Interim Report: 31st Alaska Legislature convenes on Jan. 15

Filing for 2019 Permanent Fund Dividend begins Jan. 1

Season’s Greetings. With just a few weeks left in the interim, lawmakers are getting ready to head to Juneau for the first session of the 31st Alaska State Legislature. The session begins on Tuesday, Jan. 15, and runs for 90 days.

There are several new faces in the Legislature this year. The Senate welcomes five new members, including three who previously served in the House of Representatives. The House will have 11 new members.

While Senate leadership and committee assignments are set, the House’s membership and leadership structure and committee roles are uncertain at this time. Court action will decide who will serve in Fairbanks’ House District One. The governor will appoint a member to serve an Eagle River’s House District 13 due to its representative-elect taking over as Commissioner for the Department of Corrections.

Senate District P – House Districts 31 and 32

My role as your Senator is made easier by a strong working relationship with the members House Districts 31 and 32. I am pleased to again be working with Rep. Louise Stutes Kodiak, who is entering her fifth year in House. I look forward to working with Representative-elect Sarah Vance of Homer, who begins her first year in office next month.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank District 31’s outgoing member, Representative Paul Seaton of Homer, for his efforts during the past sixteen years. It was a pleasure to work with Paul and his office over the years, and I wish him and his staff all the best in their future endeavors.

FY 2020 budget

Although there is a new governor and many new lawmakers, familiar issues face the next Legislature in 2019, chief among them being the budget. On Friday, Dec. 14, the governor released a $11.5 billion preliminary FY ’20 budget that will serve as the starting point in the budget discussions. Based on an oil price forecast of $64 per barrel, there is a deficit of $1.6 billion between revenues and expenditures in the early budget. We fully expect the administration to propose spending cuts throughout the state’s departments and agencies as the budget works through the legislature. It is unlikely the governor will propose or support revenue measures such as an income tax and statewide sales tax to balance the budget.

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As the budget comes before the Senate and House Finance Committees, I hope you will have the opportunity to provide your thoughts during public comment periods. Please contact the Legislative Information Office (LIO) near you for more information on the Finance Committees’ schedules, and information on how to take part in the public testimony process.

Committee assignments

I will serve as chair of the Senate Education Committee in the new legislature, a role I also held this year. I am also chairing the Legislative Council, which is a joint-committee of Senate and House members that governs the Legislature’s internal business and meets throughout the year. Additionally, I will serve as a member of the Senate Health and Social Services Committee.

State boards and commissions

I hope you will consider lending your time and expertise to your fellow Alaskans by serving on one of the state’s boards and commissions. You can find out more about these panels online at gov.alaska.gov/services/boards-and-commissions. You can also call the Office of Boards and Commissions at (907) 269-7450. Email them at [email protected].

Permanent Fund Dividend filing period begins New Year’s Day

The 2019 Permanent Fund (PFD) application opens 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 1, and closes Sunday, March 31. The Permanent Fund Division is encouraging you to apply online at pfd.alaska.gov, which I have found to be a very quick and easy process.

If you plan to file online, please do not forget to make a printed copy of your application for your records. If you file an application by mail, I urge you to send it by certified mail with a return receipt to ensure its arrival at the Permanent Fund Division office. Above all else, please double-check your application to make sure that all of the questions are answered accurately, and please do not miss the March 31 filing deadline, as applications not received or postmarked by that date will be denied as late.

For more information on the application process or eligibility questions, please contact the Permanent Fund Dividend Division at 907-269-0370. 

Legislative Information Offices available to assist you

District P is served by LIOs in Cordova, Homer, Kenai and Kodiak. These offices can help you follow bills and resolutions through the legislative process, participate in teleconferences and contact legislators.

The Cordova LIO can be reached at 424-5461 and email at [email protected].

The Homer LIO can be reached at 235-7878 and email at [email protected].

The Kenai LIO can be reached at 283-2030 and email at [email protected].

The Kodiak LIO can be reached at 486-8116 and email at [email protected]. 

Office schedule for the remainder of the interim

As we transition to Juneau for session, the District P Kodiak office will close Wednesday, Jan. 9, and will reopen in the spring. Our Homer and capitol offices are open throughout the year.

Please give us a call if you need assistance with issues involving state government. The number in Kodiak is 907-486-4925. Contact us in Homer at 907-235-0690. Call us toll-free in Juneau at 1-800-821-4925.

You can E-mail me at: [email protected].

Assistance with the federal government

The members of Alaska’s Congressional Delegation can assist you with matters involving the federal government. All have offices in-state.

Rep. Don Young’s Anchorage office can be reached at (866) 990-5979.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s Anchorage office can be reached at (877) 829-6030.

Sen. Dan Sullivan’s Anchorage Office can be reached at (907) 271-5915.

Capitol Report returning soon

Thank you to Senate District P’s media for giving me the opportunity to share this information with you throughout the interim. My session column, the Capitol Report, will resume in late January.

On behalf of myself, my wife, Rita, my family, and the District P staff, I wish you a very happy and prosperous new year.

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