Shutdown Avoided, and End of Session Newsletter
June 29, 2021
Dear Neighbor,

I’m writing to update you on work we did during this year in Juneau, which was the first of our two-year legislative session. 

Avoiding a Dunleavy Shutdown:
Today, the House adjourned sine die. Thanks to the leadership of Speaker Stutes, enough minority members in a re-vote supported effective date language which removes the Governor's pretext for shutting down the state.

Bipartisan Majority:
Once again I was honored to work with colleagues in a bipartisan coalition. We are committed to fiscal responsibility—protecting our Permanent Fund from being raided—and protection of core services like education, public safety, transportation infrastructure, and care for our elders. It took a month to put this coalition together, but it was worth it. 
Labor and Commerce Committee:
Ivy Spohnholz and I co-chair the Labor and Commerce Committee, and I was proud to work with her and committee members on several bipartisan bills that have passed the House:
  • HB 133, updates to the ABLE Act to help Alaskans with disabilities save and invest in education and training.
  • HB 132, expansion of apprenticeship and school to apprenticeship programs.
  • HB 151, to increase unemployment benefits for families with children, to reduce homelessness and child hunger.
  • HB 121 and HB 149, to expand access to child care and raise wages for child care workers.
We passed multiple bills supporting employment of veterans and their spouses and temporary licensure for military spouses.

The decline of real media and rise of anti-social media are creating an increasingly toxic political environment, which means elected officials have to redouble efforts to work together in a bipartisan way, and we do that on the Labor and Commerce Committee.
Budget and Fiscal Plan:
With a bipartisan House majority and an outstanding Senate Finance team, we put together a responsible budget that is fiscal constrained but funds core services. Thanks to passage of the American Rescue Plan Act, we also were able to invest in long overdue capital projects and provide much needed relief for hard-hit businesses and non-profits. Unfortunately, the House minority chose to vote “no” on the CBR draw and reverse sweep, so while we passed an operating budget the minority’s no vote on funding cut the Permanent Fund Dividend in half and blocks execution of Power Cost Equalization, higher education scholarship, and many other key programs. I expect pressure will grow on minority members to vote “yes” on the reverse sweep later this summer—we have no choice, and must pass the reverse sweep.

Tribal Affairs and Health and Social Services Committees:
Thanks to the leadership of Reps. Tiffany Zulkosky and Liz Snyder, we were able to pass major legislation to protect children, advance state partnerships with tribes, improve social services, and strengthen public safety. I was fortunate to serve on these committees and help pass bills to put the state tribal child welfare compact in statute; reduce hunger through better access to food stamps; formally recognize Alaska Tribes; and support Alaska Native language revitalization. Taken together, these bills will mean stronger families and safer kids, assuming the Senate can pass them next year.

Clean, Affordable Energy:
As a member of both the Energy and Labor and Commerce Committees, I had the opportunity to help advance two bills to expand clean energy and save Alaskans money:
  • SB 69 is a bipartisan Senate bill that reduces permitting delays for renewable energy generation. Working closely with Senator Revak, we fast-tracked it through Labor and Commerce so it could be signed into law this year.
  • HB 170 would create an Alaska Clean Energy Fund, also known as a “green bank.” We strengthened this administration bill and moved it quickly through committee so it has a real chance of becoming law.

Economic Diversification:
The legislature passed a bill introduced by Rep. Dan Ortiz, which I cosponsored, to make shellfish farm permits renewable. This critical change should significantly expand the mariculture industry...and did you know that shellfish and kelp operations (which often exist side by side) improve water quality and reduce local effects of ocean acidification? I also worked with local stakeholders in an ongoing effort to restore direct flights from Asia in order to expand the tourism industry and number of “independent travelers” in Anchorage.
A Strong Team:
I appreciate everyone who has called, texted, or written to me this year—whether to ask that I cosponsor a bill or to collaborate on writing legislation. Also, thanks to our great Senator Tom Begich, who is incredibly collaborative and committed to working on behalf of our district. I'd also like to thank my staff Emma Potter, Tristan Walsh, and Grace Kubitz for all of their work serving our district this session.

See you around the neighborhood,
Zack
Summer Downtown!
Vaccinate Alaska:
Follow us on social media: