January 29, 2024

 

Dear Friends and Neighbors:


Juneau schools, businesses and the executive branch offices all closed for three days last week, but not the Legislature! With a short timeline to complete our work, legislators and their staff all made it to the Capitol safely during the snow and ice closures. I am grateful for the heroic efforts of the City of Juneau and State of Alaska crews who kept the roads passable for us!

The Governor's Mansion after the snow storm

A berm in front of the Merchants Wharf Building in Juneau

Our floor sessions this week were brief, but the committee work is starting to really pick up. To learn more about what is going on in Juneau, you, your friends, and neighbors can subscribe to Southeast Swell by emailing rep.himschoot@akleg.gov or by signing up on this website.


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.

 


HB 201


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.

 

 

Education Committee

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.  

The PFD Education Raffle Drawing

What You Can Do

Apply for your Permanent Fund Dividend and Participate in the Education Raffle 


Comment on the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation Strategic Plan


Share how you would Balance the State of Alaska Budget

  • Commonwealth North invites you to go to www.akbudget.com and suggest how the state should balance the budget. Your individual suggestions will be confidential, but the full results will be shared with the legislature. Commonwealth North was founded in 1979 by Governors Bill Egan and Walter Hickel. Commonwealth North’s mission is to educate Alaskans on significant public policy issues and assist in identifying effective solutions.  


Apply for the Alaska Association of Harbormasters & Port Administrators Scholarship

 

Apply for the Rural Alaska Honors Institute

  • As an Alaska Native or rural Alaskan high school junior or senior, you can apply for the Rural Alaska Honors Institute, a six-week summer program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus that gives students a chance to find out what it is like to be a college student. You can learn more and apply online on the program’s website. The application deadline is March 1st, 2024.  

 

Apply for a Renewable Energy – Village Energy Efficiency Program Grant

  • Small cities and boroughs in Alaska, including many in House District 2, are eligible to apply for a grant to finance building-scale renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation projects in public buildings and facilities. You can learn more on the Alaska Energy Authority’s website. The application deadline is February 27, 2024, at 4:00 pm. 


Follow the Legislature and Comment


  • If there is a bill or resolution you want to follow, you can get an email update every time action is taken on the legislation with the Bill Tracking Management Facility.