We got off to a busy session this year, but had a little twist to it. While being treated for back pain I was experiencing the day before the beginning of the legislature, doctors discovered a lesion in my brain. The likely diagnosis is Multiple Sclerosis, known also as MS. The new was admittedly shocking; MS is a lifelong chronic condition. Though I will have to travel out of state to confirm the diagnosis, we are already working on a plan, and there are a lot of great people who lead by example.
Some good friends from the Troopers as well as the Fairbanks Airport and Juneau Police Departments stopped by with my old friend Jake Metcalfe to say hello and extend some well wishes. You’re glad these guys are the ones watching your back.
For weeks now, among the many well-wishers, there have also been those who have come forward to share with me, my family and our office that they too have MS, and they do not let it stop them. These are mayors, state senators and directors of large organizations, seasoned legislative staffers and successful businesspeople. Many have had MS for more than twenty years. We quickly grasped what they were saying: you are going to get through this and thrive.
Earlier last week, after finishing medical consultations in Anchorage, I had the opportunity to go to the Abbott Loop Community Council. The outpouring of support was humbling. I write to tell you what I said then: I am going to be stronger than ever. District 24 will continue to be well represented with even more tenacity and attention you all deserve. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for your thoughts, prayers and wishes. But most of all, thank you for the trust you have placed in me to represent you, your loved ones and your neighborhood. I promise you I will continue to advocate for this part of Alaska that is home to you and me.
Below is a link to the wonderful story that Natalie Travis from KTBY did earlier this week. The more we find out about my diagnosis, the more you all will be updated.
To contact our office, please call at either 465-3879 or email us at Representative.Charisse.Millett@akleg.com
Speaking on the House floor in favor of a resolution commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Good Friday Earthquake.
On the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives today, we passed House Joint Resolution 23. This legislation would mark March 27th of this year Good Friday Earthquake Remembrance Day. Being an Alaskan means being intimately aware of the impact that the largest seismic event in North American history had on our communities. But what is special about this event is not just the fact that we are marking fifty years since this important event.
We are commemorating the actions of the first responders: the National Guard and other military units that threw themselves into harm’s way to save and protect those impacted by the earthquake. Some paid with their lives. It is fitting that we take this opportunity to remember not just the devastation which was of epic proportions. But more importantly we should remember that in times of great distress, we still look out for one another. Villagers and townspeople all over the state, despite their distressed circumstances, made it a point to help others. We give special thanks to Charles Volanti, who as a member of the Guard on Kulis Air Base in Anchorage during the quake was one of those first responders, and the man who came up with this wonderful resolution. HJR 23 is now heading to the Senate for consideration.
Earlier last year, we traveled to Washington D.C. to highlight the distress many Alaska Native organizations are experiencing as a result of the contaminated lands conveyed to them through the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, better known as ANCSA. These contaminated sites are the product of federal agencies such as the FAA and the military installing structures that housed hazardous materials. The remediation process has been incredibly slow. Our Alaska Congressional delegation is completely supportive of this process, but it has been frustrating that there has been no real movement towards a clean-up from most of these departments and agencies.
House Joint Resolution 15 calls on Congress to pass legislation that would have the federal government pay for these sites to be properly removed and the land around it restored. On Monday, February 10th, we will have a hearing on this resolution in the House Resources Committee. Hopefully next week’s update will tell you that HJR 15 is heading for the floor of the House!
A real priority for the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education is to get individuals with disabilities gainfully employed. House Bill 211 would make Alaska an Employment First State. What that means is that when providing services to someone with disabilities, it is that public agency’s primary objective and preferred outcome to have them gainfully employed. Employment First is a movement that is occurring all over the country. This legislation does not force anyone to employ someone. But what it does do is change the fundamental framework of how a person is viewed. Instead of simply being a person with disabilities, resources directed towards them should have a goal of helping them become as independent as possible.
Studies show time and again that when individuals with disabilities become employed, their health costs are lower because they are healthier, they are happier because they live a higher quality of life, they live longer and better. With passage of this bill, Alaska would join the more than twenty other states that view the members of their community with disabilities as assets to the workforce and to those around them. House Bill 211 will be heard on Monday, February 10th in the House Labor and Commerce Committee.
The other legislative focus for the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education, as well as the Key Coalition, is to have state guidelines on what constitutes the physical restraint and seclusion of students. Though many of our school districts already have programs in place to address this issue, as well as well trained staff, Alaska is one of 23 states that have no statewide policy on defining what restraint and seclusion is and when it is and is not allowed. This issue was brought to our attention by parents who did not know until days or even weeks later that their children had been physically restrained or secluded for prolonged periods of time.
House Bill 210 does several things to address this. First, it defines what is the physical restraint or the seclusion of a student. By setting clear terms to these words, students and school personnel are protected. Second, parents have a right to know within one day if their child was subjected to any form of restraint and seclusion, and also have the right to see a school district’s safety and discipline program. Third, school districts need to have staff trained in proper de-escalation techniques and, if a student needs to be restrained or secluded, how to do it without harming the student. The Department of Education would approve those training programs. Finally, school districts would report to the Department of Education once a year on the number of times students were restrained or secluded.
House Bill 210 will be heard on Wednesday, February 12th in the House Education Committee.
Discussing upcoming legislative issues with Valerie Davidson of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.
It’s ironic that many of the people we have an opportunity to see in Juneau are in Anchorage year round. The session brings us together to collaborate on opportunities for legislation as well as sharing our cultural perspectives and shared interests. That was why it was so wonderful to meet with old friends such as Valerie Davidson from the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. I was able to personally thank her for the way the consortium and the Alaska Native Medical Center treated me during my brief stay there earlier in January.
Visiting with Executive Director of the Alaska Native Arts Foundation Trina Landlord.
Also stopping by to visit was Trina Landlord, the Executive Director of the Alaska Native Arts Foundation. We spoke of the works honoring Elizabeth Peratrovich, an icon for Alaska Natives, women and Alaskans in general. But we also had the opportunity to speak about something very near and dear to our hearts: preserving the languages of our peoples.
As an Inupiaq, it has been incredibly sad to watch as our spoken word has faded from one generation to the next. Because Alaska Native languages were not written languages, many of the dialects have been lost forever. There are efforts underway to encourage the next generation to learn from their ancestors and give the gift of their people on to their children.
House Bill 216 is a bill our office has along with Representative Jonathan Kreiss—Tomkins. It would make more than twenty Alaska Native languages the official language of the state. Though this is symbolic (there will be no requirements to print documents in these languages for instance) it is an important step towards recognizing the original peoples of this beautiful land.
Resolution for KTUU and GCI
It was great to hear that two fantastic Alaskan companies have reached a resolution just in time for the Winter Olympics. Rural parts of Alaska will begin to receive GCI signals starting today. Juneau and other southeastern communities will have the signal starting Monday.
District 24 Events
Mark your calendars for PTA meetings this week. Service High will have its PTA meeting on Tuesday, February 11th at 6:00pm. Kasuun Elementary will have its PTA meeting on the same day, Tuesday, February 11th at 6:30pm.
High School Debate Drama and Forensics Championship
This is just a reminder that next week from February 13th-15th East High will host the state’s debate, drama and forensics championship. Organized by the UAA Seawolf Speech and Debate Team, the public is invited to see some of our very best orators, debaters, actors and artists.