Hello from the Alaska State Capitol. The 2013 session is rapidly approaching the halfway point and lawmakers are busy considering numerous bills, resolutions and other issues. In the coming weeks, I expect to see the House pass its version of the 2014 operating budget and transmit it to the Senate for further consideration. In the meantime, various budget subcommittees have been meeting to consider the budgets for state departments and agencies and make recommendations to the full Finance Committee. This session, I am serving on the Education and Early Development, Fish and Game, and University of Alaska finance subcommittees.
School Choice and Vouchers
The capitol has been abuzz in recent days with discussion of vouchers and school choice. As you may know, resolutions have been introduced in both bodies (SJR 9 and HJR 1) proposing to place a constitutional amendment question before voters to allow public funds to be used for private and religious schools. Although my Senate Education Committee will not hear the resolutions directly, we will hold presentations on school vouchers. Many of us in the legislature are interested in finding out if such a system will work or not here in Alaska, how it would impact our current educational programs, and what other states have experienced. I expect to have more information on when these hearings will take place in the near future.
Personal Legislation Update
SB 31, which I introduced at the request of the community of Akhiok, was passed by the Senate on Wednesday, February 20th. The bill renames the village’s runway the Jim Andie and Robin Starrett Memorial Runway in honor of two pilots who are fondly remembered by Akhiok residents. The bill has been referred to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
Tracking the Legislature
Follow the status of mine or any other lawmaker’s legislation through the state’s Bill Action and Status Inquiry System (BASIS). Through BASIS, you can see what committee a bill is in, when it will be heard, how committee members voted, and much more. You can also view all bills relating to your specific areas of interest by selecting “Subject Summary” from the menu on the right.
Legislative Information Offices a Valuable Resource
District R’s Legislative Information Offices (LIOs) are valuable resource for helping you follow bills and resolutions, contact lawmakers, offer testimony to the various Senate and House committees, apply for the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) and more.
Student Artwork Sought
The Juneau LIO is encourages school districts around the state to take part in the Art in the Capitol program again this year. As part of the program, which has been going on since 1988, student displays are featured in the display case on the ground floor and in the stairwell of each floor of the Capitol building. The displays rotate monthly and are featured on a first come first serve basis, serving as a constant visual reminder of the diversity of Alaska’s people and geography.
Constituents in the Capitol
Throughout the session, I have had the opportunity to visit with numerous District R constituents during their trips to Juneau. Among the recent visitors to my capitol building office were Dillingham’s Martin Gardiner, Bill McLeoud, Bernina Venua and Elizabeth Himschoot, who also served as a guest page during her stay; Aimee Kniaziowski, Kevin Brennan, Duncan Fields, Pat Olson, Norm Wooten, Betty MacTavish, Stewart McDonald, Marilyn Davidson, Lisa Pearce, Melissa Borton, Katie Oliver, Debra Kirk, Rick Kniaziowski, Heather Corriere and Mayor Pat Branson of Kodiak; Whittier’s Andrea Korbe and Mayor Lester Lunceford; New Halen’s Fedosia Balluta and Kathleen Gust; Mayor Dan Clarion and Darren Muller of Ouzikie; Jodie McDonnell of Naknek; Mayor Dan O’Hara of the Bristol Bay Borough; Bristol Bay Borough School District Superintendent Jack Walsh, teacher Ginger Moore, and students Cheyenne Geffken and Stephanie Summerville; George Owletuck and Stanley Tom from Newtok; and Mark Leary of Napaimute.
Don’t Forget to File for Your PFD
The Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) application period ends Sunday, March 31st. If you have not already applied for this year’s PFD, I encourage you to do so soon, as applications must be postmarked or delivered to the PFD offices by the filing deadline. The easiest way to apply is via the PFD Division’s website at: www.pfd.state.ak.us. Stop by the Legislative Information Offices in Cordova, Dillingham and Kodiak if you would like to obtain a paper application.