Hello from Juneau. The second session of the 29th Alaska State Legislature is under way and a lot of work awaits lawmakers between now and adjournment. Over the next few months, legislators will debate a wide range of topics, none more important than the fiscal year 2017 budget. With a projected deficit of $3.5 billion, and predictions for low oil prices to continue for the foreseeable future, developing a budget will be difficult, and Alaskans can expect cuts to many of the state’s programs and services.
I believe we will have a thorough discussion on the governor’s proposal to generate revenue through an income tax and utilization of the Alaska Permanent Fund earnings. With 40 House and 10 Senate seats up for election this year, many legislators will be reluctant to embrace taxes and anything that would reduce the amount of the permanent fund dividend, but it is important that we hold the discussion this year.
Thank you to all who have taken the time to share your thoughts on Alaska’s budget and fiscal future with me. I hope you will continue to add your voice to the dialog, testify at Finance Committee hearings and encourage your friends and neighbors to also speak up.
Again this year I am serving as chair of the Legislative Council, a joint committee of Senate and House members which governs the Legislature’s internal business. I will also continue serving on the Senate Education and Labor and Commerce committees, the special committees on the Arctic and world trade, the Senate Finance Committee’s Judiciary and University of Alaska subcommittees, and the Ethics Committee.
I have introduced new legislation to ban sales of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, and similar products to minors. The bill, SB141, has been referred to the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee for consideration.
SB75 is awaiting a hearing by the Senate Finance Committee. If passed into law, the bill will give Alaska’s federally recognized tribal governments the ability to take part in the permanent fund dividend’s popular Pick.Click.Give. program should they choose.
SB61 establishes a matching grant program in the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development for eligible museum construction, expansion, and major renovation projects, subject to available funds. The bill is awaiting a second Labor and Commerce Committee hearing. A companion bill, HB52, is awaiting a hearing in the House Finance Committee.
SB3 looks at how data for kids in grades kindergarten-12 is used and shared, with the goal of keeping sensitive student information secure. The bill has been referred to the Senate Education Committee for consideration.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 1 creates a task force to explore how to provide civics education to students to give them a better understanding of what citizenship means. SCR1 is currently awaiting a hearing in the House Education Committee.
Senate District P Staff
My Capitol office is staffed with familiar faces again this session.
Teri Robl is available to aide constituents throughout the year at our Homer office, and can be reached at 907-235-0690.
Nona Dimond is now in her sixth year with our office. Among her many tasks are coordinating my schedule and assisting constituents.
Tim Lamkin is back for a 10th year. He will be working on personal legislation, and track the Senate Education Committee, among other duties.
Doug Letch returns for 16th year. He will continue to work on constituent concerns and communications, track the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee, and will staff the Kodiak office in the interim.
Katrina Matheny is also in her 16th year in our office. She will staff the Legislative Council and will continue to follow the operating and capital budgets.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office if we can be of assistance to you with matters involving state agencies.
Legislative Information Offices
The Legislative Information Offices are a great source for following bills, participating in teleconferences, offering testimony on legislation and contacting lawmakers throughout the session. You can also pick up a Permanent Fund Dividend application at the LIO.
The Kodiak LIO can be reached at (907) 486-8116.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the many issues we are working on in Juneau. You can reach me by phone at 1-800-821-4925 and in Juneau at 465-4925. My fax number is 465-3517. My mailing address is 120 4th Street, State Capitol, Room 3, Juneau, AK 99801. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tracking the Alaska Legislature
You can follow the work of the Senate on the Internet at www.alaskasenate.org/2016/. The site provides a wealth of information on the working group’s efforts and our membership.
Alaska’s public television system produces Gavel Alaska, which broadcasts live and recorded coverage of floor sessions and committee hearings. The programming is also on the Internet at: www.360north.org/.
AlaskaLegislature.tv offers live coverage of meetings from all of the Capitol’s committee rooms. The service is provided by the legislature.
You can also access information on any bills and resolutions introduced during the 29th Alaska Legislature through the Bill Action and Status Inquiry System (BASIS) on the Internet at: www.akleg.gov/basis/Home/BillsandLaws
PFD application period
The 2016 Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) continues through Thursday, March 31st. The easiest way to apply is via the PFD Division’s website at www.pfd.alaska.gov. If you are applying by mail, I recommend you sent your application by certified mail and request a receipt.
Numerous nonprofit organizations are participating in the PFD’a Pick.Click.Give. program again this year. The program offers you the opportunity to donate all, or part of your PFD in $25 increments to the nonprofit organization of your choice. You can get more information on the program through Permanent Fund Division’s website.
Thank you for reading the Capitol Report. I forward to sharing more information and hearing your thoughts on our work in Juneau throughout the legislative session. Please keep in touch.