FROM JUNEAU: Week 11
by Senator Loren Leman
March 23, 2001
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 Navys trained dolphins. The dolphins are used to detect
mines and enemy frogmen. Photos of last years exercises are
LEGISLATION: I introduced two bills this week. Senate Bill 149
helps address Alaskas 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.
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.
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 years funding levels,
after allowing for the State employee wage increases and annual
payment for bonded indebtedness (nearly all for schools).
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.
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.
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,
me or 465-2095, or visit my website.