90-Day Legislative Session adjourns
The 90-day legislative session has adjourned and I am here to report the significant accomplishments that were achieved during the 28th Alaska State Legislature. This issue will summarize my priorities for House District 37:
·Choose Respect: Domestic violence awareness campaign and legislation;
·Letter Concerning Izembek Road from the Alaska House of Representatives; and
·The FY 2014 Capital Budget.
Once again, it is a great honor to represent you in Juneau – I appreciate your trust and look forward to working together for the good of our communities. During the interim, I hope to hear your thoughts on any issue or matter of interest to you or your community. Please feel free to contact my office any time.
Representing a district with abundant water resources, fisheries concerns strike close to home for me. During the legislative session, I had the task of focusing on serious fisheries concerns, from sport, commercial and subsistence use of Alaska’s plentiful harvests. While recognizing that Alaska’s fisheries are amongst the best in the world, especially in the region which I represent, the following are legislative efforts that gained my support:
·HR 6 & SR 5 | Requesting that the North Pacific Fishery Management Council take action to reduce the quantity of Chinook salmon bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea trawl fisheries by setting new limits in the Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries and lowering the existing limits in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea pollock fisheries to at least half of the current limits;
·HB 49 | An Act establishing the Alaska Chinook salmon research and restoration endowment fund and relating to grants from the fund;
·HCR 1 | Relating to the establishment and operation of a state food resource development working group;
·HB 192 | An Act relating to the filing date for the final quarterly payment of, and to the assessment of penalties under, the fishery resource landing tax;
·HJR 5 | Opposing the United States Food and Drug Administration’s preliminary finding relating to genetically engineered salmon; urging further examination of genetically engineered salmon; opposing AquaBounty’s petition to produce genetically engineered salmon; and proposing, if AquaBounty’s petition is approved, that its product should be labeled as “genetically modified. Public comment is still open until April 26th.
Education Funding for Alaska’s Future
With several concerns about education on my agenda this session, I paid close attention and focus on supporting adequate and sustainable funding for Alaska’s K-12 school system, increased opportunities for distance education, and strengthening rural campuses of the University of Alaska. Several bills I supported this session sought to enhance children’s classrooms, particularly those who are limited due to their location in rural area. The following were legislative items that will greatly help schools within my district:
•SB 47 | District Operated Boarding Schools
•SB 62 | Construction Grants For Small Municipalities
•HR 8 | Task Force on Sustainable Education
•SB 15 | Pre-K Program/Plans
•HB 179 | Broadband discounts for schools
•HB 65 | Under the FY2014 Operating Budget:
•SB 18 | Under the FY2014 Capital Budget, the House members supported a $21 Million for schools to provide safety funding for schools which could include anything from Fire safety issues, such as a window that won’t open to security enhancements, and fixed costs for energy relief.
Overall, I am thankful for the hard work that was done and the result of prioritized educational funding while also keeping rural Alaskan schools apart of the decision making process.
Energy Update: Keeping Alaskans Warm
Senate Bill 23, AIDEA: LNG Project; Dividends; Financing
This legislation authorizes the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) to provide up to $275 million in financing for the development, construction and maintenance of a liquefied natural gas, or LNG, plant and distribution system. These facilities will make it possible to truck LNG from the North Slope to the Interior and allow for wider distribution of gas and propane to interior Alaska. The goal of the bill is to help provide more affordable energy to Fairbanks-area residents, and could lead to a reduction in heating costs of 40 to 50 percent. First gas is possible by the end of 2015.
House Bill 4, In-State Gas Pipeline
The gasline debate has now entered on its fifth decade, but this session the discussion of HB 4 was elevated to a new level as the legislature approved $400 million aimed to provide a this resource to Alaskans. The line would be 36 inches in diameter and run 737 miles, and carry up to 500 million cubic feet of gas a day.
With HB 4, statutory framework and fiscal terms for the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation were created to further plans and projects for an instate pipeline. Project plans include an open season in 2014 to secure long-term shipping contracts that would finance the pipeline, construction in 2016, and gas planned for 2019. HB 4 seeks to establish the Fairbanks and Southcentral area’s natural gas pipeline system, including shipments to ConocoPhillips’ Nikiski LNG export plant.
Although it remains to be seen how HB 4 will directly benefit rural Alaska, I was encouraged by this language in the bill:
“The Board of Directors of the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation commit to governing the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation so as to affect positively as many Alaskans as possible, including those in rural and coastal communities, and to extend opportunities for all Alaskans to benefit from the natural gas resources of the state, including propane and associated gas-related hydrocarbons other than oil.”
Alaska Housing Finance Corp Weatherization and Home Energy Rebate Programs
I was also glad to help secure a total of $31,500,000 for the Alaska Housing Finance Corp Weatherization and Home Energy Rebate Programs, which should greatly benefit the residents of our district.
Power Cost Equalization
Power Cost Equalization Endowment Fund will further provide $33,091,000 for power cost equalization for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014.
Renewable Energy Grant Fund
The legislature again put $25,000,000 into the capital budget to fund Round VI of the renewable energy project grants. To see a list of grants in our area, please see the project list below.
Choose Respect: Domestic Violence Awareness Campaign and Legislation
In 2009, Governor Sean Parnell started a campaign to engage communities and build partnerships in outreach to help prevent domestic violence. On March 28, along with approximately 120 communities in our state, I felt empowered to help join the awareness campaign at the Juneau Choose Respect rally.
Still, it saddens me to hear about the darkness and the pain that adults and children in our towns and villages across Alaska experience. For example, within the Yukon-Kuskokwim region that I represent, we know that 51% of women have experienced domestic violence or sexual assault. Additionally, I had previously read in the news that a man from Hooper Bay was charged with first-degree murder in the beating death of his girlfriend. I am glad to see various actions result from the legislative process this year and hope that the legislature will continue their attention to domestic violence in our state.
Various 28th Alaska State Legislative actions include:
·SB 64 | Omnibus Crime/Corrections Bill;
·SB 22 & HB 73 | Crimes; Victims; Child Abuse and Neglect
·HB 189 | An act relating to hazing;
·HB 65 | Several items were supported within the FY2014 Operating Budget at 6,571,100 that would serve Offender Habilitation through Education Programs, Vocational Education, Domestic Violence, Substance Abuse Treatment and Sex Offender Management programs.
Although the legislature worked hard this session to spread the word about Alaska’s domestic violence crisis, we all know that the real change depends on you and the community by continuing to spread awareness in your villages, communities and across the state. I encourage you to learn more about the Choose Respect Campaign. Please visit: http://gov.alaska.gov/parnell_media/resources_files/fy2013_chooserespect.pdf
Letter Concerning Izembek Road from the Alaska House of Representatives
Earlier in the session, thirty-six members of the House signed a letter to the then Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Ken Salazar, with concerns about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s “no action” decision on the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the King Cove to Cold Bay access project.
As many of you know, currently the only way to reach the medical clinic and all-weather airport in Cold Bay from King Cove is by small plane, and the region’s capricious weather grounds or delays planes 50% of the time. There have been a number of deaths attributed to the lack of a road over the last 30 years, so this road is literally a matter of life or death. All-weather medical evacuation should be an inalienable right of every American, especially when such a seemingly easy and cost-effective solution presents itself.
In early March, I had the chance to meet Secretary Salazar in Washington D.C. alongside Senator Lisa Murkowski and other State representatives. Senator Lisa Murkowski also announced that she would put a hold on the nomination of Sally Jewell to be the new secretary of the interior until this decision was revisited. And on March 20th, a deal was struck: Current Secretary Ken Salazar agreed to additional environmental reviews of the proposed road in exchange for Senator Murkowski lifting her hold on Sally Jewell.
Now the ball is back in the Interior Department’s court. Secretary Salazar directed that additional consultations take place with the relevant tribal governments, as well as a public meeting to take place in King Cove to gather more testimony on the proposed road. Once these further steps are accomplished, Interior will review all available information, including the EIS, and make its final decision. I am pleased to hear there has been a reconsideration of the “no action” decision and we look forward to the results that will come from this reevaluation.
Legislature Passes FY 2014 Capital Budget
Late in the final night of the 2013 session, after months of work on the Governor’s initial proposal, the Legislature passed its final version of Senate Bill 18 - the FY 2014 Capital Budget. Listed below are just a few of the many projects our communities will benefit from in the coming years.
We knew it would be a tight budget year for the State – and it was. Over the next few weeks, my office will be contacting each community and organization in our district who requested project funds. We look forward to working with those of you who were fortunate enough to receive funding this cycle, and will gladly help you through the next steps in the process.
To those of you whose projects were not funded this year, we remain here for you and will be ready to try again next time around. Please keep in touch with my office.
Special Constituent Feature
My lovely bride, Margaret and I celebrated our 33rd anniversary on April 12, 2013. Together then, now and always.