimbursement. 
  • With a companion bill in the Senate, I'm hopeful that this important legislation will pass this year.
Senator Sullivan Delivers Annual Address
U.S. Senator Sullivan in Juneau
On Tuesday, Senator Sullivan delivered his annual address to a joint session of the House and Senate. The Senator spoke for just over half an hour and then took time to answer questions from legislators. Some topics he highlighted in his speech were:
  • The bipartisan infrastructure bill passed last fall and the importance of working together as we move forward with that historic opportunity.
  • This week's visit by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and her team, and the need to listen to Alaskan voices as the Department makes decisions that have profound impacts on our lives. Thanks to Senator Sullivan for putting a particular focus on the King Cove Road and the significant difference it would make in the lives of Alaskans who desperately need better access to emergency medical services.
  • The need to address continued delays in providing land allotments to Alaska Native Vietnam veterans who who did not have access to land allotments while serving during the Vietnam War.
Small Business Relief Grant Extension
COVID Relief Grant Application Period Extended
The Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development has extended the application deadline for the Alaska ARPA Business Relief Program through the end of this month.  
  • Businesses that experienced a 30% or greater loss in Gross Annual Revenue (GAR) between 2019 and 2020 are invited to apply.
  • Approximately $34M is available, and the application deadline has been extended to 5:00pm April 30, 2022.
  • This funding is not available to businesses that received grant awards in round one of this program.
More information is available at the AK-ARPA Business Relief Program website. If you have questions or need additional assistance, please reach out to an Alaska Small Business Development Center Business Advisor.
STEM Opportunities for Alaska Natives
Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Scholarships Available

The U. S. Department of Energy has compiled a list of scholarship opportunities available to Alaska Natives and Native Americans. You can view the full list here, some highlights include:
  • $2,500 scholarships from the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and 3M for incoming college freshman students pursuing any STEM degree (such as biology, medical sciences, physical science, computer science, or natural resources).
  • $5,000 scholarships for Native students who have been accepted into an accredited engineering program at a four-year college or university.
  • "Natives in Tech" scholarships for 4-16 week web development and coding bootcamp programs.
On Deck
Items of interest on the legislative calendar
Coming Up This Week:

Monday April 25th
(S)Finance 9:00AM
HB 102 State Insur. Catastophe Reserve Acct.
SB 121 PFAS Use & Remediation; Fire/water Safety
HB 155 Court System Provide Visitors & Experts
(S)Finance 1:00PM
Presentation: Constitutional Budget Reserve
Sweep & Reverse Sweep
(H)Resources 1:00PM
SB 204 Hunting Permit/Tag Auctions/Raffles
(H)Finance 1:30PM
HB 145 Expand Pharmacist Authority
SB 80 Public Schools: Mental Health Education
(S)Labor & Commerce 1:30PM
Cosideration of Governor’s Appointees:
Board of Nursing – Jody Miller
Board of Certified Direct Entry Midwives – Hannah St. George
HB 227 Muni Energy Improvement Assessment Program
-Invited & Public Testimony-
HB 306 Extend Board of Pharmacy
-Invited & Public Testimony-
SB 237 Ambulatory Surgical Employees: Overtime
(H)Labor & Commerce 3:15PM
SB 185 Eliminate Minimum Wage Exemption
-Public Testimony-
SB 186 Extend Board of Examiners In Optometry
SB 190 Regulatory Commission AK/Refuse Utilities
SB 193 Extend Board of Chiropractic Examiners
Consideration Of Governor’s Appointees:
Department of Commerce, Community, & Economic Development – Commissioner Julie Sande
-Public Testimony-
(S)Resources 3:30PM
SB 133 Remote Recreational Sites; Sales; Permits
SB 229 State Historical Artifacts; Crimes
-Invited & Public Testimony-
Consideration of Governor’s Appointments: Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission, Glenn Haight

Tuesday April 26th
(H)Finance 9:00AM
SB 71 Council On Arts: Plates & Manage Art
HB 135 Geothermal Resources
-Public Testimony-
(H)Energy 10:15AM
HB 301 Utilities: Renewable Portfolio Standard
(S)Finance 1:00PM
SB 164 Approp: Cap; Reapprop; Supp
(H)Finance 1:30PM
HB 170  Energy Independence Program & Fund: AIDEA
HB 172 Mental Health Facilities & Meds
(S)Health & Social Services 1:30PM
HB 62 Marriage: Witnesses/Solemnization/Consent
SB 242 Exemptions For Food Products
SB 183 Home and Community-Based Services
-Public Testimony-

Wednesday April 27th
(S)Finance 9:00AM
HB 28 Registration Of Boats: Exemption
-Public Testimony-
HB 79 Saltwater Sportfishing Operators/Guides
-Public Testimony-
(S)Finance 1:00PM
HB 281 Approp: Operation Budget/Loans/Funds
HB 282 Approp: Mental Health Budget
(H)Resources 1:00PM
HB 349 Hearing Establish Drilling Units/Spacing
-Public Testimony-
HB 171 PFAS Use & Remediation; Fire/Water Safety

Thursday April 28th
(H)Tribal Affairs 8:00AM
HB 374 Village Safe Water Facilities
(H)Finance 9:00am
HB 413 Facilities Constitutuing a School
HB 350 School Bond Debt Reimbursement
(H)Energy 10:15AM
HB 301 Utilities: Renewable Portfolio Standard
(H)Finance 1:30PM
SB 81 Village Public Safety Officer Grants
-Public Testimony-
(H)Fisheries and Resources 6:30PM
Consideration of Governor’s Appointees Board of Fisheries:
Thomas Carpenter, David Weisz, and Floyd “Mike” Heimbuch,
Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission:
Glen Haight

Friday April 29th
(H)Finance 9:00AM
HB 226 Pay Increases For State Attorneys
HB 416 Bonuses For Nonunion Public Employees
(H)Resources 1:00PM
SB 204 Hunting Permit/Tag Auctions/Raffles
HB 349 Hearing Establish Drilling Units/Spacing
(H)Finance 1:30PM
SB 45 Age of Nicotine/E-Cig; Tax E-Cig.

 
On Thursday, I was pleased to be part of a ceremony unveiling a bust of former Governor, Bill Egan, that was sculpted by Roy Peratrovich Jr.
The Student Conservation Association is looking for BBNC shareholder or descendants ages 15-19 to join a 2022 Summer Trail Crew at Lake Clark National Park & Preserve from June 20 – July 15!
The AEBSD Scholarship Application is now available to all graduates of the AEB School District! Due date is 4 PM on May 20, 2022
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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