Monday, Feb. 3, 2020
Summary: The Alaska Marine Highway System is one of, if not the, key issue on the minds of Juneau’s legislative delegation.
The Alaska Marine Highway System is again the focus of discussion.
“The ferries are the No. 1 priority right now,” Story said. “We need a short-term and a long-term plan.”
Talia Eames asked how it can be ensured the administration understands tribes have an understanding of how to help re-entry of previously incarcerated tribal members without the tribe being asked to subsidize re-entry programs that should already exist.
Hannan said putting money in the budget to make sure people reentering society have valid state IDs, so that they are able to comply with laws.
She also spoke against “barrier licenses.” Those are laws that preclude someone with a felony on their record from certain licenses.
“A lot of our laws say if you’ve been convicted of a felony, then you may not be a hairdresser or a car salesman,” Hannan said. “In Alaska, most of our drug laws on your second offense is a felony.”
She said the laws that are encoded in statute don’t necessarily do what they’re intended to do, which is increase the safety of communities.
The floor has been opened for questions.
Tlingit & Haida Second Vice President Jackie Pata asked how ferry service could be restored to Southeast.
“We have more allies than we’ve ever had,” Kiehl said.
He said statewide support from lawmakers and the public can be part of the solution.
“We saw when the schedule came out in the fall Alaskans across the state step up,” Kiehl said.
For example, he said the Alaska Chamber came out in support for the AMHS.
“We have to keep the pressure on,” Kiehl said.
Pata said Tlingit & Haida’s Housing Authority has had to pay extra for materials in light of the current level of service.
Miciana Hutcherson asked what the delegation is doing to educate people at the capitol about how tribal governments work.
“The education to our peers has to be around issues,” Hannan said.
She used the VPSO program as an example.
Story said she would like to set up an opportunity for an Alaska Native leader to educate elected officials.
Story thanked Tlingit & Haida for the economic development they bring to the area.
“I appreciate the businesses that you’ve expanded into, the jobs that you are giving,” Story said.
She said she would like to increase the base student allocation to school districts by $30 million.
“That bill is going to need a lot of support,” Story said. “I’m hoping people statewide will be speaking up about that.”
Kiehl said oil is not paying the bills anymore, and that will require planning for how the state will pay to provide the services people expect.
Hannan said the Juneau delegation is an especially unified one.
“Our arguments are about what kind of snacks we’re going to take to our town hall,” Hannan said. “These are the divisions amongst the three of us. They’re not really substantive.”
Each lawmaker is taking a few minutes to talk about the issues they’re working on and how they might accomplish their goals.
Kiehl is starting off.
“I want to start with a little good news, because I don’t know how much we’re going to have talking about this upcoming legislative session,” Kiehl said.
He said a bill he introduced that “fixes a glitch” highlights a partnership between Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska and the state.
Kiehl said improving public safety in rural Alaska and strengthening the Village Public Safety Officer program will be much-discussed during this session.
“The governor has introduced a new bill to fine tune some of our criminal laws on one of our most awful things, and I hate to mention it during lunch, but our sex trafficking laws are mostly outdated,” Kiehl said. “Our laws right now deal with money or physical force to push people into sex trafficking. They don’t deal with using drugs.”
He said there is an opportunity for cooperation between the Legislature and governor to resolve that problem.
Things are just getting started in earnest now with introductions.
This is Ben Hohenstatt taking over the Capitol Live feed from Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall for a Native Issues Forum that will feature Juneau’s state legislative delegation.
Reps. Sara Hannan and Andi Story are just arriving due to the House’s floor session, and Sen. Jesse Kiehl is present.
All three are Democrats in their second year in the Legislature.
The House passes the resolution 38-1, only Eastman votes against the bill to rename room 106, the House Comittee on Health and Social Services room in honor of the late Sen. Bettye J. Davis, the first African American to be elected to the Alaska State Senate.
Reps. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, Sara Rasmussen, R-Anchorage, Harriet Drummond, D-Anchorage, Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, have all risen to speak in favor of the bill. Several of them have said they should not let policy differences get in the way of renaming the room in her honor.
Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, says that despite political differences he and the Sen. Davis never let that come between them and always had respectful dialogue. They came from the same district and worked together on several issues, Pruitt said.
Rep. Sharon Jackson, R-Eagle River, rises in support of the bill saying, what better way to begin the first floor session of February, which is Black History Month.
Eastman rises in opposition, saying the bill is “a mistake.” He says he had a good relationship with the late Senator but he feels that as she supported access to abortion, naming the House and Social Services Committee Room would be improper as that room will be the site of debates on abortion.
Rep. Ivy Sponholz, D-Anchorage, is asking the House to support renaming a room in the Capitol after the late Sen. Bettye J. Davis, who passed away in 2018.
During her time as a lawmaker, Sponholz says Davis was known as the “conscious of the Legislature.”
A brief at ease is taken.
Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, is speaking in support of House Bill 109 which would allow students of military families register for classes even if they are not present in the district at the time of enrollment.
The bill passes, 38-1, with only Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, voting against the bill.
House has come to order. Only, Rep. George Raucher, R-Sutton, is absent today.
Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, introduces 8th grade students from the Montessori Borealis school who are on a field trip to the Capitol today.
What’s happening today?
At noon, Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska is holding thee first of this year’s Native Issues Forum at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall. Legislators and other guests will present on a range of issues important to the Native community, according to Tlingit and Haida’s website. Ben Hohenstatt will be covering that event.
At 1 p.m. at the Capitol, the House Resources Committee will be discussing a resolution which would create a special committee on climate change in the House.
At 11 a.m., both chambers of the Legislature will be holding floor sessions. In the House, a bill regarding school residency requirements for the children of military families will be heard.
– Peter Segall