April 13, 2011
Last Week of Session Brings
Successes, Unfinished Business
With less than one week remaining in the Legislative Session, things are heated up in the Capital.
Now that the logjam created by three weeks of oil tax debate has broken, committees are ramping up in reviewing legislation, budgets are under heavy discussion, and the House is voting on four to twelve bills every day. I’m in the office at least from 7am until 10pm every day of the week, and am working hard for our best interests.
As your Representative, my priorities remain building our economy, providing solid education and job opportunities, and promoting neighborhood safety and quality of life.
Over 70 constituents joined Representatives Chris Tuck and Charisse Millet and Senator Kevin Meyer at a March 2011 community gathering.
Staying in close touch is particularly important now, since the House often gets less than 24 hours notice before a bill comes up for a vote.
Your opinion is very important to me. Please contact me with any thoughts or concerns you may have.
Below are highlights on a few bills critical to creating Alaskan jobs and opportunities for the future, and improving our community quality of life.
I’m here for you, and look forward to seeing you in person when I return to Anchorage!
Alaska State Representative
District 29 - Anchorage
You can find a list of all bills passed by the Alaska State House of Representatives here. Session successes and major unfinished issues include:
Film Jobs and Industry Development
Last week, the Senate unanimously passed an extension of the popular film production incentives program which has brought jobs and economic diversification to Alaska. That bill (SB 23), which is the companion to my legislation (HB 67), looks like it may pass this session.
A recent report by the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation highlights how valuable the growing film industry is to our economy, finding that filming of the movie “Everybody Loves Whales” had a $16.5 million impact on the Alaska economy. The report also credits the film with employing more than 1,300 Alaskans. Extending the program will entice more and bigger films to Alaska, and help build the industry into a stable sector to help diversify Alaska’s economy.
Rep. Chris Tuck meets with reporters after a morning press availability.
Topics of discussion included oil taxes, education funding and government spending.
Oil Taxes Debate Continues
After the House of Representatives passed the Governor’s oil tax revision (HB 110) on a deeply divided vote, the Senate declared that it would not pass the measure without more and better information about why the measure was needed and how it would benefit Alaska.
To me, our jobs, prosperity for our families and the future of Alaska depend on taking a prudent course.
Just yesterday, Senate President Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak) made a highly unusual Senate floor speech in which he outlined how the Senate would review the proposal based on tax audits, global surveys of oil taxing regimes, and the likelihood of positive and negative impacts from the tax changes. Despite pressure from the Governor to pass the bill quickly, the Senate has clearly stated it will take time to perform due diligence to ensure that the bill promotes development for the maximum benefit of Alaskans.
Representative Chris Tuck speaks about early learning and Parents As Teachers with members of the Alaska Association of School Boards.
Education Is Essential for Alaska’s Future
We owe it to our youth, and to our state’s future, to improve access to quality education. I strongly support offering our youth opportunities to attain the skills and training necessary for job success. In addition, we must find ways to support our tradesmen and women, and others who choose to contribute to our economy without going to college.
Early Learning Creates Stronger Students
Multiple studies that show children who receive early learning opportunities do better in school, get better jobs, depend less on public support, and commit fewer crimes than those without access to early learning. You can see one such recent report, from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, here.
I’ve reintroduced the Alaska Parents As Teachers Act, HB 49, which empowers parents with knowledge and resources to help their children develop into successful students with stronger scholastic achievements. Parents as Teachers succeeds by engaging families and communities in understanding the way children’s brains develop and how to create a learning environment for the child.
This legislation passed the House last session on a 32-5 vote but ran out of time in the Senate. I hope to see it pass during this Legislature, and appreciate both the bi-partisan support for the measure and the Senate’s work on a matching bill (SB 120) sponsored by Senator French.
K-12 School Funding Uncertain
Two important education bills moved from the Senate to the House last week. One of these measures, SB 84, increases funds available to schools for students, and designates additional funds for Career Technical Education and vocational training. The Senate also passed another school funding mechanism (SB 97), which would provide additional funds to school districts based on the price of oil to help pay for rising energy costs. Both of these bills would keep school districts focused on educating our kids instead of making severe budget cuts required by inflation.
Last week, the House Education Committee took testimony on HB 143, a bill I’ve co-sponsored to ensure that school funding keeps pace with inflation. When we don’t account for inflation, education falls behind. This bill would also require the Department of Education to conduct a study about the true costs of providing education in districts across the state. This will help provide better accountability to ensure that education dollars are being spent efficiently.
Some version of these bills is likely to pass the Legislature this session.
Stalemate Over Post-Secondary Scholarships
Last year, the Legislature passed the Governor’s proposed performance scholarships. While I support the vision of promoting more math and science based on performance, Alaska should continue to offer needs-based scholarships for students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford college.
Both the House and the Senate have been working on their respective scholarship bills. Both HB 104 and SB 43 establish a fund that would pay for both the performance scholarship program and the AlaskaAdvantage education grant program. The AlaskaAdvantage grant program is the state’s currently existing needs-based program and both bills would have the effect of providing additional funding for the grant program. The Senate version of the bill also requires that the needs-based grants must be funded by at least one-third the amount that is spent on the performance scholarships.
As of today, negotiations are stalled over which scholarship version will progress through the Legislature.
FIXING POTHOLES & FLOODING HAZARDS
Municipal street maintenance crews are currently repairing potholes on MOA-maintained roads throughout Anchorage. Motorists who see hazardous potholes are encouraged to call the Pothole Hotline at 343-6363 (MEND) or visit the Street Maintenance website. Upon notification, the goal of city crews is to have potholes repaired within 24 hours.
Residents are also asked to call the Street Maintenance division if they come upon unusually large or hazardous flooding on roads or at intersections. That number is 343-8277.
OUTDOORS JOB OPPORTUNITY
The Youth Employment in Parks (YEP) program is looking for two individuals (ages 18-25) that are excited and highly motivated to work with the YEP program this summer. To learn more or to apply, go to the AmeriCorps web site at www.sccorps.org or the YEP page on the Municipality of Anchorage here.
VIABLE EMPLOYMENT FOR DISENFRANCHISED ADULTS
The Back to Work Network helps disenfranchised adults find viable employment in our community.
· Their next two-day conference will be held on April 18th and 19th. This conference focuses on “Dressing for Success” and “Equal Pay Day for Women”. The conference is open to all individuals and stresses the importance of finding work for all Alaskans.
· Even if you are not looking for a job, the Back to Work Network can use your help. Are you a hair stylist or barber? Donate your time to cut hair.
· You can also donate clothing or funding to the organization.
· Find more information on the conference and how to get involved by clicking here.
The Alaska Department of Transportation has incorporated a push link into their website. This link keeps Alaskans informed on recent information. You can subscribe to receive up-to-date information on road closures, ferry schedule changes, and more by clicking here.