By Senator Gary Stevens
For The Cordova Times
Hello from Juneau. The legislature is about a third of way through the 90-day legislative session with much work awaiting us before our scheduled adjournment on Sunday April 16th. The early weeks of the session have featured overviews from the various state departments and agencies, an important process every year, and particularly crucial for the 15 legislators that are new to state office this year. During the remaining months of the session, legislators will debate numerous bills on a wide range of topics from major issues like income tax, oil and gas production tax credits, utilization of Permanent Fund interest earnings to help balance the budget and state spending caps to more routine, house-keeping type measures that clean-up minor language errors in previously passed bills.
Our biggest job, of course, is developing the Fiscal Year 2018 operating budget. It is a task in which every legislator will play a part both with their vote, and through membership on budget subcommittees, which forward recommendations to the Finance Committees in the Senate and House. This year, I am serving on the University and Judiciary budget subcommittees; meetings will begin in the near future.
Personal Legislation Update
On Valentine’s Day, the Senate Labor and Commerce, of which I am a member, will holds its first hearing on SB 15. The bill is intended to ban sales of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, and similar products to minors.
I am also sponsoring SB 7, which sets up a matching grant program within the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development for museum construction, expansion and major renovation projects subject to legislative appropriation. The bill has been referred to the Senate Community and Regional Affairs Committee for initial consideration.
I introduced SB 8 to give Alaska’s federally recognized tribal governments the ability to be part of the Permanent Fund Dividend’s popular Pick.Click.Give. program should they choose. The bill has been referred to the Senate State Affairs Committee for consideration.
You can find out more about the bills and resolutions I have co-sponsored online at: http://www.akleg.gov/basis/start.asp
Task Force on Civics Education Update
The legislative Task Force on Civics Education, which I chair, wrapped up its formal meetings on Thursday, February 9th. Established last year by the legislature, the task force was asked to look at ways of improving civics education for students and give them a better understanding of what citizenship means. The task force met several times over the interim, and heard from more than 40 educators and professionals on the subject. A final report containing policy recommendations for the consideration of state officials and educators is forthcoming.
For more information on the Task Force on Civics Education, please contact Tim Lamkin in my office.
Dial 211 for Assistance
Alaska 2-1-1, operated by the United Way, offers free and confidential information on legal assistance, health care, energy assistance, parenting help, child care, veteran services and more. To take advantage of this service, just dial 211, or call 1-800-478-2221. You can also access their web page at www.alaska211.org.
Legislative Information Offices Here to Help you
Your area’s Legislative Information Office (LIO) is a great source for following bills, participating in teleconferences, offering testimony on legislation and contacting lawmakers throughout the session. You can also pick up a Permanent Fund Dividend application at the LIO.
- The Cordova LIO can be reached at (907) 424-5461
- The Homer LIO can be reached at (907) 235-7878.
- The Kenai LIO can be reached at (907) 283-2030.
- The Kodiak LIO can be reached at (907) 486-8116.