Hello from Juneau. The first session of the 32nd Alaska State Legislature convened on Tuesday, Jan. 19, and work in the Senate is underway. Over the coming month, we will debate and develop the Fiscal Year 2022 budget, as well as various bills and resolutions.
Our goal is to pass the budget and adjourn session by the 90th day but have the ability to go to 120 days. We will be closely watching developments with the COVID-19 Pandemic and make scheduling adjustments and other accommodations as needed to keep Capitol employees and legislators safe.
32nd Legislature Committee Assignments
This year, I will serve in the Senate Majority Leadership as chair of the Rules Committee. The Rules Committee is responsible for determining which legislation will be sent to a floor vote by the full Senate. The committee chair also handles numerous matters related to the legislature’s internal workings during session, including operations of the State Capitol. Being a member of the Leadership team also gives me the opportunity to better ensure Senate District P is well-represented as major policy issues are discussed.
Also, this year, I will chair the Senate Special Committee on World Trade, and am a member of the Senate Committee on Committees, the Senate Education Committee, Senate Labor and Commerce Committee, and Senate Resources Committee. Additionally, I will represent the Senate on the Joint-Legislative Council, which I previously chaired, and will be an alternate member of the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics.
First Look at the FY ’22 Budget
As is always the case, the budget debate will drive the session. The coronavirus pandemic, low oil prices and production, job losses, and last year’s lost tourist season will factor into the budget process. Federal financial support to the states to help during the pandemic may well factor into the final budget.
In the meantime, we have the governor’s initial budget proposal to consider. Unveiled in December, the budget totals $4.3 billion in unrestricted general funds, a reduction of $294.6 million.
The budget also includes:
- $950 million in Designated General Funds
- $948 million in Other State Funds
- $4.1 billion in Federal Funding.
The governor’s spending plan also funds K-12 education with no changes to the existing per-student funding formula; increases public safety funding by $13.5 million; funds the Alaska Psychiatric Institute to operate at full capacity; and restores school construction financing to FY20’s level.
The governor is proposing a capital budget that includes an additional Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD), as well as funding to address the sexual assault case backlog; fisheries, wildlife and resource projects; construction and maintenance projects; and statehood defense.
A $300-350 million infrastructure bond proposal is also in the works. The bond is intended to provide state funding for renewable energy projects and public transportation projects. The governor hopes to bring the bond package before voters in a special election next spring.
This first proposal is just the starting point in the budget process. Both legislative bodies will thoroughly debate the budget before it is returned to the governor. You can expect many changes along the way.
Throughout the budget’s development, I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that core services important to our communities, such as the ferry system, Fish and Game and education, are treated fairly.
Although the rollout process was far from flawless, thousands of Alaskans have already been inoculated with Covid-19 vaccines. With more vaccines currently in development, opportunities will increase for those Alaskans who wish to get them to receive inoculations. Please be aware that these vaccinations are not mandatory. You can find out more information on the State of Alaska’s vaccination process online at:http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/epi/id/pages/COVID-19/vaccine.aspx.
Let Me Know What You Think
Your input matters to me. Please keep in touch on the many matters coming before the Legislature. If your time allows, I encourage you to add your comments to the record when bills and resolutions come before committees.
For the health and safety of the staff, the Senate District P’s Legislative Information Offices (LIOs) are currently closed to foot traffic. LIO offices are available by phone to provide you with information on committee schedules throughout the session.
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.
Tracking the Alaska Legislature
Alaska’s public television system produces Gavel Alaska, which broadcasts live and recorded coverage of floor sessions and committee hearings. The programming is also on the Internet at: http://www.360north.org/.
AlaskaLegislature.tv offers live coverage of meetings from the Capitol’s committee rooms. This service is provided by the legislature.
You can also access information on any bills and resolutions introduced during the 31st Alaska Legislature through the Bill Action and Status Inquiry System (BASIS) on the Internet at http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Home/BillsandLaws.
2021 PFD Application Period Underway
You can apply for the 2021 PFD now through Wednesday, March 31st. The quickest and easiest way to apply is online at www.pfd.alaska.gov.
Online applications requesting direct deposit are eligible to receive the 2021 payment in the first disbursement at the beginning of October.
If you are applying by mail, I highly recommend your sending the application by certified mail and request a return receipt. Paper and online applicants who select payment by check are eligible to receive the 2021 payment in the 2nd disbursement at the end of October.
Several local nonprofit organizations are participating in the Pick.Click.Give. program again this year. The program offers you the opportunity to donate all, or part of your PFD in $25 increments to the nonprofit organization of your choice.
Pick.Click.Give is run by the Alaska Community Foundation in partnership with the Rasmuson Foundation, the Foraker Group, United Way of Anchorage, and the State of Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend Division.
The Senate District P Staff
My Capitol office is staffed by talented, hardworking individuals who have been with the office for many years.Tim Lamkin is back for a 15th session with my office, while Katrina Matheny and Doug Letch are now in their 21st years on staff.
Please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff if we can be of assistance to you with matters involving state agencies. You can reach us in Juneau at 1-800-821-4925 or (907)465-4925. My email address is: Sen.Gary.Stevens@akleg.gov.
Thanks to our local media for sharing these reports with you. I look forward to providing you updates on our work in the Capitol throughout the session. Please keep in touch.