FROM JUNEAU: Week 14
by Senator Loren Leman
April 13, 2001
As we head into the last weeks of the first session of the 22nd
Alaska Legislature Id like to take stock of how we are doing
at reaching the Republican Majority priorities we announced at the
beginning of the year.
We have examined the High School Competency Exam and crafted a plan
that will maintain standards and accountability, but will allow
two additional years to align what is being taught with what students
need to know to succeed. We have funded additional Learning Opportunity
Grants so schools can give special help to those who need it. The
Operating Budget provides increased funding for both K-12 education
and the University of Alaska. I believe with accountability and
additional targeted funding we have made solid progress improving
Commercialization: Several bills to help with commercializing
North Slope gas are well on their way to becoming law. My SB 121,
Clarification of the Right-of-Way Leasing Act, passed the Senate
this week and is being considered in the House. Senate Bill 76 by
Sen. Therriault will extend the term of right-of-way leases from
10 to 30 years. It passed the House Thursday and will go to the
Governor for his signature. Other bills that have passed the Senate
are SB 143, Right-of-Way Application Costs; SB 164, No Over
the Top Routing of Gas Pipeline; and SB 158, possible State
participation in funding a gas project. We have appropriated more
than $1 million for programs related to the evaluation and permitting
for a natural gas pipeline. Together, these initiatives give direction
and make important improvements in the process of building a viable
Discipline: As a member of the Senate Finance Committee I have
worked on the Operating, Capital, Supplemental and Mental Health
budgets. Differences between the House and Senate versions of the
Operating budget will be resolved by a conference committee. General
Fund spending will rise slightly (about 2.5%), with the increases
coming in the areas of education, health (Medicaid funding driven
by formulas) and safety (Troopers and Fish and Wildlife officers).
Overall, I believe we have produced a budget that is efficient and
effective in the areas that are important to all Alaskans.
OUR STATE: It was especially poignant to have a bill adding
an assistant adjutant general for space and missile defense before
the Senate Finance Committee yesterday. At a time when the whole
world was watching Americas response to Chinas detainment
of American service people, the missile defense strategy looms in
importance. I recommended Do Pass.
Bill 149, Teacher/Health Care Provider Incentives, will likely be
modified by the Senate HESS Committee to apply to teachers only
and be limited to recognition of other states teacher certifications,
reemployment incentives for retired teachers and better medical
benefits to improve the quality and quantity of teachers in Alaska.
I expect the bill to move from HESS next week. To keep up on legislative
action go here.
Senator Stevens and Congressman Young were both in Juneau this
week. Congressman Young briefed us on a number of federal issues,
especially transportation projects. Senator Stevens gave his annual
address to the Legislature on Wednesday, in which he emphasized
the opportunity Alaska has with George W. Bush in the White House.
He noted that our delegation is working hard to open ANWR, but it
will continue to be a hard battle in this Congress, even with energy
crises in parts of the country.
of my most enjoyable visits of the week, however, was with Linda
and Maggie Dunham (see
photograph). The Dunhams were high bidders for a donated
trip to benefit Sonrise Christian School in Anchorage. Linda and
Maggie spent two days in Juneau, were introduced from the House
and Senate floors and then had lunch with me in my office on Thursday.
Maggie, a 5th grader, learned about the legislative process and
how our office works.
BREAK: The Legislature will take a four-day break
during the Good Friday-Easter weekend. We meet again on Tuesday,
April 17 and will likely work continuously from then through session
If you know of
other Alaskans who would like to receive my weekly report by email,
me or 465-2095, or visit my website.