Greetings from the Alaska State Capitol. The 2022 legislative session has passed the halfway mark. Although much work remains before adjournment, we are making steady progress on the budget and other key issues. As anyone who follows the Legislature knows, the final version of the Legislature’s budget is typically not finalized until the last day of session, so it is still too early to say what the budget document will look like before it goes to the governor.
With an expected increase in oil prices, and an influx of federal funding, Alaska looks to be in a better financial position than it has been in recent years. As a result, we should be able cover our expenses next year, and also add money into the state’s main savings account, the Constitutional Budget Reserve, for the first time in several years.
Passing of a giant
I am saddened by the death of Congressman Don Young. As a rural Alaska teacher, state legislator, and Alaska’s lone member of the United State House of Representatives for nearly half a century, Congressman Young’s contributions to our state are immeasurable. He will be greatly missed.
Numerous individuals are vying to replace Congressman Young in Washington DC. The process begins with a special primary election utilizing the new ranked choice voting system on Saturday, June 11. The top four candidates receiving the most votes will then be placed on a special election ballot that will coincide with the regular primary election on Tuesday, Aug. 16.
You can get more information on the upcoming election at elections.alaska.gov.
Personal legislation on the move
On Monday, March 28, the Senate passed SB 186, which extends operations of the Board of Examiners in Optometry by 6 years. Without SB 186’s passage, the board will cease its important work on June 30th this year. The Board of Examiners in Optometry consists of five members whose role is to issue applications, licenses, and permits for practicing members of the profession, and to regulate the industry.
SB 186 has been referred to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
Also on March 28, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB 34. The bill would allow tribes to operate public schools through education compacts with the state. SB 34 is an initial step in the process of developing compacts. It would require the schools to follow most state education laws.
SB 34’s next stop is a Senate floor hearing, which I expect to happen soon.
On Tuesday, March 29, the House Finance Committee passed SB 33. The bill extends the state’s salmon and herring product development tax credit and adds similar tax credits for value-added processing in the pollock and cod industries. This expands upon a bill I sponsored in 2003 creating the Alaska Salmon Product Development Tax Credit, which is credited as being a big reason for the increase in commercial value of Alaska salmon. The legislature later passed a bill to extend the salmon tax credits and expanded the program to include tax credits for herring value-added processing.
I hope to see a House floor vote on SB 33 in the soon.
AHFC program for homeowners
The Alaska Housing Finance Corporation’s Homeowner Assistance program is currently accepting applications.
Homeowners who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic can apply for federally funded assistance that is designed for those who may be facing pandemic-related financial hardships such as mortgage delinquencies and the loss of critical services, including utilities or past due property taxes.
Qualifications are based on U.S. Treasury guidance, including local Area Median Income and household size, which differ across the state.
The application deadline is Monday, April 4. Alaskans can learn more and apply at AlaskaHousingRelief.org.
Keep in touch
I look forward to hearing from you. Send your e-mails to me at: Sen.Gary.Stevens@akleg.gov.
My Capitol building phone numbers are 1-800-821-4925 or 907-465-4925.
If time permits, I encourage you to add your comments to the record when bills and resolutions are heard by legislative committees. The Legislative Information Office (LIO) near you will have more information on bill hearings and committee schedules throughout the session.
- In Cordova, the LIO can be reached at (907) 424-5461.
- The Homer LIO’s phone number is (907) 235-7878.
- You can find the Kenai LIO at (907) 283-2030.
- The Kodiak LIO can be reached at (907) 486-8116.
Thank you to Senate District P’s media for giving me the opportunity to share this information with you, and to you for reading the Capitol Report.