End of Session Report
Dear Neighbor,
It feels like a decade has passed since Governor Dunleavy was inaugurated and, along with Donna Arduin, proposed decimating just about every state institution that Alaskans have built up since statehood. So much has changed in the last two years, from our fiscal and economic outlook to dynamics between the legislative and executive branch. This newsletter is an overview of this legislative session and the 31st legislature.
Admittedly, many of us had to play defense against the Dunleavy administration's attack on the Pioneer Homes, university system, ferries, public health, public radio, and public education. Despite all that, I'm proud that we also made forward progress on some important issues, and here are a few items with which I was very involved:

  1. Saved the Pioneer Homes: With passage of House Bill 96, the legislature not only reversed the administration's massive rate hikes, but also provided stability and predictability for residents by limiting future rate increases to inflation. We also updated the levels of care to reflect the need for dementia care, and lowered the eligible age of entry to 60 in an effort to maintain diversity within the Pioneer Homes.
  2. Protected Alaska Apprenticeships: With passage of HB 308, the legislature protected skilled trade apprenticeships in statute, ensuring that our world-class construction training programs cannot be unraveled by executive branch regulatory overreach.
  3. Expanded Re-Entry Programs to Fight Crime: With inclusion of HB 118 in HB 49 (comprehensive anti-crime legislation), and oversight to ensure the administration re-opens Palmer Correctional Center, we have made major progress toward improving rehabilitation within DOC facilities and reentry programs as inmates re-enter society.
  4. Blocked Prison Privatization: While improving reentry programs, robust legislative oversight led by the State Affairs Committee forced the administration to cancel its corrupt prison privatization effort that started when Donna Arduin was head of OMB.
  5. Canceled No-Bid Contracts: Thanks to persistent oversight from State Affairs, the administration had to cancel a massive no-bid contract for a family member of the Governor's largest campaign donor, and had to cancel its permanent privatization of API contract with Wellpath (thanks to the House Health and Social Services Committee for partnership on this).
  6. Budgets that honor the sanctity of human life: Every single member of the House majority worked hard to ensure our budget reflects Alaskans' values. I'm proud that we rejected massive proposed cuts to Pre-K, K-12 education, Medicaid health coverage, public radio, ferries, the university, Public Defender Agency, guardians for foster kids and vulnerable seniors, Ocean Rangers, local agriculture and mariculture. By re-passing the budget last year, we ultimately prevailed in restoring most cuts made by the Governor's initial vetoes. Many of these budget items are life or death, whether it's the emergency services provided by public radio in rural communities, or Medicaid health coverage for our kids, seniors, and hard-working families. We did all this while remaining within the structured draw of the POMV, which is essential to protect the Permanent Fund itself and all Alaskans' savings which grow in that fund.
  7. Grants for Small Businesses: Representatives Shaw, Spohnholz, Merrick, LeDoux, Wool, Hopkins, Ortiz and I successfully amended COVID-19 relief legislation to ensure the state has authority to provide grant relief to small businesses affected by COVID-19. Grant applications can be submitted now: https://www.commerce.alaska.gov/web/ded/AKCARESGrant.aspx
What's Next:
Alaska faces serious economic and fiscal challenges, which are more dire as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and recession. We face a roughly $600 million deficit next year even with a $0 PFD. In other words, the legislature has no choice but to raise significant new revenue and take a PFD holiday unless Congress appropriates significant aid for states facing deficits. Regardless of Congressional action, we would have to raise new revenue anyway--that was the case even before COVID-19, and the pandemic simply shortened our timeline. You will hear demagogues claim that Alaskans can get massive PFDs without paying taxes while maintaining basic services.  
Make no mistake: Paying super-size PFDs, or even modest PFDs in the next couple years, would require over-drawing the Permanent Fund. In turn, that requires massive cuts in services. For each $1 billion we over-spend beyond a sustainable 5% POMV draw, we have $50 million less in operating funds. Let's put that in perspective: If you want to overspend the fund by $1 billion, plan on either a) shutting down the Pioneer Homes b) eliminating Marine Highway service or c) raising class sizes by about 2 students per classroom to compensate for lost revenue. Is a one-time payout worth eliminating those services, or degrading public education so completely that we drive educated families out of Alaska?  

I hope the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic devastation forces all of us to reassess what our country is, and should be. Right now, "essential" workers are dying on the job because the federal government has failed to enforce meaningful safety standards. Multinational corporations are giving workers "jeans days" but not personal protective equipment. Small businesses are dying while monopolies like Amazon tighten their grip on our economy, firing workplace safety whistleblowers and employees who want fair pay and benefits. Parasitic firms like Uber and Lyft--which pay no unemployment insurance or workers' compensation--have effectively been bailed out by America's middle class taxpayers, and their gig economy workers are temporarily protected with massive federal spending but have no prospect for economic security beyond mid-summer. None of this is inevitable. Other countries--unlike the U.S.--have responded deftly to the COVID-19 pandemic, and have public health and labor laws that actually protect human life. We should learn from those examples, demanding both state and federal policies that are in line with the stated values of our Constitution.
Thank You:
It has been an honor to serve you over the last two years. Thank you to the hundreds of constituents who have called, emailed, and talked with me in person or over the phone. Many of your ideas and input, whether on emergency grants for small businesses during the pandemic or relief for Pioneer Home residents, have become state law. There is incredible experience and wisdom among residents of our House District 20, and I appreciate learning from you and having an opportunity to put your ideas and insight to work.
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