Special Session #2 Update
Much has transpired in Juneau this last week. Most notably and thankfully, a government shutdown was averted with both the Senate and the House passing an operating budget. This means that our state services can continue running smoothly, state employees no longer have a pink slip of job uncertainty looming over their heads, and teachers no longer have to worry about funding for next year. While I am pleased we passed an operating budget, I am dismayed with the process the Legislature went through. It is unacceptable putting our state's vitality on the line till last minute negotiations take place. It took 156 days to pass this operating budget. Something that used to take less than 90 days to accomplish.
Some important changes that occurred in Conference Committee:
- A Base Student Allocation cut of 5.7%, which would have reduced $69 Million from education revenue was reinstated. Many school officials stressed how detrimental the proposed cut would have been to our children's education. I am very pleased they will not face the negative impacts that would have resulted from the cut.
- Cuts to Parents as Teachers, Best Beginnings, and Pre-Kindergarten grants were restored in conference committee
- Cuts to the Pioneer Homes personnel services could have potentially closed some Pioneer homes. Fortunately this was reversed in conference committee
- Language was included in the budget requiring that the department must demonstrate it is not cost effective to keep the Nome Youth Facility open before steps can be taken to close the facility.
- Some funding was reinstated for Public Health Nursing with language that over the next three years they will develop plans to contract with local Public Health Centers.
- Day habilitation care hours for those with special needs was increased to 12 hours, rejecting the proposal to reduce the hours to 8.
- Permanent Fund dividends are secured this year at $1,100 for every eligible Alaskan.
The Governor then amended the call to include the Opioids bill, which passed the House and now heads to the Governor for his signature. The Governor also amended the call to include the Oil and Gas Tax credits bill. Therefore, we still have work to do before we can head home. The Senate Majority announced that the Senate will begin work on the bill July 10th to give legislators time to go home, I have not been home in almost 6 months. I am prepared to begin work on addressing our oil and gas tax credits.
Indigenous Peoples Day
Last week Governor Walker signed HB 78 into law in Utqiagvik/Barrow during Nalukataq. Indigenous Peoples Day is now an annual celebration in Alaska, falling on the second Monday of October.
ASAP GAS PIPELINE
The US Army Corp of Engineers is having public meetings around the state to get your comments on the supplemental environmental impact statement for the ASAP gas pipeline. The meeting dates are:
Monday, July 17 at the Barrow Inupiat Heritage Center from 5:30 - 8:30
Tuesday, July 18, at the Nuiqsut Kisik Community Center from 5:30 - 8:30
Tuesday, July 25 at the Bettles/Evansville - Evansville Tribal Hall from 5:30 - 8:30
Wednesday, July 26 at the Wiseman Community Center from 5:30 - 8:30
Denali Commission Notice of Funding Opportunities:
Village Infrastructure Protection
The Village Infrastructure Protection (VIP) program is dedicated to assisting rural Alaska communities that are threatened by erosion, flooding and permafrost degradation. The program goal is to mitigate the impact of these threats with respect to safety, health and the protection of infrastructure.
Notice of Funding Opportunity
As part of the VIP program, a total of $1 million has been made available for Small Project Infrastructure Protection Grants to aid rural Alaska communities responding to local environmental events that do not meet minimum requirements for other state or federal emergency or disaster response and recovery programs.
The Denali Commission is seeking competitive applications for projects that will either:
- Repair core infrastructure or housing that has been damaged by flooding, erosion, or permafrost degradation, or
- Protect core infrastructure or housing that is threatened by flooding, erosion, or permafrost degradation.
The Denali Commission's (Commission) Transportation Program was originally created in 2005 as part of the Safe Accountable Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) legislation and accompanying amendments to the Denali Commission Act of 1998 (as amended).
Notice of Funding Opportunity
As part of the Transportation Program, the Denali Commission has a total of $1,200,000 available for small project transportation, maintenance and improvement grants. These funds are available in accordance with the Denali Commission's approved work plan for the Fiscal Year 2016.
The objective of this opportunity is to aid rural Alaska communities maintain and improve their existing core transportation infrastructure.
Applications must be submitted to the Denali Commission no later than 2 p.m. on Friday, July 21, 2017.
As always, please contact my office with any questions or concerns.