April 24, 2023


Dear Friends and Neighbors:

Despite being nestled so far north in the Panhandle, it turns out Juneau is a major crossroads for Southeast Alaska. Over the session I have enjoyed many visits from friends and neighbors, and last week was no exception. On the House Floor I was honored to introduce the presidents of the Alaska Native Sisterhood and Alaska Native Brotherhood, and the Alaska Native Sisterhood president emeritus. I also had a few great visits from friends. It is safe to say not everything in Juneau is as enjoyable as the visits from friends!

Daphyne Albee, Millie Schoonover and Heather Gurko after being introduced on the House Floor.

Meeting with Delbert Kadake from Kake.

Cass Pook and Harriet Baleal at the 88th Annual Tribal Assembly.

My brief visit to Sitka two weekends ago was also filled with friends, and this time, also family. My brother and his wife have retired from their careers in Dillingham and will be splitting their time between Sitka and time in Nevada with our dad. My brother found his “retirement boat,” which he will bring to its new homeport of Sitka next month, accompanied by his able offspring deckhands. He’s looking forward to exploring Southeast with this vessel, and we have already mapped out visits to many of the communities of House District 2 over the coming summer.

In addition to meeting with friends and neighbors, last week I had the honor of attending the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska Eighty-Eight Annual Tribal Assembly. I was also glad to participate in another rally in support of increasing the Base Student Allocation. It is encouraging to see the educators, families and students speaking so passionately and articulately in favor of increasing education funding.

Rally on the Capitol Steps to Increase the Base Student Allocation

Please continue to reach out! You can email me at rep.himschoot@akleg.gov, or call my office at (907) 465-3732, with general questions, suggestions or concerns. If you are going to be in Juneau, I look forward to meeting with you. Just call ahead and set up a time with my office staff. 

As always, please share Southeast Swell with your contacts and encourage them to sign up to receive the newsletter – we would like to reach more people in House District 2!

Going away dinner for Christopher. Best staff ever!

Christopher Heads Home to Anchorage

I was sad to see my Ted Stevens Intern, Christopher Morse, wrap up his work in the Capitol last week and head home to Anchorage to complete his studies. Christopher worked incredibly hard this session. He showed up early and stayed well past ten some evenings. As my staff member responsible for education, not only did Christopher prepare me for committee hearings, but he also worked to get important amendments drafted for the bills being considered by the committee. In addition, he did countless other things in the office from drafting citations to researching legislation. I am grateful for Christopher’s time in my office. He is missed, but it was great to see a photo of him preparing to watch the House Education Committee last Friday from his home in Anchorage.  

Christopher and his cat Sophie getting ready to watch the House Education meeting from home in Anchorage. Note the Ted Stevens Incredible Hulk tie!

The Operating Budget Passes the House

On Monday, April 17th the House passed HB 39, APPROP: OPERATING BUDGET/LOANS/FUND; SUPP, the Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2024, by a vote of 23 to 17. As you probably remember, it was a while ago since I last wrote about the amendment process on the budget. After we finished the amendments the House majority held off on taking a vote on the budget. We took the final vote last Monday and the bill is now being considered by the Senate.

The budget supports many critical agencies and services, but I was concerned with the sustainability of the budget and the services that were not funded, and I ultimately voted against passing the budget. I did not feel comfortable supporting a budget with a nearly $600 million deficit. Furthermore, while the bill includes $175 million in additional education funding, it is just for fiscal year 2024. I think we need a permanent increase to Base Student Allocation to support education not just this year, but into the future. Finally, as I wrote the week before last, the House Coalition tried to the balance the budget and add funding to programs for some of the most vulnerable Alaskans through the amendment process. Unfortunately, these amendments were defeated by the House majority, and this is another reason I did not feel like I could support the budget.

Despite voting against the budget on the House Floor, I am committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and in both bodies, to pass a budget before the end of the legislative session. I know my friends and neighbors sent me to Juneau to get a budget passed and I remain committed to doing this. The Senate is currently considering the operating budget. Inevitably the House will not agree to concur with the changes the Senate makes to the budget and the operating budget will go to conference committee. In conference committee the differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget will be worked out. I am optimistic that we will ultimately put together a budget that works for Alaska, and includes an increase to the Base Student Allocation and at least an average sized PFD.   

Bills that Passed the House Last Week

Education Committee

Last week the Education Committee moved HB 148, AK PERFORMANCE SCHOLARSHIP; ELIGIBILITY out of committee. The bill’s next committee of referral is the House Finance Committee. This bill provides some updates to the Alaska Performance Scholarship (APS) to make it more available to a greater number of Alaskan students. The APS program was created by legislation in 2011 during the Parnell administration, and in 2021 the McDowell Group prepared a Program Review and Recommendations for the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education. The updates to the scholarship that were passed in HB 148 were all recommendations from the McDowell study and include:

  •  Adjusting requirements to include either a high score on the ACT or SAT or a high GPA.
  • Rounded and slightly increased the amounts of the scholarships.
  • Expanded the role of Career and Technical Education in both qualifying for and using the scholarship.
  • Improved notification timelines for students who may use the scholarship.

This bill represents good government: a program created by a previous Legislature was funded and maintained, providing certainty to the Alaskans who benefit from the program. After a little over a decade of operation, the program was evaluated and the current legislature is adopting the recommendations of the study, rather than leaving it on a shelf. 

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