Greetings from the Alaska State Capitol. After a long stretch of cool and rainy weather, Juneau was greeted by sunny skies and warmer temperatures during the Alaska Legislative Centennial Commission’s March 3-5 events commemorating the centennial of the first Territorial Legislature.

As chair of the seven-member commission, I was privileged to welcome former lawmakers to the capital city to share their experiences with the public and to remember and honor the members of the first legislature, whose efforts contributed so much to Alaska’s history. Among the many events during the three-day program was a discussion on voting rights with Alaska Native leaders, a forum with some of the leading women legislators in our state’s history, and perspectives on accomplishments and failures in legislative history.

Another major highlight was a reenactment of the first House of Representatives’ floor session, punctuated by the passage of their first bill, which created a law extending the right to vote to women, coming several years before the United States Congress took any such action. The suffrage bill was one of 84 laws passed in 1913’s 60-day session. These laws dealt with such matters as mining operations, compulsory school age, fire escapes, workers’ compensation, regulating lobbyists, and protecting salmon streams.

I hope you will have the opportunity to visit the Alaska Legislative Centennial Commission’s website at http://100years.akleg.gov/legislature.php. The site offers a wealth of information on the efforts of the territorial legislators whose efforts carried Alaska on its 46-year journey to statehood, up to our present-day legislators.

A big thanks for all they have done on behalf of this project goes to the participants in the programs, as well as commission members, Senators Anna Fairclough and Lyman Hoffman, Representatives Mike Chenault, Cathy Munoz and Bill Stoltze, former Senators Rick Halford and Clem Tillion, and Dr. Terrence Cole of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Also, thanks to my staff and the staff of the Legislative Affairs Agency in Juneau for their outstanding efforts with the program.

Operating Budget

The House version of the fiscal year 2014 operating budget bill, HB 65, is expected to be brought to a floor vote by the end of this week. The bill will then be sent to the Senate for more work. The House’s $9.7 billion is 2 percent less than the governor’s proposal, but the numbers may change in the Senate. The final budget is unlikely to be known until session’s end on Sunday, April 14th.

Thank you to all of my constituents who have taken the time to add their input on the Budget during the House Finance Committee hearings. I encourage you to add your comments to the record when the Senate Finance Committee holds its public hearings.

Personal Legislation Update

SB 31, which I introduced at the request of the community of Akhiok, passed the House Transportation Committee on March 5. 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 goes next to the House Rules Committee to be scheduled for a floor hearing.

SB 17 is awaiting another hearing by the Senate Finance Committee. The bill extends the Special Education Service Agency (SESA) until June 30, 2021. SESA provides cost-free services for numerous students in rural schools throughout Alaska, many of which have no means of helping disabled students.

The Senate Transportation Committee passed SB 24 out of committee on Tuesday, February 19th. This bill increases the membership of the Marine Transportation Advisory Board (MTAB) from 11 to 12 members by creating a separate seat for Southcentral Alaska. This seat will represent the interests of Old Harbor, Kodiak, Port Lions, Ouzinkie, Seldovia and Homer on MTAB, which considers issues involving the Alaska Marine Highway System. Currently, these cities are part of the Southwest region, which also includes ferry-served communities in the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands. The bill is awaiting a Senate Finance Committee hearing.

SB 57 proposes changing state education statutes in three distinct ways. One part of the bill requires the Department of Education and Early Development to provide parents and guardians of kids in grades kindergarten through third attending public schools information on the importance of early literary, including intervention strategies, home literary plans, grade retention standards and strategies and resources to help children read.

A second part of the bill establishes an inflation-proofing mechanism for pupil transportation funding. This clause will help school districts better cope with ever-rising fuel and other costs impacting school bus services.

The bill’s final section changes the date that school districts have to notify teachers of layoffs or nonretention from March 16 to May 15. The goal of this section is to help districts avoid pink-slipping and potentially losing a qualified teacher before they have a better idea of what their actual funding situation will be, which is often not known until after the legislature adjourns in April.

SB 57 will be heard first by the Senate Education Committee, which I chair. It has a further referral to the Senate Finance Committee.

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.

Access BASIS through the link below, or by doing a search for “BASIS Alaska” http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/start.asp.

Legislative Information Officers in the Capitol

It was great to see some of the staff of Senate District R’s Legislative Information Offices (LIOs), Nelson Davies of Bethel, Michelle Hann O’Leary of Cordova, AnnaMay Sorensen of Dillingham and Lorna Steelman of Kodiak, during their recent capitol visit. Anyone who has used the services of their local LIO knows the facilities are valuable resources for helping you follow the progress of the legislature’s various bills and resolutions, contacting lawmakers, offering testimony to the various Senate and House committees and more.

The Kodiak LIO’s phone number is 486-8116.

Don’t Forget to File for Your PFD

The Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) application period ends March 31 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 your local LIO if you would like to obtain a paper application. If you do plan on mailing a paper application, I urge you to send it via certified mail with a return receipt so you will have proof your application has been received.

Please Keep in Touch

I welcome your thoughts on the many issues under discussion in Juneau. Contact me by phone at 1-800-821-4925 and in Juneau at 465-4925. My fax number is 465-3517.

My mailing address is: Senator Gary Stevens, Alaska State Legislature, 120 4th Street, State Capitol, Room 3, Juneau, AK 99801

E-mail me anytime at sen.gary.stevens@akleg.gov

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