February 13, 2024

 

Dear Friends and Neighbors:


Last week was a bucket-filler: I was able to connect with constituents from across the district through the school administrators’ fly-in and Southeast Conference. On Friday I was thrilled to be able to attend a workshop on how to fund schools to provide the opportunities we all want for our students.


While I’m sure there’s a lot going on behind the scenes on the bill to raise the BSA, it has not yet been scheduled for a floor vote. The part of the bill that funds improved internet speeds for rural and remote schools has a deadline at the end of the month, so if this bill is the mechanism to fund those grants (and it may be one of many ways to do this), the time pressure is building.


If you will be in town, please call (907.465.3732) or email (rep.himschoot@akleg.gov) to set up an appointment and/or be introduced on the floor.  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.

Meeting Southeast superintendents and principals last week including Rick Dormer, Ketchikan Principal, Robyn Taylor, incoming Petersburg Superintendent, Heather Conn, Stedman Elementary School Principal, Erica Kludt-Painter, outgoing Petersburg Superintendent, and Ralph Watkins, Chatham School District Superintendent.

Alaska Council of School Administrators, Alaska's Heart through Student Art.

Xunaa Borough Update

 

Last week I was grateful to folks over at the Division of Community and Regional Affairs for spending time with my staff and me to learn about Hoonah’s petition to form a borough. Each borough that forms reduces some of the burden on the state to provide services to the communities in the borough. However, the state recognizes that forming a borough is complex and the interests of different parties must be taken into consideration. It is a long process for a borough to be formed and there are some pretty clear and strict guidelines a petitioner must meet.

 

The Local Boundary Commission (LBC) was established in the state constitution and is tasked with overseeing and approving the establishment and alteration of municipal governments. The LBC requires the entity interested in forming a borough to gather input from communities impacted by the proposed borough and write an in-depth petition addressing the ability of the borough to sustain itself. It is a complex process with a long timeline, but in my opinion big decisions require a thorough process. Please see the timeline below to see the rough dates for the Hoonah petition to work its way through the process. The first comment period for the petition ends February 29.

 

For now, Pelican, Tenakee Springs and Gustavus have all declined to join the borough. Juneau’s assembly, on a split vote, will provide comment against including the Mansfield Peninsula, Horse and Colt Island as the City and Borough of Juneau had previously considered annexing these areas. Elfin Cove is fully within the proposed boundaries and there is an administration code (3 aac 110.130 (b)) that does not allow an “enclave” within a borough.

 

In the 1990s and again in the early 2000’s the LBC did a deep dive on borough formation and created suggested borough boundaries for the unorganized regions of the entire state. The Xunaa petition boundaries are very close to the suggested LBC model borough option from these studies, though it should be noted that in addition to the proposed area of the Xunaa Borough, the model borough included the communities of Gustavus, Pelican and Tenakee Springs.

 

If Hoonah’s petition is approved the new borough will be required to provide education, planning, and may collect taxes. Residents of the borough would all have the right to participate in local elections. Right now, the petition suggests a 1% seasonal sales tax for the businesses outside the boundaries of the current City of Hoonah. The existing 6.5% sales tax would continue to be collected in the area where the City of Hoonah currently is. It would become the Hoonah Townsite Service Area. In the future the borough would be able to change the way it taxes its residents. 

 

There are two ways for a borough petition to be approved: local action or legislative review. Hoonah has chosen to use the local action method. If the LBC approves the borough petition, all the eligible voters within the boundaries of the proposed borough will vote on whether to accept the proposed incorporation of the borough. 

 

This is a long and complex process and a decision of great importance. I will continue to monitor the progress, and for anyone wishing to learn more may visit the Division of Community and Regional Affairs website with information on the petition and submit comments by emailing the LBC at:  LBC@alaska.gov.

 

 

Xunaa Borough Petition Schedule

(subject to change by LBC chair)

November 27th, 2023


Monday, November 27, 2023

Acceptance of Xunaa petition for review by LBC staff

 

Friday, December 1, 2023

Petition’s public comment period starts - 1st date of publication of notice (within at least 45 days by regulation)

 

Week of January 8, 2024

Departmental Public Meeting within the boundaries proposed for incorporation per 3 AAC 110.520

 

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Petition public comment period deadline (lasts 90 days)

 

Monday, April 1, 2024

Deadline for receipt of petitioner’s reply brief (30 days)

 

Monday, May 20, 2024

Finish and mail preliminary report (approximately 7 weeks)

 

Monday, July 8, 2024

Preliminary report public comment period deadline (lasts 49 days)

 

Monday, August 5, 2024

Final report issued (approximately 4 weeks)

Must be mailed at least 30 days before the public hearing by regulation.

 

Tuesday, September 10, 2024

Public hearing in Hoonah (notice posted/published 36 days prior; final report distributed 21 days prior to hearing)

 

Wednesday, September 11

Xunaa Borough decisional meeting (1st day).

(Decisional meeting must be within 90 days of the hearing, but can immediately follow it). Written decision must be issued within 30 days after decisional meeting.

 

Friday, October 11, 2024

Written decision issued

 

Tuesday, October 29, 2024

If approved, 18 day period for public to request reconsideration of decision starts. LBC has 30 days, on its own motion, to reconsider. If reconsideration granted, then petitioner or respondent has 10 days to file a brief.


Within 30 days after the LBC issues the written decision and the decision is to accept the petition

The director of elections shall order an election in the proposed municipality to determine whether the voters desire incorporation and, if so, to elect the initial municipal officials.

 

Not less than 30 days or more than 90 days after the election order

The election will be held. 

Legislative Update


HB 230


On Wednesday, during the House Education Committee meeting, I presented HB 230, “An Act repealing the limit on the number of years of out-of-state school experience that may be substituted for in-state experience in teacher salary scales.” This single line bill repeals the existing limit on the number of years of teaching experience gained outside the state that can be used to determine a teacher’s salary. Teachers are currently only allowed to count eight years of out-of-state teaching experience, if they have a masters’ degree, and six years of out-of-state teaching experience, if they have bachelors’ degree, for the purpose of determining the correct placement on a district’s salary scale. Repealing this limit is one of the recommendations from the “2021 Teacher Recruitment and Retention Action Plan,” is a product of the Alaska Governor’s working group on teacher retention and recruitment that was established in 2020. This bill will help address our teacher shortage and bring in more experienced teachers from out-of-state.  



Missing and Murdered Indigenous People


Last week I was able to attend a Tribal Affairs Committee meeting to learn more about the amazing and essential work being done to address Alaska’s epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous people. I was also able to meet with representatives from Native Movement, the Alaska Native Heritage Center, Data for Indigenous Justice, and the Alaska Native Justice Center in my office to learn more.


An important moment in the tribal affairs hearing came just after Joel Jackson, Organized Village of Kake Tribal Council President, spoke about the incredible absence of law enforcement in his community until very recently. The next speaker was Commissioner Cockrell from the Department of Public Safety, a sincere and committed public servant. Commissioner Cockrell promised to improve both 911 service in rural Alaska and to continue building a trooper or VPSO presence across the state in even the smallest communities. Based on the incremental yet steady increase in the troopers and VPSOs over the past couple of years I am confident we can take the Commissioner at his word. 

Meetings, Conferences and Workshops

Alaska Council of School Administrators


The Alaska Council of School Administrators was in Juneau last week and it made for a very busy and wonderful week. It was great to meet with so many constituents from across the region. Along with sitting on panels for both House Education and the Freshmen Caucus I attended the Alaska’s Heart through Student Art reception – and won the silent auction for a beautiful piece of art from a Sitka student!

Southeast Conference


Community leaders from across the district were in town for Southeast Conference and I was happy to catch up with folks on the status of capital projects, contracts with the state for jails, and other local issues. Although I was able to attend the panel for House members it felt like my time at the conference was very limited. When constituents make their way to Juneau for any reason, I am always happy to see folks in person.


School Funding Workshop


For the first time since coming to Juneau last year I missed a floor session on Friday to attend a school funding workshop put on by the Association of Alaska School Boards. In the workshop we looked at a history of school funding in Alaska, some possible solutions to our current funding struggles, and I was able to enjoy watching some of my fellow legislators on a panel discussing our education funding priorities. I know certain commitments from the state are needed just to keep some of the schools in House District 2 open, and much more is needed to restore opportunities for students that have been cut over the past decade. Alaska was able to fund schools before we had oil, and we need to find a way to fund them now.




SEARHC


My policy aide, Thatcher, listened to the Sitka community hearing last week held by the SEARHC administrators and the organization’s Community Health Council. He filled me in on the testimony and I am grateful for the Sitkans who took the time to communicate their concerns with SEARHC leadership. I think we would all welcome more opportunities to provide additional input.

Attending a Women in Mining Presentation last week at the Alaska Miners Association - Juneau Branch weekly breakfast.

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


Participate in the Alaska Long Range Focus Group Meetings

  • The Alaska Marine Highway System is holding another round of Ferry Focus Group meetings to help inform the 2045 Long-Range Plan. The department will share the results from a public survey and invite feedback on our progress and approach to service-level development.
  • The schedule for upcoming meetings for House District 2 is below with Zoom meeting links; please attend the meeting for your service area if you can, or whichever closest fits your schedule. To connect to any of these scheduled meetings by phone, please call (253) 215-8782, and you’ll be prompted to enter the corresponding Meeting ID and Passcode. 


Service Area, Date and Time, Zoom meeting link, Meeting ID and Passcode


Cross Gulf

Wednesday, Feb 21 at 11am

 https://us06web.zoom.us/j/81108866992?pwd=22Aih8rE6WRQo30yL94nOAjMK9sKh7.1

Meeting ID: 811 0886 6992

Passcode: 140659


Northern Southeast

Thursday, Feb 22 at 11am

 https://us06web.zoom.us/j/81512264632?pwd=eOnTwz9cafzfmLnJ7DDMSpYQDc4IVS.1

Meeting ID: 815 1226 4632

Passcode: 916693


Southern Southeast

Friday, Feb 23 at 1pm

 https://us06web.zoom.us/j/86078152113?pwd=oonLPA1fd2YyAxaPXmZBd4w0xYInsw.1

Meeting ID: 860 7815 2113

Passcode: 052249



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.