Operating Budget Progress
This week marks the first step in the Legislature’s budget evaluation, and in our House Finance Budget Subcommittees, we’ve been pouring over the details of each department’s budget, looking for efficiencies and ways to scale down the size of government. As I’m sure you’ve heard and read, this is one of the toughest budget cycles our state has faced in decades. With oil prices declining and revenues dropping, the Legislature is taking a very hard look at what programs we can afford, while still providing essential services.
This is by no means the end of the budget’s journey through the Legislature. This is the first step in a long process aimed at establishing a state budget that will first, reduce our spending, and second, provide a responsible amount of funding to maneuver our state’s business. The percentages and proposed cuts you see in the media will be further refined and debated, and it is premature to judge this first stab at finding efficiencies and cuts.
Let’s quickly go through the Legislature’s budget process. First, the Governor’s budget is transferred to the Legislature, with all of his suggestions for possible increases and decreases for every department. This is an enormous document. The House Finance Committee then assigns each of its members two departments, whose budgets we go through with a fine toothed comb, through hearings and individual study, as Budget Subcommittees. The Subcommittees come up with their recommendations after hearing the departments’ thoughts, individuals’ amendments, and the chairman’s suggestions. Those recommendations are then forwarded to the Finance committee. This is the point we are at now. Next, the Finance committee members will review the recommendations from subcommittees, hear the departments’ reactions and public testimony, offer further amendments with additional cuts, and finally pass the budget on to the House floor for even further decreases, amendments, and a vote.
This process then repeats itself in the Senate, with further input from legislators, departments, outside experts, and the public. This is the very first look we have had at initial cuts and their effects, and we are far from done with the budget this session. There will be multitudes of opportunities for further reductions, and evaluation of their impacts as we progress these next few months. As legislators, we will continue to pour through this budget and make sure the end result best reflects the people’s will and our fiscal realities. You should also note that here will be additional bills, outside of the budget, that will reflect significant budget reductions in front of us this session. There will be many opportunities for you to weigh in on important programs or needed slices and have your voice be heard as well. We will keep you posted on these opportunities, but also encourage you to follow the budget on our website.
We’ve been hearing quite a bit recently from the administration, legislators and the public regarding the issue of expanding Medicaid. It is important for me to set the record straight on this issue. I believe we cannot have expansion without reform. If implemented correctly, Medicaid expansion could be an incredibly important tool to turn the tide on Alaskans’ health. However, it cannot be slipped into a single department’s budget with so few details included. This is why my colleagues and I have asked the Governor to introduce a comprehensive bill outlining not only the expansion’s funding mechanism, but also an implementation plan, addressed by all affected departments. The Governor, as the head of all departments involved and the source of the bulk of the data we have received on this policy, is the most appropriate sponsor for this legislation. As a line-item in the budget, we lose the salient details of the program’s expansion, as well as needed reforms to our current Medicaid operations, including reimbursements and duplicative coverage. We need an open and transparent process, in depth committee discussion and study, and the opportunity for a large public dialogue. This is an important piece of public policy that will spark not only a conversation regarding the state’s budget, but also our vision for the state’s future. I look forward to seeing a bill introduced by the Governor soon, and discussing with departments, my colleagues, and interested Alaskans, the best way to move this state forward.
Bills on the Move
House Bill 76 – clarifies the mission of the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education, will be heard in the House Health and Social Services Committee on Tuesday. The Governor’s Council works tirelessly to advocate for and access housing, employment, independent living, health, transportation and community inclusion for Alaskans with disabilities. This bill updates Alaska law with the most accurate representation of the mission and work of the Council, as well as provide future Council membership with a clear road-map for success.
House Joint Resolution 6 – Urges the federal government to clean up contaminated lands transferred to native corporations under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The federal government’s legacy of polluting Alaska and never cleaning it up is shameful. The bill was heard this afternoon in the House Resources Committee.
Abbott Loop PTA
The Abbott Loop PTA needs your help. The PTA needs to grow its membership so it can hold monthly meetings. If you would like to get involved in making the school even better contact Abbott Loop PTA President Cassie San Miguel at email@example.com.
The Anchorage Caucus returns to home this weekend to hold a town hall style meeting at the Loussac Library tomorrow, Saturday February 28 from 1 to 5 p.m. in the Assembly Chambers. We will be taking public testimony so if you would like to participate be sure to sign in at the door.
Before we go, we want to send a big congratulations to the Service High School Boys Cross Country Ski Team for capturing the state title last week at Kincaid Park. If you know one of the team members be sure to congratulate them for a great season on the trails.
That is all for now. Get out and enjoy Fur Rondy this weekend!
admin @ February 27, 2015
Majority leader’s bill creates day of reflection for Alaskans
Friday, February 20, 2015, Juneau, Alaska – The Alaska House today unanimously passed legislation honoring the roughly 130 lives lost and countless men and women who put the needs of others before their own during the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake.
House Bill 35, by House Majority Leader Charisse Millett, establishes March 27 of each year as Great Alaska Good Friday Earthquake Remembrance Day. The bill also directs the governor to fly the Alaska flag at half-mast every March 27.
“I was only three months old when the earthquake happened so I don’t remember it, but what I do remember are the stories told by Alaskans of the heroes who put their lives second to help others,” Millett, R-Anchorage, said. “This bill serves as a reminder every year for those who lost their lives and those who saved lives. I’m thankful that my colleagues supported it unanimously.”
The Good Friday earthquake, measuring a 9.2, struck at 5:36 p.m. March 27, 1964, and lasted roughly three minutes. The tsunami generated by the quake claimed lives and devastated communities from the Gulf of Alaska to the West Coast of the United States and Canada. The maximum recorded wave height of 67 meters was in the Valdez Inlet. HB 35 now moves to the Alaska Senate for consideration.
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For more information, contact Rep. Millett’s office at 907-465-3879.
admin @ February 20, 2015
The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities will hold an open house on the proposed Abbott Road Rehabilitation Project Tuesday, February 17 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Alaska Zoo, located at 4731 O’Malley Road.
Abbott Road is of course a major roadway in the Abbott Loop area and the construction phase will have a major impact on homeowners living near the road. The design is 95 percent complete so it is important for everyone to take a look at what the engineers have down on paper before the work begins. The plan is to widen Abbott between Lake Otis Parkway and Birch Road, flattening the road to improve the line of sight for drivers and creating a right hand turn lane from Abbott onto Birch Road.
Check out the project website at www.abbottroadrehab.com
Have a great weekend,
admin @ February 6, 2015
I thought I’d send along an update now that we’ve settled into our new Capitol office (we are now in Room 204) and back into Juneau. Today is the 7th day of session, and we have lots of work ahead of us. Let me update you on a few of the issues that we have been addressing in these first days.
This year I have the honor of serving on the House Judiciary Committee; Economic Development, Tourism and Arctic Policy Committee; Ethics Committee; Transportation Committee; and Fisheries Committee. I look forward, as these committees are beginning to meet, to thoroughly vet all legislation that passes through, and prioritize fiscal responsibility and meeting the needs of Alaska’s communities. My office will continue to keep you posted as session continues regarding the topics and actions of these committees.
With the price of oil so steeply declining, my colleagues and I anticipated that much of our session would be spent looking for ways to reduce our operating and capital budgets, and stemming our state’s deficit. So, it was no surprise that on Day 3 of this session, as the Governor delivered his State of the Budget speech, we received budget summaries from the administration with marked cuts in nearly every area of the state. The Governor’s proposed Fiscal Year 2016 Budget, which amounts to approximately $13 Billion, represents a 5.3% reduction from the previous year. One of my top priorities this session, during the Legislature’s budget process, is to make sure that we balance finding government efficiencies and reductions with protecting our economy.
Interestingly enough, today, January 26th, marks the 56th anniversary of the very first day of the State Legislature’s regular session. The Legislature convened just three weeks after President Eisenhower signed the Statehood Proclamation. Check out this website that has chronicled the beginning of each legislative session, both as a territory and a state.
This session, I am sponsoring legislation ranging from empowering our children to protect themselves from sexual assault, to providing medical coverage for the spouses and children of state employees who have died in the line of duty. I will keep you posted as these pieces of legislation move through the legislative process.
BP Teachers of Excellence
Do you know a teacher in your child’s school or community that deserves recognition? BP is accepting nominations for their Teachers of Excellence program until January 30th. Winning teachers receive $500 and a matching $500 grant for their school. One teacher is named the BP Teacher of the Year, and receives a $1,500 scholarship for continuing education.
Just a quick reminder – now that we are back in Juneau, my toll-free number is available if you need to get in contact with my office. That number is 888-269-3879. As always you can reach us in the office at 907-465-3879, and by emailing Rep.Charisse.Millett@akleg.gov.
Until next time,
admin @ January 26, 2015
I just wanted to provide a little information for all of you before the long holiday weekend.
This month I was honored by my colleagues to serve as House Majority Leader for the 29th session of the Alaska Legislature. Legislative leadership is challenging and tremendously rewarding at the same time. My staff and I are committed to meeting and exceeding the expectations placed on us.
My committee assignments include House Chair of the Legislative Ethics Committee, Judiciary, Transportation, Legislative Council, Economic Development, Tourism and Trade and Fisheries.
Anchorage legislators will hold a pre-session hearing of the Anchorage Caucus on Saturday, January 10 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Assembly Chambers at the Loussac Library. After brief presentations from Mayor Dan Sullivan’s office and the Anchorage School District, public comment will begin around 9:30 a.m.
We want you your ideas on how to address education funding, transportation, public safety and whatever else is on your mind. When you arrive make sure to sign in if you wish to testify and be patient because we expect a full house.
Sustainable Education Task Force
The Alaska Legislature’s Sustainable Education Task Force has spent the past 18 months studying Alaska’s educational system with the goal of making recommendations to the Alaska Legislature before it convenes in January. The final meeting will be held Monday, December 29 from 1 to 6 p.m. at the Anchorage LIO at 733 W 4th Avenue.
Public comment will be taken near the end of the meeting. You can also watch online at http://www.alaskalegislature.tv/
We will relocate to Juneau in early January but before we do we want to hear your ideas for legislation or anything else. Sent your ideas to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Before we go here is a link to a special holiday video message from me to you and your family http://vimeo.com/115310111
admin @ December 23, 2014
Open House for East 64th Avenue Road Project
East 64th Avenue in between Laurel Street and Norm Drive is being renovated and upgraded. This project was in response to the issues many neighbors in the area faced with regard to proper drainage, snow removal, and pedestrian safety. The upgrades will bring sidewalks, new street lighting and much better drainage to the road and surrounding area.
The second open house on the design phase for this project will happen Wednesday, October 15th, from 6:00pm-8:00pm at the Northern Lights ABC School, located at 2424 East Dowling Road. This will be an opportunity to meet with the design team, view graphics of the project, and ask any questions you would like answered related to these upgrades.
To know more about the project and this event, please contact Jessica Smith from CRW Engineering, at 644-5610. You can also email questions to email@example.com
Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education
The October meeting for the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education happened this week. We had to begin with some bittersweet news. Teresa Holt, the Council’s Executive Director, has accepted a position with the Ombudsman’s office and is leaving her position. Though we are immensely happy for Teresa and excited for this opportunity, the Council has some big shoes to fill. Teresa was instrumental in coordinating and assisting our office and that of many other legislators with legislation such as making Alaska an Employment First State. Good luck Teresa!
admin @ October 3, 2014
September is Emergency Preparedness Month
The American Red Cross wants to let you know that September is Emergency Preparedness Month. Though to some of us it might seem like forever ago, it has been only two years since that massive fall windstorm knocked out power to parts of the district for days. We might be in Alaska’s biggest city, but the weather will let us know that we are still part of Alaska. Self-reliance is a huge necessity. Below is a link to the Red Cross’ Emergency Checklist. Having these items goes a long way towards making any interruptions in our life less troublesome.
District 24 Updates
Abbott Loop PTA and Open House
Come tonight from 6:30pm-8:00pm to meet the Principal and education team at Abbott Loop Elementary, as well as its first PTA meeting of the school year.
Hanshew PTA Meeting Monday
The Hanshew Middle School PTA will be meeting from 4:00pm-5:00pm in the library.
admin @ September 12, 2014
Hope Community Resources Appreciation Luncheon
Hope Community Resources, which began as a single house providing a non-institutionalized life for people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities in 1968, celebrated its annual appreciation luncheon. If you haven’t been to this event, you are missing out on the opportunity to see the tremendous good work that is being done all over the state by hard workings, dedicated and loving professionals.
Honorees included Bryan Merculief. Bryan grew up on St. Paul in the Pribilof Islands. As a young man with a disability, Bryan experienced certain challenges unique to living in remote Alaska. After spending several years at Hope’s Willow homestead, however, he blossomed into a leader. He developed some incredibly useful skills to living a self-sufficient rural life. He volunteers for all events, and is the first one to come and the last one to leave. Bryan is a fantastic example of what it means to be a great human being, and was honored with Hope’s Journey Awards. We wish him all the love and support as he continues this journey which cannot help but motivate us as well.
Other honorees included businesses such as Century 16 Theaters, Bradley Reid and Associates, as well as Bella Boutique, for being such strong supporters to Hope and their mission. Whether it was gainfully employing an individual with a disability, providing a Christmas for a client family in need, or donating tremendous amounts of personal time to volunteer for events, these businesses and the people within them are strong pillars of community support.
This year also marked the final luncheon for Steve Lesko as Executive Director for Hope. After thirty-seven years, Steve is taking some time for himself and his family. We know Steve all too well thanks to his tireless work with the Key Campaign and the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education. However is replacing him has gigantic shoes to step into.
Service and Hanshew Open Houses Kick Off School Year
It was so much fun to get together to start the school year in our district’s middle and high school. With Senator Kevin Meyer in tow, we got to meet the fantastic teachers, coaches and principals for Service High and Hanshew. There’s a lot of excitement amongst freshmen Cougars and Hawks starting their middle school careers, finding out all the amazing extracurricular activities available to them. Though the weather was drizzly, it was perfect for an indoor event brining everyone together to talk about the upcoming dances, cross-country meets and football schedules. Big thanks go out to Principal Gaskins at Service and Principal Nancy Brain at Hanshew for being our masters of ceremony.
Service Destroys South in Flag Football
Our Lady Cougars proved their prowess on the gridiron just as much as that of the boys, trouncing the South Wolverines 39-13 in yesterday’s flag football game. Big congratulations to Julia Miknich with that cannon of an arm, helping her team win hillside bragging rights once again.
After a nail biting loss to the West High Eagles last week, the Service Cougars football team are in for an epic showdown against Bartlett on Saturday. Bartlett has been hyped up because of their program’s rebuilding efforts, and they should definitely be commended for that. However, it is time to knock the current No. 1 seed in the conference down a few notches. Grab your green and gold, and bring some warm clothes to better enjoy this perfect fall football weather.
admin @ September 5, 2014
Back To School Week
Well, it had to end eventually. We had a wonderful summer, but now it is time for children and parents to head back to school. The first day of classes was this Wednesday. You may have noticed a change in your morning commute with lines of bustling young people in backpacks walking on the sidewalks and school buses driving through your neighborhood.
Please use caution when driving both in the morning and in the afternoon. Remember that there are school safety zones to protect students, teachers and chaperones walking and biking to school. If you need to find a different route to not be caught in the before and after school traffic, now is a great time to do so. The main thoroughfares which experience school zone speed limits are Abbott Road (Service High and Trailside Elementary), East 68th Avenue (Kasuun Elementary), East 84th Avenue and Lake Otis Parkway (Abbott Loop Elementary) and Laurel Street before Dowling (Northern Lights ABC).
Don’t forget please that kids are really excited to go to school, and, especially the littler ones, may not always pay attention to traffic. We have to be extra careful to make sure the school year kicks off on the right foot.
Service High Football Returns
The Cougars started their path to a state title this past Saturday in dramatic fashion. With defensive play and old school grinding it out for yards, Service moved past the Wasilla Warriors 14-6 at the Service High Stadium. The crowd on the home side was completely full, and they cheerfully, but forcefully, reminded Wasilla that it was the visiting team.
With such consistent play, the Cougars are off to a great start. They will need to keep the momentum up, however, when they play Eagle River at 4:00pm on Saturday. That game will take place at Bartlett High. Get your green and gold out and help root for our boys as they continue to roll over the competition! For home games, the booster club has its store with fantastic Service gear to buy and represent your local school team. Proceeds go to the booster club and supporting the program.
admin @ August 22, 2014
Service High Football Season Kick Off Tomorrow
Finally, Service High has a field to call its own for football, flag football, soccer, as well as track and field events. Having a home stadium isn’t just a morale booster that further binds our neighborhoods together. The concession stand at Service will be an important tool to raise funds for our athletic programs for years to come, having a direct impact on student support.
Tomorrow, the Service High Football program will face off in its inaugural home game against Wasilla. The C Team and Junior Varsity Cougars will be playing earlier in the afternoon, with BBQ available most of the day. At 6:00, the kickoff for the varsity showdown and the path to a 2014 state championship begins. Please come out, dress warm and in your green and gold!
Greek Festival on the Hillside
For twenty years, the Anchorage Greek community has hosted an annual weekend celebrating their culture at the Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church. This Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be a weekend filled with live Greek music and dancing, gyros and other traditional grilled, baked and sauteed meals. There are literally dozens of types of handmade sweets in the bakery to go along with your coffee.
Admission is free, but all proceeds from the event go towards the parish council building fund. Thirty years of effort have paid off with the Greek-Alaskan community having completed what is the northernmost Greek Orthodox Church in the world. Take a tour of the newly opened church from the parish priest, who will explain the intricate free hand artwork of the iconography, as well as the history of the Greek community in the last frontier.
The Greek Festival opens at 11:00am Friday-Saturday-Sunday, and lasts until 10:00pm Friday-Saturday and 7:00pm Sunday.
admin @ August 15, 2014