Bring the Kids Home:
In December, the U.S. Department of Justice released a horrifying report about abuse of Alaska children being placed in out-of-state, for-profit psychiatric institutions. Placement of children in these institutions is largely a result of the state’s inability to provide appropriate behavioral health services in our communities. This week, I introduced HB 167, which prohibits placement of children in for-profit, out-of-state institutions. The record makes clear such institutions have a long record of abuse and cannot have proper oversight due to their distance from Alaska. I hope HB 167 serves as a vehicle to not only prohibit such abusive placement, but also strengthen our systems of behavioral health care in state. I know many of you have experience in this area so if you have guidance or suggestions on this legislation please reach out.
After the House passed a budget with a very large dividend but inadequate funding for human services for education, I wrote an op-ed about what the budget would look like if it reflected Alaskans’ values. Thanks to everyone who’s been calling in to Senate Finance this week to testify on the budget. I’m optimistic the Senate will send back a balanced budget to the House for consideration. In the meantime, all caucuses have met with the Governor to consider his views on passing new revenue and other elements of a fiscal plan. I would certainly like to vote on revenue measures. While I don’t support raising taxes to pay for bigger dividends, I do think some targeted revenue measures could provide greater stability in funding during periods of volatile oil prices.
Next week the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee will have an opportunity to pass Rep. Armstrong’s non-discrimination bill, HB 99 (I’m a cosponsor). Thanks to everyone who’s weighed in on this bill to date.
In contrast, I’ve heard a lot of concern from constituents about HB 105, the bill that would impede public safety education in schools and discriminate against transgender children. There will be another opportunity to testify on this bill Monday at 8am in the House Education Committee; to testify call (907) 563-9085 or email Co-Chair Justin Ruffridge firstname.lastname@example.org.