SHOWING FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY:
The House and Senate Finance Committees this week introduced our versions of the State operating budget. Unlike the Governor's proposals for large spending increases, which I and others consider irresponsible, the Finance proposals start from the spending levels currently in place, with the plan that any approved increases be offset by reductions in other areas.
CHAIRING CHILDREN'S CAUCUS:
On Tuesday I chaired, at Rep. Dyson's request, the Children's Caucus, a bi-partisan group of legislators committed to improving the lives of Alaska's children. We heard from Mary Ideran, Executive Director of the Alaska Women's Resource Center, about Stepping Stones, a residential program to treat chemical dependency. Women with children from birth to 17 years of age can enter the program as an alternative to placing their children in foster care. I applaud this program.
BILLS ON THE MOVE:
My Senate Bill 258, which allows the Division of
Elections to purchase electronic, paperless balloting equipment and would help the visually impaired cast secret, independent ballots, moved from the Senate State Affairs Committee with positive recommendations Monday. Also on Monday SB 153, which improves the State's program for repairing underground fuel storage tanks and protecting the environment, passed the Senate 18-2. Wednesday my SB 263, which will correct a provision of property law that has kept some Alaskans from improving or building homes on land deeded to them, moved from the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee with unanimous "Do pass" recommendations.
A PRINCIPLED SPEECH:
I spoke to the State Chamber of Commerce about subsistence priorities Tuesday and shared my "Five Principles for a Subsistence Solution.” These are: 1) State management is preferable to federal management; 2) the harvester with the greatest need should be given priority; 3) we should minimize disruption of existing harvest patterns; 4) local priority could be a useful management tool when there is a shortage; and 5) clarifying language in ANILCA (the federal law) is essential. I am hopeful that Alaskans and their representatives can craft a solution based on these, and other's, ideas.
ANOTHER 96 STUDENTS RESCUED:
On Friday I attended the graduation ceremony for 96 students who completed the Alaska Military Youth Academy's ChalleNGe Program. This is a tough, 22-week program of academic and vocational studies, military and life skills and self-discipline for at-risk 16- through 18-year-old students. The program is expensive, but the results are spectacular. I support it and applaud the students who have turned their lives around.
PRESIDENT BUSH VISITS ELMENDORF:
Saturday will be a special day for Alaska as President Bush plans to stop briefly at Elmendorf AFB, my district, to refuel on his way to Japan. Carolyn and are planning to meet the President in Hangar 1. More details next week!
If you know of other Alaskans who would like to receive my weekly report by email, please contact me at Senator_Loren_Leman@legis.state.ak.us or 465-2095.