SB 140 – The New Education Bill
Last Saturday the House Rules committee took four hours of testimony and considered amendments to SB 140, the new omnibus education bill. SB 140 continues to evolve and includes provisions to provide higher speed internet to rural schools, increase the Base Student Allocation and funding for home schools, open a new pathway for charter schools, improve transportation funding for districts, and provide pay bonuses for classroom teachers. The devil is in the details on this bill and there are considerations for each part of the bill.
With a deadline for the Broadband Access Grants, SB 140 could continue to move swiftly through the legislative process. SB140 may come to the House Floor this week for floor amendments and ultimately a House Floor vote. If it passes the House, it will likely end up in a conference committee made up of members of the House and Senate. It would be an amazing feat for school districts and communities if the Legislature could resolve the question of education funding early in the session. You can find out more about SB 140 in the announcement I sent out about public testimony on the bill.
On Wednesday, January 26, 2024, the House Resources Committee had an introductory hearing on HB 201, “An Act changing the residency requirements for hunting, trapping, and sport fishing privileges; and providing for an effective date.” Then on Friday, the committee took public testimony. This bill is not about dividing Alaskans. Rather, by providing an enforceable definition of residency, it is about preserving the privilege of access to local fish and game resources for Alaskans who are in the state at least six months every year and depend on these resources to feed their families. For all who provided testimony on SB140 or HB 201 last week, thank you for taking the time to make your voices heard.
Last week the House education committee heard SB 99, “An Act establishing a financial literacy education program for public schools; and providing for an effective date.” While this bill contains many elements of financial literacy that are critical for students to learn, I am concerned about another unfunded requirement on districts. This week the committee will hear HB 55, “An Act relating to allocations of funding for the Alaska Workforce Investment Board; and providing for an effective date,” on Wednesday and SB 13 “An Act relating to costs of and charges for textbooks and other course materials required for University of Alaska courses; and providing for an effective date,” on Friday.
Community and Regional Affairs Committee
The first two meetings of the Community and Regional Affairs will be held this week. On Tuesday, the committee will have a presentation on the Department of Public Safety by Commissioner James Cockrell and have hearings on HB 182, “An Act relating to abandoned vehicles” and HB 279, “An Act relating to the Local Boundary Commission; and providing for an effective date.” On Thursday, the committee will hear a presentation on the Department of Corrections by Commissioner Jen Winkelman.
Letter to The U.S. Department of Agriculture Urging them to Purchase more Alaska Seafood Products
Last week I joined many of my legislative colleagues and signed onto a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, urging the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to fulfill their commitment purchase Alaska seafood through the Section 32 program. As you know, the seafood industry has had an extremely challenging year, and the price has collapsed for many seafood products. Purchases by the USDA will help stabilize the industry and allow the Department to provide some of the most nutritious food to families in need.