Rep. Louise Stutes at a town hall in Cordova on Friday, April 12, 2019. File photo by Emily Mesner for The Cordova Times

By Rep. Louise Stutes 

Two topics have dominated the legislature this year: education and the governor’s executive orders. 

Education funding 

On March 14, Governor Mike Dunleavy vetoed Senate Bill (SB) 140 related to education funding. At the end of last session, the Senate unanimously passed SB 140, which would have substantially increased the Base Student Allocation (BSA) to $680, providing funding for teachers and classrooms. In January, the House Rules Committee amended the bill, incorporating the governor’s education proposal, which significantly reduced the BSA, added temporary bonuses for teachers, and transferred authority to create charter schools from local school districts to the state Board of Education. 

On Feb. 22, the House amended and passed the bill by a vote of 38-2. The main changes restored the BSA to $680, added internet for rural schools to access federal Broadband Assistance Grants (BAG), added $14.5 million for homeschool students, and added $10 million to provide support to young students struggling with reading, including adding a new position in the Department of Education to support charter schools. The Senate concurred with the House changes by a vote of 18-1. The governor vetoed the bill on March 14, stating in a news conference that the bill did not contain elements of his proposal he considered essential. 

The Legislature met in joint session on March 18 to vote on whether to override the governor’s veto of SB 140. It failed by a vote of 39 yeas, 20 nays—sadly, one vote short.   

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Our students require excellent skills, knowledge, and training, and it’s crucial that our teachers and districts receive our unwavering support. I will continue to work to increase funding for the BSA and retain local control of our charter schools. 

Governor’s Executive Orders 

I heard from many of my constituents and numerous others who expressed their concerns with the 12 executive orders (EOs) issued by Governor Dunleavy. 

On Tuesday, March 12, the Legislature convened in a joint session and disapproved eight of the 12 EOs, as follows: 

EO 131 would have adversely affected the Alaska Marine Highway Operating Board. It would have allowed the Governor to make all nine appointments to the Alaska Marine Highway Operating Board (AMHOB). Currently, the governor appoints five members, the Senate President appoints two members, and the Speaker of the House appoints two members. I am delighted to report that the Legislature rejected the governor’s proposal. This means that the Alaska Marine Highway Operating Board remains unchanged with the legislature having representation on the board. 

Other disapproved executive orders would have eliminated councils and boards, or affected their regulatory authority, including the Board of Massage Therapists (EO 127), the Board of Barbers and Hairdressers (EO 129), the Board of Certified Direct-Entry Midwives (EO 130), the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve Advisory Council (EO 132), and the Wood-Tikchik State Park Management Council (EO  126). All of these bodies will remain intact and continue to operate as before.   

Also disapproved were EO 124, which would have transferred some of the Board of Game’s authority to the commissioner of Fish and Game, and EO 128, which would have created separate board of directors for the Alaska Energy Authority and the Alaska Industrial Energy Authority. 

The Legislature approved four of the Governor’s executive orders. The Council on Emergency Medical Services (EO 125), and the Criminal Justice Information Advisory Board (133) were eliminated because they have been inactive. The Alaska Safety Advisory Council (EO 135) and the Recreational Rivers Advisory Board (EO 134) were also eliminated. 

You can see how each legislator voted on the EO’s by reviewing the votes Senate Special Concurrent Resolutions (SSCRs 1-12) at https://www.akleg.gov/basis.   

Infrastructure projects 

The Department of Transportation and Public Facilities resubmitted the State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP). It’s critical that the plan is accepted because the state is poised to lose billions in federal infrastructure projects so necessary for the state. 

Legislation 

My bill, HB 19, is scheduled for hearing in the House Finance Committee on March 19. The bill would exempt active commercial fishing vessels from duplicate registration requirements inadvertently created by the passage of a bill (SB 92) in 2018.                                                                                                     

Specifically, the bill would remove the burdensome requirement for U.S. Coast Guard documented  vessels with a current Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission license to register every three years with the Division of Motor Vehicles.  

PFD application deadline  

Don’t forget to file your Permanent Fund Dividend application by the deadline of Sunday, March 31. Since the deadline falls on a Sunday, it might be wise to consider filing your paper or online application earlier in case you encounter a glitch. You can contact the Juneau PFD office at 907-465-2326. 

Finally, please remember I work for you. Please reach out to me with any questions or concerns on these or any other issues important to you and your family. 

Sincerely,  

Rep. Louise Stutes  

Proudly serving Kodiak, Cordova, and Seward 

[email protected]  

907-465-2487 

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