Legislative Special Session #5
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
On Wednesday, the House sent a letter to the Senate inviting them to join us in a joint session on Friday to review the Governor’s budget vetoes – Friday being the last day for the Legislature to vote to override any of the Governor’s decisions. If you were following the special session on Monday, you may have seen that Senator Bill Wielechowski made a motion in the Senate for a joint session for veto overrides. At the time his motion was ruled out of order because the presiding officer said that typically the House invites the Senate. So, by sending a letter we followed the tradition of the House inviting the Senate. Turns out, that may have just been a stall tactic because upon receiving the letter from the House the Senate declined the invitation, effectively allowing the vetoes to stand.
While the Governor may have felt he had no choice, the cuts to education are devastating. The cuts come late in the year when many districts have already completed hiring. Many are also upset about the cut to the PFD, something that's never been done before. And there may be lawsuits to challenge the legality of the Governor's actions. Simply put, it's a real mess. Sadly, I think there are some in the legislature more focused on who to blame than focused on finding solutions. With this kind of behavior, it's our kids who are stuck in the middle. I wish I could report better news, but on Friday, after a week of few public meetings and hearings, the House adjourned, sine die, thus ending the 5th special session.
I have been, and remain, committed to a sustainable path to fiscal stability. The key to this is that the plan be fair to all Alaskans. Some, myself included, are extremely disappointed that the PFD cut means kids and Seniors are contributing more to our fiscal problems than large corporations. This is why we must continue working.
Legislative ethics prohibit me from sending newsletters until August 19th. In the meantime, I'd ask you to visit my Facebook page for announcements about our ongoing efforts to create a fiscal plan. The Independent Democratic Coalition is planning to continue working so that next time we are in session we will be ready to vote on a plan. There is no time to waste.
FOOD STAMPS BILL PASSES WITH CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
Our food stamp bill passed! When Governor Walker signed SB 91 into law last week, it contained a provision I worked to get into to the bill to remove the lifetime prohibition on individuals receiving food stamps after a felony drug conviction. This is such an important tool for helping folks get back on their feet.
I love it too because the idea came from one of our neighbors, Ed Leach, President of the Russian Jack Community Council. Ed is a neighbor who works in public assistance, and through his professional work he's seen the struggle individuals have when trying to get back on their feet. We introduced HB 347 in 2014 to fix this, but it didn't get all the way through that year. At the same time, Senator Coghill's office was drafting SB 91, and we worked together to get the provision into the bill. Now, after completion of a treatment program an individual can qualify for food stamps. And now it's the law! This bad provision was a relic of so called "welfare reform" and Alaska was one of the last states left to change this. A huge thank you to Senator Coghill's office and the food advocates that worked tirelessly in support of this provision.
Thank you to everyone that has taken the time to call, write, email, and visit in person to share your thoughts for charting a fiscal course for our state. Your continued advocacy is crucial. Again, this will be my last newsletter until August 19th. As always, if you have questions or comments, or if I may be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact our office.