Hello from Kodiak. With the general elections behind us, the members of the 31st Alaska State Legislature have a little over two months left before the end of interim. With COVID-19 cases on the rise throughout the state, it is highly unlikely the Legislature will gather in Juneau again this year, though some committees will continue to hold hearings utilizing virtual meeting technology.
While some lawmakers will be leaving office in January, newly elected and returning legislators are looking ahead to next session. In 2021, we will be tackling the many challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, in addition to the impact on the budget of low oil prices and dwindling state savings. Balancing the budget while ensuring the core services that our citizens and communities rely upon are funded will not be easy, but I believe the new Legislature will accomplish this work within our 90-day session limit.
We will get our first look at the governor’s proposed budget in mid-December. This initial proposal will undergo many changes as it works through the Legislature. I will be updating you on budget developments throughout the session and welcome your input throughout this process.
THE NEW SENATE
As you may know, as the result of the election, the Senate will be welcoming two new members, Republicans Roger Holland of Anchorage and Robert Myers of Fairbanks. I have had the opportunity to meet with both senators-elect and am encouraged by their interest and sincerity in working for the betterment of the state.
Although the Senate has yet to finalize its organization for next session, productive talks are underway. We expect to have leadership and committee announcements well before the start of session on Jan. 19. I believe the best interests of Senate District P are served by my continuing as a member of the Majority, where I will have a seat at the table for the critical discussions affecting you, our communities and our schools. Stay tuned for more details.
COVID-19 AND THE
As chair of the Joint-Legislative Council, which governs the Legislature’s internal workings, I have been working on recommendations for safely conducting our next work session. This process has involved regular meetings with committee members, Capitol building staff and the administration. The recommendations are available for consideration by the incoming leadership group in both bodies, which as previously mentioned has not been established. More information should be available in my December report.
GOVERNOR’S MANDATES ON COVID-19
On Nov. 15, the governor issued new COVID-19 Outbreak Health Orders following the issuance of the Public Health Disaster Emergency Declaration that went into effect on Nov. 16. The orders include intrastate travel mandates intended to help reduce cases, which includes authority for local governments to enact travel restrictions.
You can find more information on these new orders, as well as other information regarding the pandemic and state responses, online at: https://gov.alaska.gov.
The recent news that an effective COVID-19 vaccine may receive regulatory approval within a few weeks is giving hope that a return to normal can happen next year. While we wait for vaccines to be readily available, I urge you to continue practicing safe measures to keep yourself and others protected from the virus. These include: wearing facemasks in public, washing your hands often, practicing social distance, staying home if you are sick, and keeping your social circle small. Please get tested if you experience any symptoms.
Thank you to the many District P residents who already practice these safety measures.
SERVING THE STATE
Currently, many District P residents serve Alaska as members of various state boards and commissions that consider a wide range of issues. If you have the time and interest, I encourage you to lend your expertise to our state through service on one of these panels.
You can find out more online at: gov.alaska.gov/services/boards-and-commissions. Or call them at 907-269-7450.
HERE TO HELP
Senate District P’s offices are currently closed to foot traffic, but we are available to assist you with matters involving the state of Alaska. Please give us a call.
You can reach the Capitol office in Juneau at 907-465-4925 or toll free at 800-821-4925.
My Homer office can be reached at 907-235-0690.
You can contact the Kodiak office at 907-486-4925.
Email me at Sen.Gary.Stevens@akleg.gov.
My interim address is:
Senator Gary Stevens
305 Center Ave, STE 1
Kodiak, AK 99615
LIOs ARE A GREAT RESOURCE
The Legislative Information Office (LIO) near you can help you follow bills, take part in teleconferences, offer testimony on legislation and contact lawmakers.
The Kodiak LIO is staffed year-round by Heather Fincher. She can be reached at 907-486-8116.
MaryBea Byrne staffs the Kenai LIO. She can be reached at 907-283-2030.
The LIO offices in Cordova and Homer will be available for assistance in December.
HELP WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
Should you need help with federal government matters, I advise you to contact the members of Alaska’s Congressional Delegation.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s Anchorage office can be reached at (877) 829-6030.
Sen. Dan Sullivan’s Anchorage Office can be reached at (907) 271-5915.
Rep. Don Young’s Anchorage office can be reached at (866) 990-5979.
Thank you for reading this edition of the Interim Report. Please stay safe and keep in touch.