Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced President Donald Trump has signed an emergency declaration for Alaska as a result of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that hit Anchorage and Southeast Alaska on Nov. 30, 2018.
Brig. Gen. Torrence Saxe, said a team from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to arrive in Anchorage tonight.
Saxe, who is commissioner designee of the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, directed Alaskans who need to apply for earthquake-damage aid to visit ready.alaska.gov.
— Kevin Baird
To start the day this morning, lawmakers attended a meeting on ethics, in part to clear up what defines a conflict of interest. It’s not the most impactful meeting that will happen all of session, but it’s kind of interesting.
According to a chart handed out to media members, a legislator who has a financial conflict with a bill or subject can participate in a committee debate, discussion or public testimony session. Lawmakers are not required to disclose their financial interest until a vote is called, but it’s recommended that they do so.
Lawmakers can also vote on an amendment or on moving a bill from committee after they disclose their conflict.
Legislators are not allowed, however, to have a meeting with constituents or interest groups on a topic if they have a financial interest in that topic. They are also not allowed to draft or offer an amendment to a bill if they have a financial interest. Lastly, they’re not allowed to sign a committee report for a bill, even if they’re offering no recommendation.
All of this is according to a chart handed out to media members listing what legislators can and cannot do in regard to conflicts of interest.
— Alex McCarthy
There are no updates from the House of Representatives regarding a majority caucus forming, thus far today. The House has scheduled a 10 a.m. floor session for Friday.
— Kevin Baird
Let’s hope this nominee isn’t lying on her resume.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy appointed Kelly Tshibaka to serve as the next commissioner of the Alaska Department of Administration after his former nominee, John Quick, resigned after he was accused of lying on his resume.
Tshibaka was tapped to round out the Governor’s team of Senior Policy Advisors — focusing primarily on areas of management, audit and government efficiency — but was recently asked to step into this role following the vacancy made available by the previous Department of Administration commissioner-designee, according to a press release.
“We are excited Kelly has accepted this role to help refocus and reprioritize areas of management, operations and government efficiencies within the Department of Administration,” said Dunleavy in a press release.
Tshibaka was born and raised in Alaska. She graduated from Stellar Secondary School in Anchorage in 1995. She has over 16 years of leadership experience in federal government and intelligence oversight roles, including in audits, investigations, complex reviews, data analytics and executive management.
Most recently she was the chief data officer for the United States Postal Service Office of the Inspector General, where she was part of the executive team responsible for oversight of the U.S. Postal Service, an agency with more than $70 billion in annual revenue, $13 billion in contracts and 620,000 employees.
Prior to that, she was the Acting Inspector General of the Federal Trade Commission, served as legal counsel to the Inspector General of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and performed sensitive reviews at the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General. Tshibaka has a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a B.A. from Texas A&M University.
— Mollie Barnes
U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, re-introduced the Wildlife Innovation and Longevity Driver (WILD) act in the House today, that would reauthorize a fund for conservation programs in priority regions.
“I am proud to once again co-lead this bipartisan effort to protect vulnerable species and habitats,” Young said. “As an avid sportsman, I understand and appreciate the need to conserve and support the growth, health and diversity of wildlife populations. I look forward to working with Congressman Lowenthal and my other colleagues on the House Natural Resources Committee to advance this important legislation.”
Last year the WILD act passed in the Senate, but failed to get past introduction in the House.
The WILD Act reauthorizes the Multinational Species Conservation Fund (MSCF), a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service program that provides a source of funding for species conservation efforts in several priority regions. They include dedicated funds for rhinos and tigers, great apes, marine turtles, African elephants and Asian elephants.
The bill would also expand the Marine Turtle Conservation Act grant program to include tortoises and freshwater turtles, establishing a new source of funding for these priority species. About 60 percent of the 330 modern species are listed as threatened, endangered or are already extinct according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Habitat loss — particularly the loss of wetlands — and the unsustainable trade of tortoises and freshwater turtles as pets and food continue to be leading causes of population declines worldwide.
The bill includes a newly created Theodore Roosevelt Genius Prize, a concept that will encourage innovation in wildlife conservation, combating wildlife trafficking and poaching, and other areas.
U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., co-sponsored the bill in the house. A Senate companion bill to the House bill was also introduced today by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyoming and Ranking Member Tom Carper, D-Delaware
— Mollie Barnes
Representatives from the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority have been presenting to the Senate Finance Committee, talking about moving forward from the state Division of Legislative Audit’s audit that was released in June 2018. The audit found trust board members violated the law by diverting $44.4 million to real estate deals and land development, sometimes using money that should have been going to trust beneficiaries.
The audit made a series of recommendations to the AMHTA board, including that the Trust Land Office (TLO) should stop investing in commercial real estate, and that the board should reassess many of its policies. AMHTA Executive Director Mike Abbott spoke at length today to the Senate Finance Committee.
“We expect to be substantially complete with the policy choices necessary to fully address these issues by June this year,” Abbott said, “which again, falls into that one-year timeline from when the audit was released in June 2018.”
— Alex McCarthy
The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority is giving a presentation on the trust land it owns in the Senate Finance Committee Chambers.
Later today, at 1:30 p.m. the Senate Transportation Committee will hear a presentation regarding Glenn Highway corridor management from the Department of Transportation.
And there will be a confirmation hearing at 3:30 p.m. for Brig. Gen. Torrence Saxe, who has been tagged by Gov. Mike Dunleavy to lead the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
— Kevin Baird