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REPORT FROM JUNEAU: Week 11
by Senator Loren Leman
March 23, 2001

ON THE EDGE: Along with several legislative colleagues I was able to observe part of the Northern Edge military exercises on Wednesday in Ketchikan. We were transported by a C-130, toured the amphibious transport USS Ogden and observed a harbor patrol exercise and five of the Navy’s trained dolphins. The dolphins are used to detect mines and enemy frogmen. Photos of last year’s exercises are available here.

NEW LEGISLATION: I introduced two bills this week. Senate Bill 149 helps address Alaska’s shortages in two important professions, education and health care, by paying a portion of the student loan payments for newly-hired professionals in these fields. The bill also includes loan forgiveness provisions as an additional incentive.

Senate Bill 153 replaces the fuel storage tank assistance program with a revolving loan fund to assist with costs of cleanup. It is scheduled for its first hearing in the Senate Resources Committee on March 30. To track legislation go here.

BUDGET CLOSEOUTS: We have closed out the budget in two of the three Finance subcommittees I chair. We are planning to complete work on the Department of Natural Resources budget next Tuesday. Our budget caps have been set at close to last year’s funding levels, after allowing for the State employee wage increases and annual payment for bonded indebtedness (nearly all for schools).

UNIVERSITY BUDGET PRESENTATION: On Monday before the Senate Finance Committee President Mark Hamilton reviewed progress the University has made with the $41 million in additional funds we appropriated last year. Enrollment, programs and facilities have been improved, and staying in Alaska for college is becoming more attractive to our students. The University is asking for another increase this year, and it is likely we will appropriate an increase of $9 million in General Funds plus additional federal and other money.

FUTURE SENATOR IN ACTION?: West Anchorage constituents Blake Steenhoven and his father Jeff visited with me on Monday (photo). Blake served as a guest page in the House and says he is already active in politics at Lake Hood Elementary School in West Anchorage.

BUILDING BRIDGES: The Building Bridges Campaign, an umbrella group of mental health organizations, was in Juneau this week. I attended their meeting on Thursday and later met with representatives from the Rural Mental Health Association, the Alaska Mental Health Board and the Mental Health Association. One visitor was Roxana Sawyer, daughter of my friend Rueben Hillborn “The Singing Fisherman” who died recently. Roxana and her husband are raising six children, four of whom are adopted youngsters with developmental disabilities. Many other Alaskans take on this challenge to help others and they deserve our recognition and support.


If you know of other Alaskans who would like to receive my weekly report by email, please contact me or 465-2095, or visit my website.

(Enhanced for Netscape)

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