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April 25, 2014
Extended Session Fails our Kids on Education
Today on the fifth day of a regrettable and unnecessary extended session the Legislature adjourned sine die.
Although state law requires the legislature to conclude legislative sessions within 90 days, the Alaska Constitution allows them to extend for up to 120 days. After that, the legislature must go into special session if there are remaining issues that must be resolved.
One consequence of an extended session is that all bills remains active and subject to legislative action at any time, whereas with a special session the Legislature may only take action on certain topics specified under the call of the session.
Because we were in extended session there were many topics still in play, including the minimum wage, the capital budget, and education funding. This led to extended negotiations between the House and the Senate and uncertainty over when session would actually end.
Ultimately education funding was the main sticking point. This session has often been referred to as the “education session,” and I and my colleagues in the house minority have stuck to our commitment to reverse the past three years of stagnant education funding that have led to continuing teacher layoffs, increasing class sizes, and the loss of important programs such as vocational education and summer school.
As I have said before, the legislature needs to get its priorities straight. It is wrong to say that properly funding education is “unsustainable.” Especially when millions of dollars went towards luxury legislative offices, hundreds of millions in last minute giveaways to refineries, and billions of dollars were given away from the state treasury to oil companies for nothing in return.
Why I opposed House Bill 278, the “education omnibus:”
Today I joined my fellow minority members in voting against the newly released education bill for the following reasons:
Under House Bill 278, schools and parents got less than half of what they need to prevent more cuts in the classroom. In the “education session,” the Legislature should have come up with real help for our schools.
Power to the people: on the 90th day of session Alaska Native protesters occupied the Capitol Building demanding the Senate vote on House Bill 216, recognizing Alaska Native languages as official languages of the State. The bill passed 18-2.
I instead supported schools, teachers, parents, students, and business and community leaders in supporting an increase of per-student funding, called the Base Student Allocation or BSA, of $400 next year and $125 the following two years for a total of $650 over three years. The current bill proposes only a $250 increase in the BSA over three years.
The majority tried to sell this bill as a compromise, but in reality it is a phony education bill. They are forcing more cuts on schools and asking local taxpayers to pick up some of the slack.
Session ends, return to Anchorage
With the end of session I will be returning back to Anchorage to serve and assist you, my neighbors, with state and local issues, and to hear your thoughts and concerns.
For more detailed information on what happened this session, please watch your mailboxes for my latest constituent newsletter which will be coming out soon. You will also receive an invite to my regular Tuesday morning constituent coffee meetings at the Elim Café which I will be restarting very soon. I hope to see you there!
As always, I’m here for you, so please keep in touch on matters important to you and your family!
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