|Update from Juneau: Justice Reform, HB 156,
Oil Subsidies & Summer Events
Nothing about my first legislative session has been “normal.” I came to Juneau to fill the seat vacated by the passing of Rep. Max Gruenberg, my first day of work was a 20 hour budget floor session, and now we are on day 116 of a 90 day session as we are working to fill in a $4B deficit. I expect that the legislature will make headlines with some historic decisions in the coming weeks, but today I want to update you on a few key issues.
Historic Criminal Justice Reform Passes
Senate Bill 91 passed the House of Representatives last week after more than a year’s worth of work in the Senate and the House. Today, the Senate to approved the changes proposed in the State House and will forward it to the Governor for his approval.
This bill is based on the work of the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission which worked for a year and a half with the support of the Pew Charitable Trust as a part of its public safety performance project.
The bill passed after a great deal of work by the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission to develop specific recommendations that willenhance public safety, rehabilitate offenders, provide for victim restitution and reduce costs. The process was data driven, informed by experiences and successes in other states, but designed by and for Alaskans. Senators John Coghill (R-North Pole) and Johnny Ellis (D-Anchorage) used the Commission’s recommendations to craft SB 91.
Some of the challenges that that SB91 seeks to address include:
Key elements of SB91 include:
Issue of Concern: House Bill 156
After three failed attempts, last week the House reconsidered House Bill 156 for the fourth time and voted 21-18 to pass the bill. The original subject of HB 156 was local control of educational policy and testing as well as eliminating the requirement that Alaska schools spend at least 70% of their funding on teaching our students. However, it was later amended to incorporate parts of Senate Bill 89 that would require school boards to review sex education curriculum and approve each individual who provided instruction on sex education, including peer instructors, among other provisions.
Therefore when the bill returned to the House from a conference committee, I voted against it. The nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Alaska weighed in on HB 156 in a letter stating that they oppose the bill because of provisions that require school board approval for both sex education instructors and curriculum that will have negative impacts throughout Alaska, particularly in rural Alaska where rates of sexually-transmitted diseases are high. Last Thursday, however, a representative asked for reconsideration. With one representative changing his vote, the House approved the Senate amendments to HB 156.
Alaska’s rates of sexually-transmitted diseases, sexual abuse, and teen pregnancy are staggering. We must protect students’ access to important and accurate sexual health education. The safety of our children is a constant priority, and we must make sure they have the tools to be safe and make educated decisions about their own health. If you agree that HB 156 is not what’s best for Alaska, as I believe, I encourage you to contact Governor Walker and urge him to veto this divisive legislation.
On the calendar today: Oil and Gas Tax Credit Reform
Today we are going to be voting on Oil and Gas Tax Credit reform. The oil and gas industry is our biggest source of state funds and is the backbone of our economy. As goes the oil and gas industry, so goes Alaska’s economy, so when we had lots of money it made sense to invest in oil and gas tax credit to spur growth where we needed it—particularly in Cook Inlet. However, the times are changing with the huge drop in oil and gas prices so we don’t have the cash on hand to pay the bills let alone invest. So we are looking at reducing the amount we pay out in oil and gas tax credits.
As always, thank you for reading this newsletter. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with your thoughts, concerns, and questions. I look forward to hearing from you.
P.S. Here is a list of low or no cost summer events you and your family might enjoy attending!
There are many events taking place across Anchorage this summer. Here are a few family-friendly ones that are near East Anchorage and around town: