March 19, 2024

 

Dear Friends and Neighbors:


In a frantic week last week, and a busy day yesterday, the House met twice in joint session with the Senate. Yesterday we held a joint session for the purpose of overriding Governor Dunleavy’s veto of SB 140, the omnibus education bill, and last Tuesday we held a joint session to consider a dozen Executive Orders the governor introduced at the beginning of session.

 

As you have likely heard, Governor Dunleavy vetoed SB 140 last week, and yesterday, by one vote in joint session, we failed to overturn the veto. As you can expect, I am extremely disappointed with the Governor’s veto and the legislature’s failed vote to override the veto. However, I will continue to work to make sure our education system receives a funding increase in this year’s budget.

 

Interestingly, the vote on most of Dunleavy’s Executive Orders went differently than the vote on the SB 140 veto override. The legislature voted to overturn 8 of 12 of Governor Dunleavy’s executive orders. This is partly because the threshold to overturn an EO is a simple majority whereas for the veto override threshold for a bill is 2/3 of the legislature and support of 3/4 of the legislature is needed to overturn a veto of a budget item. 

 

I was glad to hear from a large number of constituents on these issues and felt confident in my votes. Thank you for contacting me!     


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 in 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.

Meeting with my constituent Kurt Whitehead earlier this month. Kurt has been a tireless advocate for updating our requirements for a resident hunting, trapping or sport fishing license. He brought the problem to my attention and I had HB 201 drafted. Kurt has single handily built a a groundswell of support for this bill from the grassroots level across the state.

Legislative Update

The House Coalition dressed in red before the veto override vote.

Walking to the House Chambers for the SB 140 veto override vote, down a hallway full educators, parents and students spending their spring break advocating for education funding.

SB 140

 

Yesterday afternoon, by a vote of 39 for to 20 against the legislature failed by one vote to override the Governor’s veto of SB 140, the omnibus education bill. The constitution creates a very high bar for overturning a bill veto and an even higher bar for overturning a budget item veto. The vote yesterday came after Governor Dunleavy vetoed SB 140 Thursday evening, a few hours before the midnight deadline. As you can imagine, I was saddened by the Governor’s veto and the legislature’s inability to override the veto. Alaskans expect more from their government!

 

In a press conference that lasted about an hour on Friday, the Governor explained that he vetoed SB 140 because it did not include his proposed teacher bonus program or sufficient provisions to support charter school growth in Alaska. While the bill did not have everything the Governor wants, it did include many of his priorities including a provision to increase support for correspondence schools, additional funding to support reading improvement plans, as well as language that creates a charter school coordinator and allows charter schools to appeal to the Commissioner of the Department of Education and Early Development if a local school board terminates a contract with a charter school. These components of the bill are in addition to a compromise BSA increase of $680, support for schools to increase internet speeds in rural Alaska, and additional funding for pupil transportation. Everyone had to compromise in order for the bill to pass the legislature by a vote of 56 – 3.

 

It is clear we need to provide relief to our schools after seven years of basically flat funding. In the same time period, some state agencies have seen increases above 40%. While I generally prefer to work with folks regardless of whether we share the same opinions, I am frustrated that after the Governor received SB 140 he did little to work out a compromise with legislators. Furthermore, during the press conference the Governor indicated that he may have still vetoed a portion of the funding in the budget for the BSA increase regardless of whether or not we overrode the veto. This created additional uncertainty for schools and lawmakers alike. 

 

I am disappointed, but I am not done working to support educators, families and public schools in Alaska. I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find a compromise and increase the state’s support for education in Alaska. Unfortunately, because we were not able to resolve this issue early in the session, even if there is ultimately a resolution and a funding increase, teachers will be getting pink slips and some of these teachers will understandably find work elsewhere in the country, further exacerbating our education crisis. 

 

 

Bills that Passed the House this Week

 

 

HCR 8, HONORING VIETNAM WAR VETERANS, by Representative Shaw, honors the sacrifices made by those veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. HCR 8 passed by a vote of 40 to 0.

 

HB 279, LOCAL BOUNDARY COMMISSION, by Representative Cronk, is a bill that requires Local Boundary Commission Board members from each judicial district to live in the district and that one member lives in and is appointed to represent the unorganized borough. This bill passed the House by a vote of 39 to 1.

 

HB 341, MARVIN THURMOND GALENA MAINT. STATION, by Representative Cronk is a bill to name the Galena Maintenance Station after a long time, highly respected employee, Marvin Thurmond. It passed the House by a vote of 40 to 0. 

 

HB 265, CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE MATERIAL, sponsored by Representative Vance, will change the term “child pornography” to “child sexual abuse material” in Alaska statute to align with the language other prominent organizations are using. 

 

HB 237, TEMPORARY PERMIT FOR LAPSED NURSE LICENSE, sponsored by Representative Prax allows the Board of Nursing to issue a nonrenewable temporary permit, not to exceed six months, to a person applying for reinstatement of a lapsed license. This bill passed the House by a vote of 40 to 0 and I am a cosponsor of this bill.

 

HB 272, BIG GAME HUNTING BY PERSON W/DISABILITY, passed the House by a vote of 38 to 1 on Thursday, March 14, 2024. This bill, from the Governor, will allow the Board of Game to establish annual big game hunting seasons for someone who can prove that they are 70% physically disabled. These individuals will need to be accompanied by a licensed hunter capable of retrieving game. This is similar to a bill that passed in 2001 that allowed the Board of Game to create specific hunting seasons for children to harvest big game.  

 

HB 286, CRIME VICTIM RESTITUTION, passed the House by a vote of 39 to 0 also on Thursday, March 14, 2024 and I am co-sponsor of this bill. HB 286 clarifies that a victim is eligible to receive restitution from the convicted defendant to cover lost income, as well as child and elder care, and transportation expenses incurred during the victim’s participation in the investigation or prosecution.  This is in addition to restitution that is already allowed to be paid to an organization that provides counseling, medical or shelter services to the victim. 


 

Joint Session on the Executive Orders

 

Last Tuesday, March 12th, 2024, the legislature voted in joint session on whether or not to overturn Governor Dunleavy’s twelve Executive Orders (EO). Governor Dunleavy issued an unusually large number of EOs earlier this year. They mostly transferred the power of boards and commissions to the executive branch. The Governor believes that they would have made state government more efficient. Working within the 60-day deadline to respond, the legislature rejected 8 of the 10 (please see list below). Some of the rejections had to do with process, some had to do with principles, and some were rejected based on public input.

 

 

Executive Orders and Legislature’s Vote on Disapproval


No. 124 -The commissioner of fish and game has the authority to prohibit by regulation the live capture, possession, transport, or release of native exotic game or their eggs. The legislature disapproved the EO by a vote of 36 - 23.


No. 125 – The functions of the Alaska Council on Emergency Medical Services are transferred to the Department of Health, and the council is dissolved. The legislature accepted the EO by a vote of 0 - 59 on the resolution to disapprove the EO.


No. 126 – The functions of the Wood-Tikchik State Park Management Council are transferred to the Department of Natural Resources and the council is dissolved. The legislature disapproved the EO by a vote of 38 - 21.


No. 127 – The Board of Massage Therapists is dissolved, and its authority goes to the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development. The legislature disapproved the EO by a vote of 43 - 16.


No. 128 – The boards of the Alaska Energy Authority and the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority are split into two separate boards. The legislature disapproved the EO by a vote of 36 - 23.


No. 129 – The Board of Barbers and Hairdressers is dissolved, and its authority goes to the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development. The legislature disapproved the EO by a vote of 34 - 25.


No. 130 – The Board of Certified Direct-Entry Midwives is dissolved, and its authority goes to the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development. The legislature disapproved the EO by a vote of 58 - 1.


No. 131 – The members of the state ferry operations board that under a 2021 law are appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives and Senate president will instead be appointed by the governor. The legislature disapproved the EO by a vote of 33 - 26.


No. 132 – The Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve Advisory Council is dissolved, and its duties will be taken over by the Department of Natural Resources. The legislature disapproved the EO by a vote of 40 - 19.


No. 133 – The Criminal Justice Information Advisory Board is dissolved, and its duties will be taken over by the Department of Public Safety. The legislature accepted the EO by a vote of 0 - 59 on the resolution to disapprove the EO.


No. 134 – The Recreation Rivers Advisory Board is dissolved, and its duties will be taken over by the Department of Natural Resources. The legislature accepted the EO by a vote of 29 - 30 on the resolution to disapprove the EO.


No. 135 – The Alaska Safety Advisory Council is dissolved, and its duties will be taken over by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The legislature accepted the EO by a vote of 30 - 29 on the resolution to disapprove the EO. 



Lunch and Learn on Housing in Alaska


On Tuesday, March 19th, Housing Alaskans: A Public-Private Partnership (HAPPP) presented at a lunch and learn sponsored by Senator Dunbar. Housing is a critical issue for House District 2 and all of Alaska, and on Wednesday the freshman caucus will meet with HAPPP. You can watch and archive of the lunch and learn on the Gavel to Gavel website.


Thank you for all the birthday wishes!

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.