Victory on Alaska Apprenticeships
Dear Neighbor,
Great news: The state Department of Labor and Workforce Development has withdrawn controversial anti-apprenticeship regulations that would have undermined workplace safety and encouraged replacement of Alaskans with out-of-state workers. I was one of many Representatives and Senators who urged the Department to withdraw these regulations. A wide range of business and labor groups opposed and testified against the department’s proposal.
Victory: DOC Cancels RFP for Out-of-State Prisons
Big news: Following introduction of my bill (HB 187) to prohibit out-of-state prisoner shipment and private prisons, the Department of Corrections has cancelled an RFP that would have sent hundreds of prisoners and millions of public dollars out of state. Now is the time to permanently prohibit private prisons and out-of-state prisons, and I look forward to continuing to advance this bill. I want to thank many legislators for their work on this important issue, including Representatives Rauscher (whose district includes Palmer Correctional Center), and bill cosponsors Representatives Sharon Jackson, Dan Ortiz, Ivy Spohnholz, Harriet Drummond, Andy Josephson, Grier Hopkins, and Chris Tuck. Senator Elvi Gray-Jackson is carrying the Senate companion bill, and we welcome her support.
In the Senate, Senator Bishop has led an effort to update the motor fuels tax. Alaska has one of the lowest motor fuels taxes in the U.S., and it hasn’t been meaningfully updated in years. As a result of this and declining revenue from oil production, the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has significantly reduced snow plowing and closed maintenance stations across Southcentral Alaska. Inadequate highway maintenance has contributed to deaths on our roads this winter, while the Governor’s devastating ferry vetoes are strangling many coastal communities. If you think it’s time for the state to start providing enough revenue to maintain our transportation infrastructure, now is the time to get active. I was surprised that only 12 people testified in the first hearing on Senator Bishop’s bill, and that indicates many people just aren’t aware the legislator is considering updating revenue levels. I am thankful many Senators who are working together to craft even a modest revenue measure that could save lives and help move us toward a more sustainable budget.
Thanks to Senator Wilson, Chairman of the Senate Health and Social Services Committee, and committee members for hearing H.B. 96, the legislation I introduced with many other legislators to reverse massive rate increases at the Pioneer Homes. I’m also honored that Senate President Giessel signed on as a cross-sponsor of the bill (cross-sponsor is the term when a Senator sponsors a bill that’s come over from the House). Senate HSS will hold another hearing on H.B. 96 on February 12 at 1:30pm, and will continue taking public testimony on the bill. If the Health and Social Services committee advances H.B. 96, the bill would go to Senate Finance next.
In House State Affairs, which I co-chair with Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, we passed H.B. 198 (by Reps. Andy Josephson and Gary Knopp), which would include sexual orientation and gender identity as potential aggravating factors for sentencing of hate crimes. In effect, this bill would mean that hate crimes against LBGTQ+ Alaskans could be prosecuted as hate crimes. This bill follows a groundswell of public support for legislative action following a savage hate crime this summer. Thanks to the Soldotna and Kenai City councils, and to citizens from across that region for coming together in support of their neighbors. I hope the Alaska Legislature can respond to this outpouring of community support and pass common sense legislation to protect the rights and safety of all Alaskans. The State Affairs Committee is also working to pass H.B. 182 (Representative Geran Tarr), to expedite testing of sexual assault kits. This bill is an important step to identify and arrest predators, and sadly past crimes have shown that delayed testing of sexual assault kits can delay identification and arrest of serial rapists. As with last year, most of our committee’s work has focused on public safety.
Next week, the House State Affairs Committee will consider a new proposal to update the Ocean Rangers program by continuing on-board inspections and incentivizing installation and monitoring of remote monitoring systems. You probably recall Governor Dunleavy vetoed Ocean Ranger funding last year, based on the contention the program is not functional. I disagree with that assessment, but have been in discussions with DEC Commissioner Jason Brune over the last few months about re-writing H.B. 74 to improve the Ocean Ranger program. We’ll hear an updated version of H.B. 74 next week, so please stay tuned and weigh in. I think it’s important to prevent illegal dumping while protecting the intent of the citizen’s initiative that established the Ocean Ranger program, and look forward to hearing testimony on the updated H.B. 74.
I’ll be at Downtown New Sagaya Saturday, February 8th at 9am for a constituent coffee, assuming my long-delayed Alaska Airline flight eventually takes off from Juneau (feel free to check my Representative page for status on that event). Please stop by to say hi, and see you around the neighborhood,
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