April 29, 2024

 

Dear Friends and Neighbors:


The pace in Juneau has picked up and last Wednesday we had our first late night on the House Floor when we gaveled out at about 11:30 pm. Committee work has slowed a bit with with two and half weeks to go until the constitutionally mandated end of session. At this point in the session bills that are likely to pass are mostly being considered by the Finance Committees or on the House and Senate floors. Of course there are some exceptions, and the committees I serve on continue to meet. The end of this session is the end of the 33rd Legislature, and when we adjourn the bills that have not passed are effectively dead. The bills that were introduced the past couple of years are not automatically taken up in the 34th legislature, and instead a legislator will need to start the process from the beginning. It’s safe to say the race is on!


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.

Asking Mr. Curtis Chamberlain a question during the hearing on Board of Fisheries appointees.

Legislative Update


Board of Fisheries Appointees

 

Thursday evening we considered the governor’s appointments to the Board of Fisheries. While there were qualified candidates from Southeast, they were not selected and Southeast continues to lack representation on the board. The governor reappointed Märit Carlson-Van Dort and the newest Board of Fisheries appointment is Curtis Chamberlain. Ms. Carlson-Van Dort will be beginning her third term. She grew up in Juneau and Chignik and now lives in Anchorage. Mr. Chamberlain spent his childhood in western Alaska. He now works for Calista Corporation and lives in Anchorage. There was very little public testimony on either of these candidates.

 

 

House Joint Resolution 17

 

On Friday House Joint Resolution 17 passed the House and it is my sincere hope it will make it through the Senate before the end of session on May 15. HJR 17 supports a federal bill that creates a Truth and Healing Commission on the Boarding Schools that were funded by the US government for over 100 years. The Department of Interior identified 21 boarding schools in Alaska, but according to Benjamin Jacuk-Dolchok, a lead researcher with the Alaska Native Heritage Center, there were over a 100 boarding schools in the state. We are learning more about them as research continues.


While Sheldon Jackson School provided a good education and some happy times for students who chose to go there, we must also acknowledge there were many students who did not choose to go there or to any of the over 520 boarding schools (408 federally supported) across the country. In the hearings on HJR 17 the Alaska Native Heritage Center shared that there is evidence every Native Alaskan family has been impacted in some way by the boarding school period. I am proud to cosponsor this legislation and I hope we will be able to send it to Alaska’s delegation in DC. Additionally, I would like to acknowledge and thank the community of Hydaburg, and carvers Joe and TJ Young, for their work on the healing pole that was raised last October at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. As we learn more about the children who were separated from their families, and especially those who did not return, I hope we can tell the stories and begin to heal our communities.

 

 

Senate Concurrent Resolution 10

 

In the House Fisheries Committee, we passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 10 last week, which establishes a task force to study the crisis in fisheries and make recommendations to the legislature next January. In committee we amended the resolution to add three seats to the task force for Tribal citizens who are active participants in the state’s fisheries. It’s going to be a heavy lift to find the members, get organized and produce recommendations by the next legislative session, but I think this is an important step towards addressing the challenges the industry is facing. When a salmon industry task force convened in the early 2000s it resulted in over 40 bills and successful efforts by the state and industry to market wild Alaska salmon as a high-end product. Today, all sectors of the seafood industry, from fishermen to processors, are expressing deep concerns over a growing crisis in the fisheries and I am optimistic the legislature will take the task force recommendations very seriously.

 

 

Bills that Passed the House Last Week

 

HB 88, "An Act relating to work quotas for employees at warehouse distribution centers; and providing for an effective date."

 

SB 159, "An Act establishing Alaska Veterans' Poppy Day; and providing for an effective date."

 

HB 254, "An Act relating to minors and the Internet; and relating to use of social media by minors."

 

HB 285, “An Act relating to insurance; relating to mammograms; and providing for an effective date."

 

HJR 17, “Urging the United States Congress to pass the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act.”

 

HB 309, "An Act relating to the practice of optometry; and relating to the delegation of routine services of optometry."

 

HB 347, "An Act relating to assessment of property, boards of equalization, and certification of assessors; and providing for an effective date."

 


Legislative Skits

 

A legislative tradition that may set Alaska apart from other states is legislative skits. Each year staff create short sketches that poke fun at legislators and bills similar to the Correspondents' Dinner at the federal level. It is a lighthearted, nonpartisan event that is well timed towards the end of session. This year’s skits were on Saturday, and the proceeds benefited AWARE and Big Brothers Big Sisters. I believe this event is part of what makes Alaska a national leader in coalition governance, and it is a highlight of the legislative session!

Visiting the IDEA home school office in Juneau with Representative Story.

Correspondence Study Programs

 

As the Legislature continues to explore solutions to the recent court ruling striking down sections of Alaska’s home school statutes I went on a “field trip” on Thursday to the IDEA office here in Juneau. The excellent educators there were welcoming, and I enjoyed learning more about Alaska’s largest home school program. IDEA is run through the Galena City School District but has offices in nine locations across Alaska to serve students around the state. As we process this ruling my office obtained a memo from the Legislature’s legal department that explains there are several solutions to the situation, including remedies from the State Board of Education or the Legislature. We hope to know by May 3 if a stay will be issued and for how long, and it remains my hope we will stabilize the situation for home school programs and families before the end of the legislative session.

Alaska Marine Highway System Update


It has been a long winter for the vessels in the Marine Highway System. Due to the fleets age, many of the vessels have had to spend an extended amount of time in shipyards largely because of wasted steel. The work on the LeConte and Columbia is taking longer than anticipated. The work on the LeConte should be done soon, but it will need to go back for more repairs in the fall and the Columbia will be in the yard at least until mid-summer. The Kennicott is on the Bellingham run now, but it will be out for generator replacement for 9 – 10 months starting in January 2025. With the age of the vessels, it is exciting to hear the department is working on designs for the Tustumena replacement, and for a low or no emissions ferry that will likely run from Saxman to Metlakatla. There is funding to construct both of these vessels. 

 

In the next few years, the department is also planning ferry dock projects in Yakutat, Kake, Angoon and Pelican. Some of this work will enable the Alaska class ferries to serve more communities. In addition, the department is exploring the possibility of providing ferry service to Hyder in place of Prince Rupert. Serving and maintaining the Prince Rupert facility is becoming cost prohibitive.

 

The Marine Highway System continues to struggle with staffing shortages and is having an especially difficult time filling the positions that require more experience. With this challenge in mind, the department has expanded its recruiting efforts both locally and nationally. They are also working on ways to help train existing staff to fill vacant positions and they are compensating employees for in-state travel for those individuals who need to travel from their home community to another community to work on a vessel.

 

Working with a House Guest Page on arithmetic before a Floor Session. It was fun to lose to this very bright 2nd grader!

What You Can Do

Nominate Someone for the Annual Governor's Arts and Humanities Awards 

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.


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  • 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.