Dear Friends and Neighbors, 

We are over 90 days through the 121-day legislative session and much has taken place in Juneau since our last update. In this newsletter, I will provide an update on the outcome of the bipartisan education bill, Senate Bill 140, and the failed veto override effort, continued efforts to ensure our schools have necessary funding this year, the joint session considering the governor’s twelve executive orders, as well as an overview of the current budget process and financial outlook for Alaska. 

As always, it is an honor to serve our community and I am here if you have questions, need assistance with an issue you may be facing, or to share your thoughts, ideas, or concerns. I work hard to represent the diverse views of our community and hearing from friends and neighbors such as yourself helps me accomplish this. You can reach me by email at Rep.Calvin.Schrage@akleg.gov, on my personal cell at 907-240-8986, or at our office at 907-465-4931. 

Alaska’s Budget Process

Over the last few months, the Legislature has been working through the budget process, with the House crafting the operating and mental health budgets and the Senate working on the capital budget. Last month, the Department of Revenue released their Spring Revenue Forecast, covering the actual Fiscal Year (FY) 24 revenues and projections for the FY25 budget. This forecast projects an additional $58 million for FY24 that can be spent this year or put into savings as well as a $140 million increase for FY25. While this is encouraging and provides some additional funding, our state is still grappling with tight budgetary constraints and limited state savings due to years of underinvestment and rising inflationary costs, among others.

The House Finance Committee considered budget amendments last week where I was proud my colleagues in the House Coalition were able to pass 19 amendments. Some important changes include $4 million to keep the Anchorage shelter for homeless people open through the summer, a minimum $680 increase to education funding
, $1.2 million for public radio, $2.2 million for expanding youth mental health care, and additional funds for UA campus security. I am proud of this work and look forward to offering further improvements on the House floor this week. You can watch the livestream or recording at KTOO.com/gavel. As always, please contact my office anytime if you have any questions.

Education Legislation Update

During our last update, I discussed Senate Bill 140 (SB140), the bipartisan compromise education bill which ultimately passed the legislature overwhelmingly on a vote of 57-2. This legislation would have been a significant win for Alaska’s students, educators, families, and schools by providing a permanent increase to the Base Student Allocation (which has not seen a meaningful increase since 2017) of $680, additional funding to implement the Reads Act and provide early learning intervention for students struggling reading by third grade, funding for student transportation, funding and statutory authority changes to help expand internet access for rural schools and capturing millions of dollars in federal funding, funding parity for correspondence students, and help expand the creation of new charter schools while maintaining local control. This legislation was a compromise and while it fell short of what many school districts need to maintain current operations, it was a significant step in the right direction. 

Governor Dunleavy Vetoes Senate Bill 140

After SB140 passed and was transmitted, Gov. Dunleavy held a press conference railing against the bill, threatening that unless he got his priorities passed within two weeks, he would veto the bill. The governor’s primary demand was the elimination of local control in the creation of new charter schools by transferring sole authority to create new charter schools within the State Board of Education (which is made up only of the governor’s appointees). If this change took place, it would allow the state board to establish charter schools in local school districts, even if opposed by locally elected boards and community members, while requiring local communities to foot the bill. This change would also allow for the creation of state-run charter schools, potentially taking students out of our local school districts resulting in a further erosion of funding for our local school districts. Dunleavy’s second demand was for the legislature to appropriate lump sum payments to educators for a 3-year period as a “test” at the cost of over $174 million to see if it improves recruitment and retention. While I strongly support paying educators more, hundreds of educators spoke out against this proposal to instead ask for an increased BSA which would provide a permanent increase to teacher salaries as well as that of support staff.

With only a two week deadline to consider and pass these drastic changes, the legislature worked hard to try and properly vet these proposals. Unfortunately, the governor was unwilling to commit to funding the BSA increase even if the legislature passed his priorities. An additional and significant barrier during this deadline was that the House Education committee did not meet for nearly 1-month due to infighting from members of the majority, making these changes near impossible to pass through the House, and that the governor was not in Juneau to work with legislators. Sadly and despite the overwhelming support and the significant benefit to our schools SB140 would provide, Governor Dunleavy vetoed this bipartisan education bill.

SB140 Veto Override Efforts

On Monday, March 18th, the House and Senate convened in a joint-session to consider overriding the governor’s veto to SB140. In order to override the governor’s veto, it would have taken 2/3rds of the full legislature (40 out of 60 members) voting to override. Despite originally passing with 56 votes, the vote failed with 39 members voting to override, one short of the 40 needed to pass this bill into law. Sadly, after pressure and threats from the governor and his allies, enough members of the House Majority changed their votes and sided with the governor, supporting his veto. While this is extremely discouraging, I am proud of the 39 members who stood up for education, their constituents, and behind this bipartisan compromise bill we passed weeks ago – especially those members in the House Majority who pushed back against partisan pressure and put Alaska first. While this is a significant setback and throws a wrench in any real progress on education taking place in this legislature, I will continue fighting to support our schools and working to make whatever progress is possible this year to ensure our schools have necessary funding.  
Senate Bill 140 Override Final Vote

Rural Internet Funding

As a result of the governor’s veto to SB140, Alaska’s rural and underserved urban schools faced immediate risk of missing out on significant federal funding to improve internet speeds in schools. After pressure from rural legislators and our caucus, the House passed House Bill 193 sponsored by Dillingham Representative Bryce Edgmon. The bill moved quickly through the Senate and was signed in to law by the Governor last week. Students in rural Alaska face significant barriers to accessing education opportunities due to inadequate internet access. I am proud to have been part of the team who made significant steps toward bridging that gap. 

Executive Orders

In an unprecedented action, Governor Dunleavy issued a series of executive orders (EOs) at the beginning of the session, the largest use of executive power in decades. While considering these EOs, the legislature heard from hundreds of Alaskans who were concerned with the impacts and process behind these proposals. The legislature met during a joint-session to consider overturning each executive order, with 8 of the 12 being overturned. 

Executive Orders the Legislature Rejected

The legislature rejected the following executive orders: 
  • Eliminate Wood-Tikchik State Park Management Council
  • Eliminate Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve Advisory Council
  • Eliminate Board of Barbers and Hairdressers
  • Eliminate Board of Massage Therapists
  • Eliminate Board of Midwives
  • Eliminating Legislature’s Appointees to the Alaska Marine Highway Board
  • Transferring Authority for categorizing native and exotic game from the Board of Game to the Department of Fish and Game
  • Splitting the boards of the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) and Alaska Industrial Development Export Authority (AIDEA)

Executive Orders the Legislature Allowed

The legislature allowed the following executive orders: 
  • Eliminate the Alaska Council on Emergency Medical Services
  • Eliminate the Criminal Justice Information Advisory Board to the Department of Public Safety
  • Eliminate the Recreation Rivers Advisory Board
  • Eliminate the Alaska Safety Advisory Council
Below are some additional resources for staying up-to-date and engaged:
Watch Committee Meetings – Most committee hearings are broadcast on Gavel Alaska at www.360north.org or through the Live Now tab on the AK Legislature’s home page. House and Senate floor sessions are also available on Gavel Alaska at www.ktoo.org/gavel

Access Budget Materials – The Office of Management and Budget website has many helpful tools and presentations relating to the state budget. You can find these resources, and more, at https://omb.alaska.gov.
 
Keep Track of Bills – Interested in tracking bills through the legislative process? You can follow along on BASIS: http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Home/BillsandLaws. Just type in a bill number in the search bar (ex: HB 36) at the top of the page. You can also text a bill number (ex: HB 36) to 559-245-2529 to enroll in text alerts.

Use Your Legislative Information Office (LIO) – LIOs are a great local resource for navigating the legislative process. The staff at the LIO can help you research bills and issues, navigate the state computer system, and participate in hearings by providing public testimony. You can chat with LIO staff Monday-Friday between 8:30 AM and 4:00 PM through their new chat interface, located in the lower right corner of AKLeg.gov.

Contact the Anchorage LIO – You can reach the LIO by phone (907-269-0111) or email: LIO.Anchorage@akleg.gov. 

 
Warmly, 
Representative Schrage 
PS - I am honored to serve as your Representative. Please do not hesitate to reach out to our office anytime. 
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Representative Calvin Schrage - Proudly serving our friends and neighbors in House District 12






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Representative Calvin Schrage · Alaska Capitol · Juneau, Ak 99801 · USA