Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Capitol Live: House committee assignments released

Live updates from inside the Capitol.

2:25 p.m.

Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, has been assigned to the special committee on Arctic Policy, Economic Development and Tourism, or AET committee.

The House is expected to meet at 3 p.m. to make these committee assignments official.

— Kevin Baird

2:15 p.m.

The House Committee on Committees just adopted its list of committee assignments.

Rep. Andi Story, a freshman Democrat from Juneau will be co-chairing the House Education Committee with Rep. Harriet Drummond, D-Anchorage.

A few of the other leadership assignments include:

• House Rules chair is Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage and Rules Vice Chair, Rep. Jennifer Johnston, R-Anchorage.

• Judiciary Chair, Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, and Judiciary Vice Chair, Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux.

— Kevin Baird

1:45 p.m.

University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen says when staff are cut at the university enrollment follows. He says this is not good for the state as a whole.

— Kevin Baird

1:15 p.m.

University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen says “people vote with their feet” and Alaska could see students and university faculty leave the state if the $155 million budget cut, as proposed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, is passed.

“People vote with their feet,” Johnsen said.

Capitol Live: House committee assignments released

Johnsen said the University of Alaska Fairbanks is the world’s No. 1 Arctic research university and every dollar put into research at UAF provides a $6 return to the economy.

He said there is no question Alaska would lose top researchers if these cuts are made because states like Oregon and Washington are investing in research.

“I’m not here to negotiate,” Johnsen said. Johnsen said he is here to advocate for the Board of Regents’ budget requests.

— Kevin Baird

1 p.m.

The Senate Finance Committee is about to dive into a presentation from the University of Alaska called “University of Alaska FY20 Budget Impacts.”

UA President Jim Johnsen had a press availability conference schedule this morning, but it was canceled.

Kevin Baird

12:15 p.m.

Murkowski is speaking to reporters. One of the questions from the press is whether or not she supports a resolution disapproving of President Donald Trump calling for an emergency at the border. Her main objection with it is that Congress is supposed to appropriate money, and this order will take money from projects that were previously appropriated.

“I don’t like this,” Murkowski said. “I think it takes us down a road, with a precedent, that if it’s allowed that we may come to regret. I’ll just remind my colleagues that in the previous administration we raised a lot of commotion over areas and initiatives that we felt the executive had overreached. Whether it’s a Democratic President or a Republican President I think we need to respect these separation of powers.”

She has concerns that some of the money Trump wants to divert to border security will come from military construction projects in Alaska.

“What we gave the President in this omnibus bill is significant in terms of resourcing for the men and women, for the humanitarian aid, and also for 55 miles of new wall,” she said. “The President has gotten as much what this administration can afford.”

— Mollie Barnes


That will wrap this up. Murkowski’s address and question-and-answer session lasts just under an hour.

— Alex McCarthy

11:59 a.m.

Sen. Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, asks about keeping elections safe from hacks. Murkowski says hacks into recent U.S. elections keep her up at night.

“This is not some casual interference or somebody who happens to be poking around and get lucky,” Murkowski says. “It’s targeted.”

She says this fits into the broader issue of cybersecurity and that the country is not doing enough quick enough.

— Alex McCarthy

11:52 a.m.

Check out a copy of Murkowski’s full speech, embedded below. This is how it was written, not necessarily delivered, so there might have been a few changes in the wording as she delivered it.

— Alex McCarthy

11:46 a.m.

Sen. Donny Olson, D-Golovin, asks about Senate Bill 57, which is a proposal from Gov. Mike Dunleavy that would send oil property tax revenue from municipalities such as the North Slope Borough to the state instead of keeping it in the North Slope Borough.

Murkowski advises against making resource development a polarizing issue within the state if possible.

“I would discourage anything that creates division among Alaskans over the value of our natural resources. I appreciate the state’s going to have to decide this, but we’ve got enough opposition coming at us from outside the state to develop our resources…when we create our own division internally, that makes it all the more harder.”

— Alex McCarthy

11:41 a.m.

Rep. Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan, asks about transboundary mining and any progress on that front.

“This is something I think we’re making some headway on on different levels,” Murkowski says.

Progress includes funding for more water quality gauges, she says, as well as ongoing talks between Alaska’s congressional delegation and Canadian leaders. She says this is not an issue that Canadian leaders have prioritized enough, she believes.

Here’s a recent article of ours that features thoughts from Sen. Dan Sullivan on the transboundary issue.

— Alex McCarthy

11:38 a.m.

Rep. Sara Rasmussen, R-Anchorage, asks about early education and helping Alaskan children read better at a young age.

“This is something we spend a lot of time with,” Murkowski says.

Murkowski brings up the state’s budgetary struggles and how education needs to be prioritized as lawmakers make tough choices.

“The impact is something that needs to be considered,” Murkowski says. “As we look to address the budgetary issues and find that tradeoff, let’s make sure we’re not limiting our greatest potential, which is the growth and development of young Alaskans.”

— Alex McCarthy

11:34 a.m.

Murkowski wraps up her speech at 11:34 a.m. Time for legislators to ask questions.

— Alex McCarthy

11:27 a.m.

Murkowski says an icebreaker is fully funded and funding could be coming for a second one. That also gets a hearty round of applause.

Then she returns to her main theme.

“There is more to the Arctic than just the national defense piece of it,” Murkowski says. “We can’t forget about the people of the Arctic.”

— Alex McCarthy

11:25 a.m.

Murkowski says federal partnerships have been key to helping rural Alaska in finding innovative ways to combat climate change, including wind turbines or heat recovery systems.

“The innovation we’re seeing up north and around our communities is drawing attention to the north,” she says.

She says the U.S. needs to assert itself as an “Arctic nation.” That gets the biggest applause thus far.

— Alex McCarthy

11:19 a.m.

Murkowski talks about a bipartisan lands package bill that she recently helped get passed through the U.S. Senate. There’s a small smattering of applause even before she gets into explaining it. The bill prioritizes access to public lands for hunting and fishing, she says.

“When you reach for bipartisanship, you really might achieve overwhelming success,” she says.

It might not happen overnight, but it’s worth it, she says. The vote in the Senate was 92-8, she says.

— Alex McCarthy

11:17 a.m.

Murkowski says finding ways to responsibly develop Alaska’s resources “takes work every single day in Washington Dc…you just really cannot miss a day pressing these issues.”

She talks about the North Slope recently being designated as a “super basin.” We wrote about that recently.

— Alex McCarthy

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, arrives for her annual speech to a Joint Session of the Alaska Legislature on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, arrives for her annual speech to a Joint Session of the Alaska Legislature on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

11:11 a.m.

Murkowski, like so many other Alaska politicians, talks about how resilient and hearty Alaskans are. Specifically in this case, she talks about the state’s response to the recent earthquake and the work done during the shutdown.

“Alaskans come together,” she says. “They rise to the occasion. We do that and we do it well.”

She says she’s going to do what she can to prevent another shutdown happening anytime soon. That gets a small round of applause.

— Alex McCarthy

11:08 a.m.

Murkowski says she spoke with a lot of Alaskan families who were affected by the partial government shutdown. She says the Yukon Quest almost didn’t happen because of the shutdown. She talks about crabbers and trollers whose jobs were threatened.

She shouts out Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, with whom she apparently worked to help keep clean water going to a school in Gustavus.

— Alex McCarthy

Former Representative and Senator Jerry Mackey, center, has his picture taken with U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, by Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, as Murkowski arrives for her annual speech to a Joint Session of the Alaska Legislature on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Former Representative and Senator Jerry Mackey, center, has his picture taken with U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, by Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, as Murkowski arrives for her annual speech to a Joint Session of the Alaska Legislature on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

11:01 a.m.

We’re getting set for Murkowski’s address at the Capitol. Legislators have gathered for the joint session.

— Alex McCarthy

10:30 a.m.

The Senate Finance Committee is skimming over a variety of budget items with the Office of Management and Budget. Right now they are discussing the University of Alaska system. Gov. Mike Dunleavy has proposed a $155 million cut to the UA system.

Policy Director Mike Barnhill, who works in the Office of Management and Budget, says the University of Alaska system receives much more state support then the average state university. UA gets about 40 percent of its funding from the state. Other universities, such as Washington State University, in Pullman, Washington, operates with only 20 percent of its funding coming from the state of Washington.

Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, asked if the Dunleavy administration is willing to engage and figure out why Alaska is spending so much more money on its universities than other Outside states spend on their own universities. OMB Director Donna Arduin says the administration is, and Barnhill’s research shows that.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, says he believes this report may be an unfair comparison. He floated a few ideas as to why it may be more expensive for Alaska to keep its university running to include: higher operating costs and a complete lack of local donations.

After the Office of Management and Budget finished their presentation, they left the room.

“I see OMB cleared out, didn’t take long,” Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, said, and then chuckled.

The committee is at ease and will reconvene at 1 p.m. to hear a presentation from the University of Alaska.

— Kevin Baird

9:30 a.m.

A joint session of the House and Senate will meet in about an hour and a half to listen to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, in her annual address to the Legislature. Murkowski sat down for an exclusive interview with the Empire yesterday, where she discussed a wide variety of topics.

The main point in her speech today, she said, will be that people are important.

“If you don’t have a school or a health facility in a community, you don’t have a community anymore,” Murkowski said. “The functions of government are pretty basic, but look at those things that really allow us to be able to attract and retain the best and the brightest. It’s good schools. It’s good health care. It’s access to transportation.

Read that full story here: Murkowski knocks Green New Deal’s ‘impossible’ timeline, wary of ‘PFD over everything else’

— Alex McCarthy

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, delivers her annual speech to a Joint Session of the Alaska Legislature on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, delivers her annual speech to a Joint Session of the Alaska Legislature on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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