Great news: Last week, the School Board restored Inlet View on the school bond after the South Addition Community Council overwhelmingly endorsed the school moving forward. The design work is not done, and at the request of our Community Council the district added multiple neighbors to ensure an inclusive design process. People may ultimately have different ideas of the best aesthetics, but I think our parents, teachers, and principal deserve a school with working toilets, a roof that doesn't leak, and a heating system that functions well enough that kids don't have to wear down coats at their desks. We will all have a chance to vote yes for this bond in April. There are 27 other school projects on the bond from across the city, including time-sensitive roof replacements and safety upgrades.
The Redistricting Board recently completed its proposed district lines. The Board followed straightforward Constitutional guidance to draw House districts, but then caved to partisan pressure and gerrymandered the Eagle River/East Anchorage/Government Hill Senate pairings in an attempt to suppress minority votes and pick up a Republican Senate seat. I would not be surprised if civil rights organizations litigate over the Senate pairings in Eagle River, and would not be surprised to see those pairings change. That could impact other Senate lines. A lawsuit has a higher likelihood of prevailing against the gerrymandered Eagle River pairings because the Board's own legal counsel told the Board that the gerrymandered pairings could be illegal, and because Dunleavy redistricting appointee Bethany Marcum said on the record her intent was to expand Eagle River representation--clearly at the expense of diverse neighborhoods in East Anchorage. Senator Begich provides more detail in an op-ed he recently published.
Supporting Our Teachers:
The Labor and Commerce Committee, which I chair with Rep. Ivy Spohnolz, held a hearing earlier this month about important legislation introduced by Rep. Grier Hopkins, which would restore a defined benefit pension option for public employees including teachers. Alaska teachers have the worst retirement benefits in the United States. That is unacceptable, and my hope is that we can pass this bill through Labor and Commerce in the opening days of the 2022 session. We need to be competitive in recruiting and retaining teachers, and it is incredibly challenging to do that if we don't fix their retirement.
The appalling abuses of individuals' privacy by social media companies has been widely documented. The Dunleavy administration introduced a bill to create sweeping new data privacy laws, which is currently in the Labor and Commerce Committee. The administration's bill had many problems, like burdening small and large Alaska businesses with significant new regulations. However, the concept of a data privacy bill is very important, so I've been working with Rep. Spohnholz on a Committee Substitute to protect Alaska businesses from unnecessary regulation, but still provide strong laws to protect Alaska consumers against unwanted surveillance and data theft by unscrupulous companies that attempt to commodify our private information. This legislation is complex and challenging, but I hope our committee can find consensus and advance a bill, because our laws are totally inadequate to protect consumers given recent changes in technology.
I hope you're enjoying this beautiful winter, and see you around the neighborhood,