April 9, 2024

 

Dear Friends and Neighbors:


The House Finance Committee wrapped up debate on amendments to the operating budget Thursday evening and moved the budget out of subcommittee on Friday. Amendments to the budget are being considered on the House floor this week. After we consider over 100 amendments the budget will be debated and voted on. If there is support, the budget will pass the House and then be considered by the Senate. Usually, the differences between the House and Senate versions of the operating budget are worked out in a conference committee made up of three members from each body.


Juneau Folk Fest is this week as is the arrival of the first cruise ships. Before long, by the middle of May, will be the end of the 121-day session. It has been an intense session so far and shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon – my fingers are crossed we will be able to get some good policies across the finish line and that the budget will include the services Alaskans need.



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.

P.S. Important Fact: The general fund amount for the operating budget for FY 24 – the one that will end in June – is $1.5 billion dollars lower than the general fund amount in the operating budget in 2014.

Legislative Update

Operating Budget

 

The budget process is far from over, but below are some of the items that were added to the Governor’s budget by the Finance Committee. I will be watching these items along with others as the budget moves through the process:

 

  • $680 one-time increase to the BSA.


  • $3,700,000 increase in funding from the Governor’s budget proposal for the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (CDVSA) for their grant programs from the Governor’s budget. This keeps the funding at a similar level to last year and while this is not enough, the critical programs that CDVSA supports are more likely to receive grant funds with this increase.


  • $1,200,000 for grants to rural public radio stations which provide vital emergency broadcasting services. This was not in the governor’s budget and the governor has historically vetoed public radio funding. Given the importance of public radio in emergency situations I will do what I can to make sure this funding stays in the budget.


  • A $20,000,000 million deposit into the Community Assistance Fund. This funding, along with $30 million from the Power Cost Equalization Fund, will allow for a full distribution of community assistance in FY 26. The full distribution for FY 25 is already in the budget.


  • $7,500,000 for grant funds to help support childcare centers across the state.


  • $20,000,000 for the Alaska Marine Highway System in case the state receives less federal funding than anticipated.


  • $2,000,000 in additional funding for Adult Day Services which will help the elderly, disabled and those suffering from dementia.

 

Education Funding

 

On Thursday students across the state walked out of school for 40 minutes to show their support for an increase in education funding. A large group of Juneau students came to the Capitol and walked through the building, and students in Sitka and Kake walked out of their buildings for 40 minutes. Ideally, students can stay focused on their studies and not have to worry about budget shortfalls in their schools, but unfortunately these students feel the impacts of flat education funding daily and are concerned for future generations. I welcome their advocacy and their use of free speech to express how the loss of education programs impact them.


Sitka and Kake students, and of course Skip the Dog, standing in solidarity with students across the state in support of an increase in education funding.

HJR 13, Constitutional Convention and Term Limits

 

A number of constituents received a text message (see the message below) last week encouraging them to call me about the opportunity to vote on term limits. I’d like to explain both how you received this message and why I won’t be supporting HJR 13, the resolution referenced in the message. House Joint Resolution 13 is a resolution that asks the United States Congress to call a convention of the states to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution for the purpose of proposing term limits.  

 

It’s important to know HJR 13 is a resolution the Legislature is considering and, furthermore, it calls for a constitutional convention. A resolution states an opinion or support of the Legislature and is often sent to the relevant federal officials, but it doesn’t carry the weight of an actual law. This resolution supports a constitutional convention for the purpose of setting term limits. Unfortunately, I am concerned that once a constitutional convention is called, it could be an opportunity to rewrite the constitution and would not be strictly confined to term limits.

 

In addition, I understand the appeal of term limits, but I am also grateful for the tremendous resources brought to Alaska by Sen. Ted Stevens and Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Also, as an early career legislator I look often to veteran legislators for guidance and mentorship; without some longevity in the building “new” legislators could be more vulnerable to the influence of lobbyists. I believe a powerful form of term limits is the ballot box and I encourage everyone to vote.

 

Finally, in campaigns there are independent expenditure (IE) groups. These groups use their funding to publish what the want and often are involved in advocating for one side of an issue, and supporting or attacking candidates. Unfortunately, the candidate is not aware of the activities of the IE group. On HJR 13 an IE group has taken a position in support of the resolution, and they used a texting program to encourage constituents in the district to urge me to support the resolution.

 

I am always happy to hear from constituents and I am grateful for those who called in on term limits! I just want to provide some background information on the process and the resolution. Thank you to everyone who takes the time to weigh in on any subject, including term limits. It’s always good to hear from constituents!

 

The text message that went out to individuals across House District 2 regarding term limits.

Bills that Passed the House Last Week

 

HCR 15 “Designating May 2024 as Mental Health Awareness Month; and designating May 5 - 11, 2024, as Tardive Dyskinesia Awareness Week.”

 

HB 155 "An Act establishing the Alaska Military Affairs Commission; and relating to the duties and powers of the Alaska Military Affairs Commission."

Blatchley Middle School volleyball players and their coaches visiting the Capitol last week.

What You Can Do

Attend a Community Workshop on the Tongass National Forest Land Management Plan Revision 

  • The Forest Service is Revising the Tongass National Forest Land Management Plan. They want to hear from you and will be hosting meetings throughout Southeast Alaska. You can find out more about the revision process online and see the list of community workshops below.

Community Workshops in Southeast

Attend Keep On Pickin’ – Juneau Art Show Celebrating Eric and Pam Bealer

  • If you happen to be in Juneau for the Folk Festival, be sure to stop by the Alaska Robotics Gallery to see “Keep On Pickin’ – Juneau Art Show Celebrating Eric and Pam Bealer” of Pelican. The show will open on Friday, April 5 at 4:30 pm and be up through April 14, 2024.

Watch a Short Video on the Exciting Opportunities in Angoon

  • Watch "Angoon Youth on the Cusp of the Energy Transition" on you tube. This video was shared with me over the weekend and is one more example of the great work happening in schools and communities across HD 2. Congratulations to Angoon on finally receiving the funds to bring hydropower to their community!


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.  


 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.