Hello from Juneau. The Legislature is about a third of way through the 90-day session with much work awaiting us before our scheduled adjournment on April 16. The early weeks of the session have featured overviews from the various state departments and agencies, an important process every year, and particularly crucial for the 15 legislators who are new to state office this year. During the remaining months of the session, legislators will debate numerous bills on a wide range of topics from major issues like income tax, oil and gas production tax credits, utilization of Alaska Permanent Fund interest earnings to help balance the budget and state spending caps to more routine, house-keeping type measures that clean up minor language errors in previously passed bills.
Our biggest job, of course, is developing the fiscal year 2018 operating budget. It is a task in which every legislator will play a part both with their vote, and through membership on budget subcommittees, which forward recommendations to the Finance Committees in the Senate and House. This year, I am serving on the University and Judiciary budget subcommittees; meetings will begin in the near future.
On Valentine’s Day, the Senate Labor and Commerce, of which I am a member, will holds its first hearing on SB15. The bill is intended to ban sales of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, and similar products to minors.
I am also sponsoring SB7, which sets up a matching grant program within the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development for museum construction, expansion and major renovation projects subject to legislative appropriation. The bill has been referred to the Senate Community and Regional Affairs Committee for initial consideration.
I introduced SB8 to give Alaska’s federally recognized tribal governments the ability to be part of the permanent fund dividend’s popular Pick.Click.Give. program should they choose. The bill has been referred to the Senate State Affairs Committee for consideration.
You can find out more about the bills and resolutions I have co-sponsored online at www.akleg.gov/basis/start.asp.
The legislative Task Force on Civics Education, which I chair, wrapped up its formal meetings on Feb. 9. Established last year by the Legislature, the task force was asked to look at ways of improving civics education for students and give them a better understanding of what citizenship means. The task force met several times over the interim, and heard from more than 40 educators and professionals on the subject. A final report containing policy recommendations for the consideration of state officials and educators is forthcoming.
For more information on the Task Force on Civics Education, please contact Tim Lamkin in my office.
Alaska 2-1-1, operated by the United Way, offers free and confidential information on legal assistance, health care, energy assistance, parenting help, child care, veteran services and more. To take advantage of this service, just dial 211, or call 1-800-478-2221. You can also access their web page at www.alaska211.org.
Your area’s Legislative Information Office is 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.
It has been great to see many constituents in the capitol building this year. Recent visitors include the Homer Electric Association Board of Directors, municipal leaders from Yakutat and Cordova, University of Alaska students, and advocates for senior citizens services from around Senate District P. This weeks’ visitors include school board members and school officials from all over Alaska, who will be in the Capitol to advocate on behalf of students.
If your travel plans include Juneau this winter, please make it a point to stop by my office for a visit.
Your input on the many matters under consideration in Juneau is always welcome. 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 Sen. Gary Stevens, Alaska State Legislature, 120 Fourth Street, State Capitol, Room 3, Juneau, AK 99801. You can email me at email@example.com.
Thank you for reading this edition of the Capitol Report. I look forward to giving you another update on Legislature’s work in a few weeks.