House extends emergency powers to fight COVID-19
Dear Neighbor,

I’ve heard from many of you, and many local business owners, who want the legislature to extend emergency powers necessary to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, I’ve heard broad support for the strongest possible vaccine distribution system, restoration of mandatory COVID-19 testing at airports for incoming travelers, and extension of food relief for hungry families. In addition, there are other less well known aspects of the disaster declaration, such as temporary regulations allowing our downtown businesses to survive this pandemic. 

Fortunately, today the House passed HB 76 to extend emergency powers. This bill would address all the needs above, in addition to telehealth and other much-needed temporary powers to fight the pandemic. I hope the Senate is able to pass this legislation quickly. Thanks to Health and Social Services co-chairs Tiffany Zulkosky and Liz Snyder for their work on this legislation, and to Speaker Stutes and our bipartisan House leadership team for prioritizing this critical legislation. Passage of this bill was particularly powerful because Representative Bryce Edgmon carried the bill on the floor, and spoke about how his grandmother was orphaned in the 1918 influenza pandemic. I’ve never witnessed a more powerful floor speech, and both the devastation of the 1918 pandemic and the hundreds of Alaska lives lost to COVID-19 are a daily reminder to me about the need to defeat COVID-19.
Budget update:
Our budget subcommittees are “closing out,” which means each subcommittee is sending its budget recommendations for departments on to the full Finance Committee. I’m proud of the work our subcommittees have done, and here are some highlights from subcommittees on which I served:
  • The HSS subcommittee is funding the Tribal Child Compact, thanks to the leadership of Rep. Zulkosky
  • Our HSS subcommittee rejected the Governor’s latest attempt to cut Medicaid health insurance
  • We protected funding for Youth Courts
  • With leadership from Reps. Snyder, Spohnholz, and Josephson, we are restoring positions in Division of Public Assistance to ensure families hit hard by the pandemic can get food and other economic relief
  • Our Labor and Commerce subcommittee rejected cuts to Wage and House, Occupational Safety and Health, and Research and Analysis
  • Our Division of Environmental Conservation subcommittee rejected cuts to Spill Prevention and Response
  • In response to huge growth in usage of State Parks, we added a summer trail crew to address the growing backlog of trail maintenance needs in our State Parks
All of these changes are subject to changes in the full Finance Committee and beyond, but I’m pleased to report we’re passing a very fiscally constrained budget that still manages to fund core services.
Legislative Update:
I’m pleased to report movement on many of my bills and bills I’m working on with Labor and Commerce Co-Chair Ivy Spohnholz:
  • HB 128, to support Alaska non-profits, will be voted on by House Finance on Monday, and if it passes will go to the House floor.
  • HB 132, to support school-to-apprenticeship and Career and Technical Education, has passed Labor and Commerce and next will be heard in Education.
  • HB 133, to expand support for Alaskans with disabilities, has passed Labor and Commerce and next will be heard in Finance.
  • HB 121, to expand availability and affordability of child care, has passed Labor and Commerce and next will be heard in Finance.
  • HB 137, to stop closure/privatization of DMVs, will be heard in State Affairs next week.
Constituent Meeting:
If you would like to catch up, please join me for a constituent meeting this Sunday at 8am in the northwest corner of the New Sagaya parking lot. This will be a socially distanced and masked event. I’m looking forward to meeting indoors again at some point but until we reach a higher level of vaccinations, we will continue meeting outside.
See you around the neighborhood,
Follow us on social media: