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Phone: (907) 465-3438
Email: rep.liz.snyder@akleg.gov
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Hello Eastside!
It's been a busy week with lots of progress on the budget and legislation. I am excited to share these updates with you in this bonus newsletter.
 

Pictured: The House Health & Social Services Finance Subcommittee voting on budget items.

Budget Subcommittees Closeout

We finished the first step of many in the budget process: closing out the budget subcommittees. Each subcommittee does a detailed review of their respective department's budget. We look at staffing levels, IT costs, travel, leases, etc. I am proud to say we have found a balance of supporting essential services while also finding areas for increased efficiencies. 

In the Department of Health & Social Services budget subcommittee, I introduced amendments that did the following:
  • Lift an additional 70 Alaskans off the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities waiver waitlist so more individuals can receive the care they need to live a fulfilling and independent life.
  • Add back positions to the Division of Public Assistance to ensure they are well staffed and are able to reduce the backlog of applications.
  • Add recruitment incentives for the Public Health Nursing program so we can fill long-term vacancies. These vacancies have had negative impacts on access to health care in underserved areas of the state and my amendment brings us one step closer to filling them.
  • Added funds to support a contracted study to develop evidence-based, stakeholder-informed recommendations on improving the performance and efficiency of DHSS or how to best split DHSS into two departments.
In other budget subcommittees I:
  • Introduced an amendment for recruitment and retention incentives in the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development. I also supported amendments in the Department of Law for similar incentives. It is clear that recruitment and retention issues are pervasive throughout all of our departments and must be addressed. Vacancies and burnout cause delays in delivery of essential services and ultimately hurt Alaskans. These incentives are meant to be a temporary fix as we have a bigger discussion about how to solve the issue entirely.
  • Supported adding an additional position in the Wage and Hour Administration which has seen staffing cuts over the years, resulting in delays in claims investigations.
  • Supported funding for non-judicial employees working in the Court System along with increasing funding for Therapeutic Courts to address the increased demand for services and backlog.
  • Supported fully funding two attorneys and additional support staff to prosecute sexual assault in the state.
  • Supported reductions for no longer necessary services, items, contracts, or leases due to increased government efficiencies and encourage departments to find other funding sources when appropriate.
The budget subcommittee recommendations will now be presented and considered by House Finance. There will be opportunities for Public Testimony this weekend. Anchorage residents can testify today starting at 1:30 by calling 907-563-9085 or 844-586-9085. You can also send written testimony to House.Finance@akleg.gov. More details below: 
 
 

EO 121: Re-organization of the Department of Health & Social Services

Similar to last session, the House Health & Social Services committee has spent much of the last few weeks discussing Executive Order 121 (EO 121) which bifurcates the Department into the Department of Health and the Department of Family & Community Services. We have spent the last few weeks hearing from the Department of Health & Social Services, the Department of Law, and the Legislature’s own legal drafting department. On Tuesday, our committee moved out HSCR 2: Disapproving EO 121. You can watch the meeting by clicking here or following this link: http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Meeting/Detail?Meeting=HHSS%202022-03-01%2015:00:00#tab2_4e

 
Stakeholders, constituents, and even the Department have shared their concerns around providing Alaskans the services they need in an efficient and timely manner. I am so grateful for all the work the Department does, especially in the last two years, and it is clear that something needs to change but Executive Order 121 is not the way to do it.

EO 121 is the first of its magnitude and the Legislature’s legal department raised concerns around the precedent passage of EO 121 could set. EO 121 also adds 13 new upper-level positions at a cost of $2 million but does not fill or add needed frontline positions, nor is it accompanied by supplemental plans or funding to address long-standing, well-understood issues at the department, including volatility in the department budget, workforce burnout, issues with recruitment and retention, and aging technological infrastructure.

While the Department made improvements in their stakeholder engagement this time around and worked to address some of the legal concerns from last year, there were simply too many unanswered questions and unaddressed concerns left for me to comfortably support bifurcating the Department. It was a difficult decision, but I am confident I made the correct choice by voting to disapprove the split.

The Legislature has until March 19 to convene in a joint session between the House and the Senate to formally disapprove EO 121. Only a simple majority or 41 votes is needed. The Senate Finance committee will have a hearing on EO 121 on Thursday at 1 pm. If you have thoughts regarding the split, please make sure to email your legislator and share your thoughts. 

Other Happenings

HB 292: Home and Community Based Waivers had its first bill hearing in House Health & Social Services. I am excited to work on this legislation to ensure individuals maintain access to the care they need and care- givers can be properly compensated for their hard work.
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HB 260: PFD: 50/50 POMV Split will have its first hearing in House Ways & Means next week on Thursday, March 10th, 2022. I introduced HB 260 to depoliticize the PFD and budget discussions. It allows for a 50/50 split of the POMV draw for the PFD and Government services but if, and only if, we have the revenue for it and  can properly fund our baseline budget. You can learn more about why I introduced it and how it works by reading my LTE herehttps://www.adn.com/opinions/2022/02/07/we-have-a-path-to-pfds-high-quality-essential-services-and-fiscal-health/
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Pictured: A rare office photo. From left to right: Ari, Alliana, Me, Ash, James.
It's Employee Appreciation Day! Make sure to let your staff know you appreciate them and their hard work. All leaders are supported by a great team. My office team helps keep me running so I can represent our district as best as I can. Thank you, Alliana, Ari, Ash, and James-- Our district and I appreciate you all!

Community Information

Upcoming Meetings:

Northeast Community Council
Thursday March 17th, 7 pm
Meeting information

The PFD filing period closes March 31st! Apply via this link, and please reach out to my office if you run into any issues.  

Honored as always to serve you,

Rep. Liz Snyder

 
 
 
Contact our office:

(907) 465-3438


rep.liz.snyder@akleg.gov


alliana.salanguit@akleg.gov- Chief of Staff, House Health & Social Services Committee Aide
arielle.wiggin@akleg.gov- Constituent relations & House Judiciary
james.holzenberg@akleg.gov- Scheduling, House Labor & Commerce
ashlyn.johnson@akleg.gov- Intern, House Labor & Commerce
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