by Representative Tiffany Zulkosky
It is day 103 of the Alaska State Legislative Session. Session continues to progress forward, though not at a typical pace or one ideal for Alaskans, State agencies, and even lawmakers. However, the Legislature is considering how to solve challenges historic to our state, so a longer session was to be expected. My office stands ready to answer any questions about particular legislation or progress of our work overall.
District 38 Legislative Priorities Survey
Because I was appointed to the Alaska State House part way through the 2018 Legislative Session, I haven’t had an opportunity to travel to many of our region’s communities to talk with you directly about the issues you care about most.
In an effort to use just one more method to hear from constituents, I have launched a legislative priorities survey. Please consider taking the survey today!
I was so pleased to host new friends from Eek School — part of the Lower Kuskokwim School District — in my office on Monday, April 23, and to introduce them on the House Floor! They were in Juneau as part of the Alaska Humanities Forum’s Sister School Exchange with the Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School, who sent some of their students to Eek as part of the exchange.
Having constituents from the district in Juneau in these final days of session was a bright spot! Last night I was honored to join the students and their teacher for a farewell potluck at the Auke Bay Recreation Area. My new friends were given gifts from Dzantik’i Heeni and Trickster Company after a drumming lesson with Wooch Een.
ABC Special Meeting Notification
The Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board is holding a special meeting on May 22, 2018, starting at 1:00 p.m. at the Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center in Bethel. The purpose of the meeting is to continue public testimony on the applications to renew and transfer license 5447, Bethel Spirits, and to hear public testimony on the City of Bethel’s protest of the renewal of license 5418, AC Quickstop.
The meeting is open to the public to attend at any time. The public call-in number for the meeting is 1-800-315-6338; code 69173#.
An Update on the Budget
The Operating Budget is now in a conference committee of the House and Senate and continues to be negotiated. House Finance Co-Chairs Neal Foster (Nome) and Paul Seaton (Homer), Senate Finance Co-Chairs Lyman Hoffman (Bethel) and Anna MacKinnon (Eagle River), and House Minority Member Steve Thompson (Fairbanks) and Senate Minority Member Donny Olson (Golovin) were appointed to the conference committee.
The initial draft of the Capital Budget (SB 142) was released by the Senate Finance Committee and is expected to be passed over to the House within the next few days or week. The Capital Budget includes power cost equalization, community revenue sharing, State match for village relocation projects, and rural teacher housing.
HB 304, Microloan Revolving Fund
On Sunday, April 15, I was honored to carry HB 304 on the House Floor on behalf of the Governor. This bill improves the Alaska Microloan Revolving Loan Fund to make much needed capital more accessible to small businesses and entrepreneurs throughout Alaska, with special policy focus on rural economies. The loan fund was created in 2012, to assist small businesses that may not have access to traditional financing. We anticipate these changes will incentivize greater use of an underutilized program that can boost our economic circumstances in all regions of Alaska. HB 304 increases the maximum loan term from six to fifteen years and adjusts the interest rate (to be lower and in line with other State loan programs). The bill passed in a unanimous vote of 40-0.
HB 339, Increase Base Student Allocation
School districts throughout the state have been feeling the burden of passive cuts – or flat funding – for years. Funding for public schools is roughly $25 million less than it was in 2015, according to Alaska’s non-partisan Legislative Finance Division. When the effects of inflation are considered, the budget loss is even greater – at more than $90 million. Decreased school funding has increased classroom sizes, reduced course offerings, and has resulted in less support for teachers and students. This bill mitigates the school funding crisis by increasing the Base Student Allocation (BSA) by $100. We must not deprive our youth of opportunities to succeed. Robust education opportunities allow for investments into our economy in the near future. We need an educational system that inspires our youth to greatness in all regions of the state.
Citations are a legislative instrument for expressing commendation, condolences, appreciation, or congratulations to an individual or group, or to recognize a particular event or occasion.
This session, I was proud to sponsor several citations with Senator Hoffman for individuals and groups in our district, including: YK Delta Women in Philanthropy, Aniak Halfbreeds 1A Girls State Basketball Champions, Top Ten Iditarod Finishers, and In Memoriam of Maro Kargas.
Behind the scenes
Many people in the Capitol recognize Qaspeq Friday and wear their best qaspeqs. This week, my Legislative Assistant Ben Anderson-Agimuk made sure Drew Cason, Majority Deputy Press Secretary, looked his best by fixing his hood!
As we look forward to the end of session and beginning of interim, if your community or organization have events my office should know about, please consider letting us know. Any questions or comments? Please feel free to reach out to my office at 1-800-323-4942.