Hello from Juneau. With the legislative session now in its second month, the Capitol is a busy place.
One of the major recent developments was the House of Representatives ending a month-long stalemate when it organized with Kodiak Rep. Louise Stutes being named the body’s speaker.
I have known Rep. Stutes for many years and have worked closely with her and her staff since she entered the Legislature in 2015. As a member of the Senate Majority Leadership, I greatly look forward to working with Speaker Stutes in her new leadership role. I am confident she will continue to be a strong voice for our communities and rural Alaska.
HOMER DMV FUNDING
I am pleased to report the Senate Finance Committee will include funding in next year’s budget to maintain operations at the Homer office of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Throughout the past few months, I have heard from numerous Kachemak Bay area residents opposing the administration’s proposal to shut the DMV office, which provides service to roughly 13,000 residents on the Kenai.
With the federal REAL ID requirements pending, and vehicle registration and title needs ongoing, it makes good sense for DMV to keep its Homer office open. I will be working with my colleagues in the House to ensure this funding stays in the budget.
SB 19 has advanced from the Senate Education Committee to the Senate Finance Committee. This bill extends the sunset date for the Special Education Service Agency (SESA) until June 2029. SESA is governed by the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education. It assists school districts in serving children with outreach services, special education instructional support and training.
On Friday, Feb. 19, the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee held its first hearing on Senate Bill 45. The bill would align state law with federal law by bringing the minimum age to sell or possess tobacco and electronic smoking products (ESPs) from 19 to 21. The bill also adds ESPs to the existing wholesale tax structure for other products.
SB 45 awaits a second hearing by the Labor and Commerce Committee.
Having unanimously passed the Senate on Feb. 3, SCR 1 is awaiting a hearing by the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee. The resolution gives the Legislature the ability to vote remotely should unsafe conditions preclude that from happening in the Capitol.
Having this authority will allow the Legislature continue business should the need arise during the COVID-19 health crisis.
LET THE LEGISLATURE KNOW WHAT YOU THINK
Your input is welcome on bills and resolutions coming before the Legislature. If your time allows, please add your comments to the record when bills and resolutions come before committees. The Legislative Information Office (LIO) near you will have more information on bill hearings and committee schedules throughout the session.
In Cordova, the LIO can be reached at (907) 424-5461.
The Homer LIO’s phone number is (907) 235-7878.
You can find the Kenai LIO at (907) 283-2030.
The Kodiak LIO can be reached at (907) 486-8116.
You can reach me in Juneau at 1-800-821-4925 or (907)465-4925, and by email at Sen.Gary.Stevens@akleg.gov.
The Department of Health and Social Service’s website contains a wealth of useful information on current developments with the coronavirus in Alaska, including the latest on vaccinations.
You can find the website at: http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Epi/id/Pages/COVID-19/default.aspx.
As always, I suggest you contact your physician with any concerns you may have about the COVID-19 vaccines.
PFD FILING PERIOD
Applications for the 2021 Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) are being accepted through Wednesday, March 31. I recommend filing your application through the PFD Division’s website at www.pfd.alaska.gov. If you are applying by mail, you should utilize certified mail and request a return receipt.
PICK.CLICK.GIVE WITH YOUR PFD
The Pick.Click.Give program allows you to donate a portion of your dividend to charitable causes around the state in increments of $25. All donations are tax deductible and donors will receive tax documentation from the State once their donations have been processed.
The program is run by the Alaska Community Foundation in partnership with the Rasmuson Foundation, the Foraker Group and the State of Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend Division.
Thank you for reading this edition of the Capitol Report. Please keep in touch.