People will have a chance to call in and provide comment on SB 32 on Saturday, Hughes announced at the close of Wednesday’s meeting. That hearing will happen 1 p.m. Saturday. People can call the Legislative Information Office in Juneau (465-4648) for more information on how to call in.
— Alex McCarthy
The Senate Judiciary Committee is meeting today to go over Senate Bill 32, a bill proposed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy that is part of his administration’s attempt to further roll back SB 91.
Attorney General Designee Kevin Clarkson, Department of Public Safety Commissioner Designee Amanda Price and Department of Corrections Commissioner Designee Nancy Dahlstrom are here to talk about the bill. SB 32 would institute more severe sentences that got reduced as part of SB 91 (a sweeping criminal reform bill).
Clarkson says this suite of bills — SB 32 along with SB 33, SB 34 and SB 35 — “resets the stage” for addressing crime in the state.
Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, asks Clarkson if he can guarantee that these bills will make a difference. He says he doesn’t want to just throw money at this if this isn’t addressing the right things.
“I d on’t know that anyone can guarantee that these changes will have a guaranteed effect,” Clarkson says.
Clarkson says morale at the Department of Law has been low in recent years, and that people are tired of Alaska being the guinea pig for these reforms in SB 91.
Later on, Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, speaks passionately about her disdain for SB 91 and the rising crime rates in the state.
“It’s a state that I don’t recognize after living here for 54 years,” Reinbold says.
— Alex McCarthy
The Alaska Division of Public Health is presenting Senate Bill 37, a bill that would remove a sunset clause for the Alaska Vaccine Assessment Program and prevent it from expiring. It would reauthorize the program that facilitates universal vaccine purchasing throughout the state.
Older Alaskans who don’t have insurance are at high risk for certain diseases. AVAP covers about half of the population: 44 percent of all children and 52 percent of all adults.
“Measles was declared eradicated, so we’re seeing increasing hesitancy in vaccination across the country and so we’ve seen an increased number of measles cases,” said Jill Lewis of the Alaska Division of Public Health.
She said almost all children were covered. The Vaccines for Children federal program covers most of the remaining 66 percent that aren’t covered by the AVAP program.
“We think this program is a win, win, win,” she said. “The providers have improved health outcomes, the health insurance industry ends up paying 20-30 percent less and all Alaskans get to save more money in the long run because of the medical costs of preventable diseases.”
The committee asked for how much money Alaska was saving through vaccine prevention, but Lewis said she did not know the exact numbers and would get back to the committee on them. Lewis said vaccines are very expensive, but they lower direct and long-term health care costs.
— Mollie Barnes
The Alaska Division of Elections is conducting its annual voter registration list maintenance, says Elections Coordinator Michaela Thompson.
Any Alaska voter who has not voted in four years has received a notice in the mail, from the Division of Elections, to verify their voter information. These forms must be filled out and returned before the Feb. 28.
“It’s an effort to see who is still living in Alaska. Maybe people have not updated their address,” Thompson said.
Voters don’t necessarily have to fill out these mailed notices to update or verify their information. Voter registration can be done online at voterregistration.alaska.gov.
— Kevin Baird
Alaskans who have not voted in four years or more must update a their registration before Feb. 28 or their voter registration will be “inactivated,” according to a post on the Alaska Division of Elections’ website.
The Alaska Division of Elections has mailed out two notices to these voters, and the mailer can be filled out and returned to avoid inactivation.
Voters who have not voted in four years and fail to meet this requirement will have to vote with a questioned ballot in the next election. Question ballots must go before a review board to be counted toward the official ballot count.
The Alaska Division of Elections allows a voter to update their voter registration online too.
— Kevin Baird
Three guest speakers will be addressing the Legislature later this month, as announced on the House floor this morning.
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski will address a joint session of the House and Senate at 11 a.m. Feb. 19. U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan will address a joint session at 11 a.m. Feb. 21.
Alaska Chief Justice Joel H. Bolger will deliver the State of the Judiciary at 11 a.m. Feb. 20.
Bolger, Murkowski and Sullivan all requested these dates and times, and the Senate and House have approved them.
Odd end to the House session today. Rep. Chris Tuck makes a motion to adjourn, but there’s an objection from Rep. Merrick. That means there has to be a vote on whether to adjourn. The vote is 24-16, breaking down mostly on party lines. In general, Democrats voted to adjourn and Republicans voted not to.
Republicans Johnston, Knopp, Kopp, Talerico and Tilton voted to adjourn.
— Alex McCarthy
Who would fulfill Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer’s duties in case of death or some other catastrophe that prevents him from doing his job? Dr. Michael Johnson has been designated to fill that contingency role. He has been serving as commissioner of the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development since June 2016.
The Senate Finance Committee vetted Johnson with a series of questions this morning, lasting about 40 minutes.
Johnson would be confirmed in this role along with the other commissioners when the Senate and House hold a joint floor session. That time has not yet been determined.
Johnson will be confirmed in this contingency lieutenant governor role.
— Kevin Baird
Last night was President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address. Here’s what Alaska’s legislators are saying about it.
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski:
U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan:
U.S. Rep. Don Young:
TONIGHT at 9pm EST, @POTUS will deliver his State of the Union Address to Congress. Watch live from home at this link ➡️https://t.co/eCs3DXIVoc— Rep. Don Young (@repdonyoung) February 6, 2019
Here's what I'd like the President to address in tonight's speech⬇️ pic.twitter.com/86RA5o16y1
Tonight, President Trump laid out a unifying vision for a stronger America. The President has been a powerful partner for Alaskans, and I am proud that he highlighted many of our important victories in his speech. My full statement: https://t.co/8u9eiykkH4 #SOTU— Rep. Don Young (@repdonyoung) February 6, 2019
Governor Mike Dunleavy:
I applaud President @realdonaldtrump’s call to improve the economy and expand prosperity for all Americans. In Alaska, where we face a very serious economic crisis, we value a federal government that will be our partners in success rather than our obstacles in opportunity. #SOTU pic.twitter.com/MckEemRTTj— Governor Mike Dunleavy (@GovDunleavy) February 6, 2019
— Mollie Barnes