by Rep. Zach Fansler
April 14, 2017
Spring weather has arrived in Juneau and the 90th day of the regular session will be here tomorrow. I am proud to say the State House has done everything we promised when we said we would pass a comprehensive fiscal plan fair for all Alaskans. As of today we have passed these four integral bills out of the State House – the tenants of the House’s four pillar plan.
1) HB 111: A proposed restructuring of the oil tax subsidies. This bill helps oil companies pay their fair share and helps avoid dangerous cuts to public education and other vital services when we are paying the oil industry subsidies that exceed production taxes paid.
2) HB 115: Implements a modest progressive income tax which ensures that all workers in Alaska, including non-residents, are contributing to Alaska’s fiscal sustainability. This bill makes sure Alaskans contribute with equity.
3) HB 57: This operating budget includes sensible cuts while funding the programs most needed for rural Alaskans including education, healthcare, public safety (including VPSOs), public broadcasting and the University of Alaska.
4) SB 26: If enacted this bill would restructure the Permanent Fund to provide a dividend of $1250 and allow a POMV draw to help balance the budget. Changes made to this bill in the house also maintains a cut to the PFD will not be conceded unless the fiscal solutions in HB 111 and HB 115 are also enacted.
More on the Budget
On Wednesday, April 12, I rose to speak amidst my 39 colleagues on the House Floor to make the case many of you have consistently made to me over this past year: let’s tackle this fiscal crisis in a way that is fair to all Alaskans. It is my honor that you entrust me with the responsibility of representing you during unstable times. After my speech we passed out SB 26 which is linked to HB 111 and HB 115 and will provide a larger permanent fund and protect the vital services we need to be a healthy, safe, helpful and vibrant place to live.
Cama-i Dance Festival
At the start of this month I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Cama-i Dance Festival in Bethel and hold constituent outreach meetings. As always it was great to visit with everyone who was able to attend and reminded me why we live in the best district in Alaska! Quyana to all dancers, volunteers, vendors, Bethel Council of the Arts members and especially Linda Curda and Carol Ann Willard!
With my staffer, Bethel and Chevak Native Michelle Sparck, we held a Town Hall Meeting at the High School and we spoke about the budget and other issues for three hours. Thanks to all those who showed up.
During Cama-i Prime Time, I was honored to present a citation sponsored by myself and Senator Hoffman and the 30th Alaska State Legislature to coordinators Linda Curda, Carol Ann Willard, and the Bethel Council on the Arts for their extraordinary work on this momentous annual occasion.
When you send out the call, Bethel Search and Rescue will answer. Members gathered quickly for an impromptu meeting where I could deliver the BSAR Citation Senator Hoffman and I coordinated under the 30th Alaska State Legislature. Thanks to all volunteers throughout the Delta. We travel safer because of all the selfless Herculean work you do.
Bills to Watch
HB 106 – Civil Legal Services Fund. This bill would establish an additional funding mechanism for Alaska Legal Services. This would give the legislature the option of levying up to 25% of court fees for Alaska Legal Services in times of fiscal certainty. Currently this bill has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and is waiting to be heard in the Senate Finance Committee.
HB 141 – AK Workforce Investment Board Funds. This bill authorizes the Alaska Workforce Investment Board to administer the Alaska Technical and Vocational Education Program (TVEP). This legislation is necessary to help educate and train Alaskans for Alaska’s jobs and funds Yuut Elitnaurviat and University of Alaska among others. The bill passed the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee and is now being heard in Senate Finance.
HB 175 – US Presidential Elections Compact. This bill ratifies Alaska’s inclusion in an interstate compact that would change the way our electoral votes are cast in the election of our president and vice-president. Once enough states have joined for the compact to take effect the presidency will go to the candidate who receives the most votes nationwide. This bill has passed the House State Affairs Committee and is now being heard in the House Judiciary Committee.
HB 176 – Emergency Medical Transport Services. This bill amends the Department of Health and Social Services Medicaid plan to leverage the expanded reimbursement program to recover costs from the federal government for eligible emergency medical transport. The bill is being heard in the House Health and Social Services Committee.
District 38 News and Updates
DMV Job Opening: Bethel’s DMV clerk will be leaving soon. The job has been posted for a replacement. We are getting the word out about this position so it can be filled as soon as possible to keep the office open and make for a smooth transition.
Public Meeting on Salmon Fisheries: A public hearing is scheduled for 6:00–8:00 p.m., April 18, 2017, at the Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center in Bethel to receive testimony on two temporary special action requests received by the Federal Subsistence Board (Board).
Ken Stahlnecker, Manager, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, will be available following the hearing (8:00–9:00 p.m.) to answer general questions concerning salmon management within the drainage.
Teleconference: TOLL FREE 1 (888) 455-5897, Passcode: 3344290
Upcoming Summer Plans: I’m excited to be back in our district this summer and want to plan as many trips to villages in the district as I can. Please reach out to my office and let us know when the best time to visit is this summer and next fall. Email my office here or give us a call at 1-800-323-4942.
GCI Community Meeting: After many talks throughout the session regarding customer service, costly plans, service interruptions, and internet frustrations, GCI felt compelled to come out to the region. They held a community meeting on April 12 at the Gladys Jung Elementary School. We hope you took advantage of the occasion to tell GCI executives about your experiences with their company, products and services, and in the spirit of a listening session, they’ll work for better experiences and rates in the near future.
Amchitka Update: Thank you to the two former Amchitka workers who have reached out so far based on information in our last e-newsletter! A reminder to those who missed it that if you or a relative worked in Amchitka at any time you may be eligible for compensation for working under hazardous conditions with dangerous radiation levels due to nuclear testing. Amchitka workers are eligible for regular medical checkups and compensation if they contracted radiation-related cancers. If they have already passed away, their widows or other survivors may retain benefits from the Department of Defense. If you have any questions about this, you may reach out to my office or Robert Doehl of the State Dept. of Military and Veterans Affairs.
Have a good one.
-Zach Fansler, Alaska State Representative, District 38 – Bethel