March 11, 2024

 

Dear Friends and Neighbors:


It feels like everyone in the Capitol is holding their breath as we count down the days until March 14, the deadline for the governor to sign, veto, or allow SB 140 to become law by taking no action. As a reminder, SB 140 is the bipartisan education bill that will increase the Base Student Allocation by $680, provide assistance and a faster timeline for charter school approval, adds funding for student transportation, internet speed increases in remote schools, charter schools, and the Individual Reading Improvement Plans required by the Alaska Reads Act. The funding increases are both targeted and strategic, as requested by the governor, and I remain hopeful he will either sign the bill into law or allow it to become law without his signature.

 

In the meantime, a couple of bills and a resolution passed the House last week (see below), and all House operating budget subcommittees have closed out. The constant flow of advocates for various needs across the state has slowed and House Committees are focusing on the 390 House bills and 259 Senate bills (this doesn’t include any of the resolutions) that were introduced by individual legislators prior to the February 19 deadline to file personal bills. At this point, only committees can introduce new bills, so I do not expect to see many new pieces of legislation. We will be busy enough with over 619 bills that can be considered!


If there is a bill or budget item you would like to share your position on, a district issue you would like to bring to my attention, or if you will be Juneau, please contact my office by phone (907.465.3732) or email (rep.himschoot@akleg.gov).  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.


The Juneau weather hasn’t decided fully to turn to spring but the daylight has – it has been wonderful to have a little extra light after work.

Christopher Morse, my Ted Stevens Intern last year, recently sent this engraving with the enabling legislation for public schools in Alaska. It reads: "It is the policy of this state that the purpose of education is to help ensure that all students will succeed in their education and work, shape worthwhile and satisfying lives for themselves, exemplify the best values of society, and be effective in improving the character and quality of the world about them."

Legislative Update

Doctor Walkie Charles and Doctor Rosita Worl after the HJR 17 hearing in the Tribal Affairs Committee.


HJR 17, SUPPORT FED TRUTH AND HEALING COMMISSION


House Joint Resolution 17 was heard in the Special Committee on Tribal Affairs last week and passed out of committee by a unanimous vote. I am grateful to Dr. Walkie Charles and Dr. Rosita Worl for their courage in sharing their experiences at the Wrangell Institute and the Haines House. While these stories are incredibly difficult to hear, both Dr. Charles and Dr. Worl are examples of strength and resiliency and the incredible talent the boarding schools sought to suppress. In the hearing we also heard from the President of the Alaska Native Heritage Center, Emily Edenshaw, and PhD candidate Benjamin Jacuk-Dolchok about the history and legacy of the boarding school experience. As they pointed out, no Indigenous person in Alaska has escaped the impacts of these schools. I was honored to co-author the resolution and hope the Alaska Legislature will pass it swiftly, adding to the support for a federal Truth and Healing Commission to help document the history and impact of boarding schools across the country.

 


House Education Committee


After a three-week suspension of the House Education Committee due to a disagreement between the co-chairs, we will meet as usual this week. The bills to be considered include:

 

HB 71, SCHOOL DISTRICT ONLINE CHECKBOOK

 

HB 280, SCHOOL FUNDING; LOCAL CONTRIBUTION


HB 55, EXTEND WORKFORCE INVEST BOARD ALLOCATIONS

 

HB 274, SCREENING/READING INTERVENTION K-3

 

HB 183, DESIGNATE SEX FOR SCHOOL-SPONSORED SPORTS

 

 

House Community and Regional Affairs Committee


The Legislature serves as the “assembly” for the unorganized borough and much of House District 2 is unorganized. Many of the bills considered in the Community and Regional Affairs Committee deal with local government.

 

I am fully committed to keeping problem solving as close to the people impacted as possible and for this reason, I often can’t support otherwise “good” bills because they place mandates on municipalities. In most cases I think municipal governments should be allowed to make their own decisions, however occasionally I believe it is preferable to have the state step in, and I make an exception to this general rule.

 

In House Community and Regional Affairs, among other bills this week, we will consider House Bill 151, FORMATION OF BOROUGHS. When the Local Boundary Commission submits a proposal for borough incorporation to the legislature, this bill requires the Local Boundary Commission to determine if the majority of the voting age residents support borough incorporation in the area in which a borough is being formed. This legislation, if passed, would not apply to the current effort to create the Xunaa Borough, since the petitioner is working through the local action alternative (non-legislative pathway) to form a borough. 

 


House Fisheries Committee


The Fisheries Committee this week will consider a resolution supporting the seafood industry (SJR 14), some changes to statute dealing with hatcheries and mariculture leases (HB 329), and a Cook Inlet Eastside Setnet Buyback (HB 195) that would set a structure, but not provide funding, to reduce the number of setnet permits by about half.

 


Joint Session


On Tuesday, March 12th, the House and Senate will meet in joint session to consider the governor’s Executive Orders (EOs). With fewer than 140 total EOs since statehood the Legislature was a bit surprised to see a dozen EOs introduced by Governor Dunleavy all at once. Without action by the Legislature within 60 days the EOs become law, and we are nearing that deadline. To the Senate’s great credit, they have heard most of the EOs in committees in order to vet them thoroughly. The House has not managed to provide the same vetting, but we have been hearing from constituents and my caucus has investigated most of them independently. I welcome the opportunity to consider the Executive Orders in joint session.

 


Bills and Resolutions that Passed the House Last Week


HB 81, VEHICLES/BOATS: TRANSFER ON DEATH TITLE, passed the House unanimously and allows Alaskans to pass down boats, vehicles and some manufactured homes to beneficiaries by filing a simple form with the the Division of Motor Vehicles. This bill will help reduce the cost of probate for Alaskans.

 

HB 273, AHFC MAKE/PURCHASE MORTGAGE LOANS, passed the House by a vote of 39 to 1 and it allows the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC) to have flexibility when setting the loan to value (LTV) ratio for its residential lending programs. By allowing the AHFC to set a higher LTV will reduce the amount of the down payment required for borrowers, which will make getting a home loan easier for many.

 

HJR 19, NORTHERN RAIL EXTENSION, passed the House by a vote of 32 to 8 and supports the completion of the Port Mackenzie and Northern Rail Extensions.  

Celebrating International Women's Day with my incredible legislative aide, Ann Dombkowski.

What You Can Do

Apply for your Permanent Fund Dividend, Participate in the Education Raffle, and/or Pick Click Give 


Pick Click Give 

  • Be sure to consider using the Pick Click Give program when you file for your PFD to support nonprofit organizations doing important work in House District 2 and around the state. The program was created with legislation in 2008 and it allows Alaskans to donate a portion or all of their Permanent Fund Dividend to eligible charitable and educational organizations. In 2023, 22,690 donors pledged to donate $3,218,075. There are 37 organizations that are based in House District 2 communities. Consider donating a portion of your dividend to one or more of these organizations.  


Fill out Your FAFSA!

  • The Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education (ACPE) provides education and career funding solutions. Currently leading the Alaska FAFSA Completion Initiative, ACPE offers a variety of resources to support and increase FAFSA completion. Historically, Alaska ranks last or next to last in national FAFSA completion rates, resulting in our students losing out on millions of dollars in financial aid opportunities each year. In collaboration with education stakeholders across the State, ACPE is working to change that! Visit acpe.alaska.gov/FAFSACompletionInitiative to learn more.



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


 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.