by Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky
March 13, 2020
Dear friends + neighbors,
With much going on in our world, the economy, and our state, please rest assured that we continue to work hard on the issues facing Alaska here in Juneau. I was looking forward to reconnecting with you during the Cama-i Festival, but I believe the planning team made the right decision to delay the event. As session progresses, feel free to reach out with questions or concerns.
COVID-19, Novel Coronavirus
We have been closely monitoring the progress of COVID-19’s presence in the U.S., staying up to date with communications from Dr. Anne Zink, Chief Medical Officer for the State of Alaska. The Department of Health and Social Services’ Emergency Operations Center has established a rural health tactical group that is focusing on a unique set of recommendations for prevention specific to rural Alaska, such as accessibility to health care facilities, hand hygiene in communities that lack running water, etc. Although we have not received specific guidance from the rural health tactical group yet, tribal health partners (like YKHC) have informational resources on their website. Visit YKHC’s COVID-19 site here https://www.ykhc.org/covid-19/.
In the age of social media, please be wary of misinformation and rumors. I encourage everyone to trust official sources of information, like Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This is also a good time to remember kindness and compassion for one another. We all must take care of our friends and neighbors in these stressful times.
March 12, Ashley Johnson-Barr Day
Earlier this week, my dear friend Rep. John Lincoln (I-Kotzebue) spoke passionately on the House floor in support of Senate Bill 101, an act establishing March 12 as Ashley Johnson-Barr Day. Many of our colleagues were moved to tears by his words, honoring Ashley’s young life, memories shared by her family, and her vibrant personality. The bill passed the House unanimously that day.
On Thursday, legislators and staff throughout the building wore purple in memory of Ashley. Quyana for all you do for District 40, rural Alaska, and the state, Representative Lincoln!
The impact of ‘forever chemicals’
On Monday, we were honored to be joined by Robert Bilott, an internationally recognized attorney and the author of Exposure: Poisoned Water, Corporate Greed, and One Lawyer’s Twenty-Year Battle against DuPont. Rob has spent the last 20 years bringing attention to the health risks of PFOS and PFOA-related contamination. Also known as “forever chemicals,” PFOA and PFOS chemicals have a unique molecular structure that prevents them from being able to break down naturally. When these chemicals are ingested by humans or animals, they remain in our bodies, accumulating over time, and can cause a variety of diseases.
“Forever chemicals” are used in a wide range of consumer products like waterproof clothing, carpeting and non-stick pans. They are also found in aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), a type of fire suppressant used mainly for petroleum-based fires at airports and military installations. Unfortunately, when discharged, the chemicals can contaminate nearby water sources.
There has been very little PFOS testing throughout Alaska, but in the few places where testing has occurred in Southeast Alaska and the Interior, Alaskans have had to stop drinking local well water or eating local fish and game due to dangerous levels of contamination. If you have concerns regarding contamination in your community, please contact Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT) here. I would like to thank ACAT for sponsoring Rob’s trip to Juneau to raise awareness of this issue.
Mr. Bilott was portrayed in the 2019 film, Dark Waters, starring Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway and Tim Robbins. If you are interested in learning more on this topic, Dark Waters is a good primer on the history of PFOA and PFOS chemical use in our country and the health risks of exposure.
House Special Committee on Tribal Affairs
On Tuesday, we held a third hearing on HB 287, relating to the Village Public Safety Officer program. This bill would make a number of important reforms to the VPSO program, allowing grantees greater flexibility and ensuring people who serve their communities as VPSOs have enough training to keep communities safe. Public testimony was overwhelmingly in favor of HB 287. I was proud to vote yes to move the bill out of committee. HB 287 is now in the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.
On Thursday, we held the first hearing on HJR 29 by Representative Kreiss-Tomkins, a resolution that commemorates the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945. The Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945 was the first anti-discrimination law in the United States and was championed by Elizabeth Peratrovich, an iconic Alaska Native leader. We will have a second hearing on HJR 29 on Tuesday, that will include public testimony.
Health and Social Services Committee
On Thursday, we had our first hearing of HB 305, a Health and Social Services Committee bill that seeks to expand the list of mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect. Our committee was compelled to draft this legislation after a presentation by the Alaska Children’s Justice Act Task Force in mid-February. This federally mandated task force identifies areas where improvement is needed in the statewide response to child maltreatment, particularly child sexual abuse, and makes recommendations that can improve the system.
It is wonderful to have consensus among a group of committee members with a broad range of political and ideological backgrounds, in an effort to expand the mandatory reporting law so we are better able to protect Alaska’s children.
I was proud to bring forward this bill on a day we set aside to honor the life and memory of Ashley Johnson-Barr. Our committee will continue to work on this important legislation.
House Education Committee
The Education Committee has been hearing House Bill 153, the companion to Senate Bill 6, also known as the Alaska Reads Act. While I, along with many educators and advocates across the state, support the bill’s Pre-K component, I have reservations concerning the implementation of this bill in rural school districts. I want to make sure this bill provides flexibilities that accommodates for the diversity of students, schools, and families across the state.
The House Education committee will hear public testimony on HB 153 this Saturday, March 14, at 1:00 p.m. This is an opportunity to voice your support or opposition to the bill, as well as any concerns you may have. If you’d like to participate, please call 844-586-9085.
Language Resources for 2020 Census
Along with voting, the Census is one of our most important civic duties as Americans and Alaskans. Accurate Census data determines voting districts, as well as the amount of federal money made available to our communities for health, housing, transportation and several other services. Be counted!
Alaska Counts has translated Census materials into various Alaska Native languages. Yup’ik language guides and PSAs are available below. You can also access all of the language resources at:
Central Yup’ik Census Language Guide
Hooper Bay Yup’ik and Chevak Cup’ik Census Language Guide
You may have recently received a 2020 Census questionnaire at your mailing address. For the first time ever, you can instead participate in the census ONLINE. The questionnaire will take about ten minutes to complete and is completely confidential.
Elizabeth Peratrovich $1 Coins are here!
The new 2020 Native American $1 Coin design features Elizabeth Peratrovich and Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Law. The coins are now in circulation and you can visit the U.S. Mint website to learn more.
2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Window
This window is a unique opportunity for Tribes in rural areas to directly access unassigned spectrum over their Tribal lands, subject to buildout requirements. The 2.5 GHz band is suitable for both mobile coverage and fixed point-to-point uses, and is currently used to provide broadband service by legacy educational licensees and commercial providers that lease the spectrum.
Depending on your needs, it can play an important role in the deployment of broadband and other advanced communications services on your Tribal lands.
The Rural Tribal Priority Window opened Monday, February 3, 2020, and closes on Monday, August 3, 2020 at 6PM EDT.
I would love to hear from you if you have a suggestion for a legislative citation of importance to District 38!
What is a citation? It is an official document expressing commendation, condolences, appreciation or congratulations to an individual or group.
There are two types of citations:
“Honorarium” recognizes a person, organization, or special occasion.
“In Memorium” honors someone who has recently passed away.
Please feel free to call or e-mail my office if you have any questions.
Contact me or my staff:
Office of Representative Tiffany Zulkosky
Alaska House District 38
Alaska State Capitol, Room 416
Juneau, Alaska 99801