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REPORT FROM JUNEAU: WEEK 18 + SPECIAL SESSION

Senator Loren Leman
Senate Majority Leader
Anchorage, AK
May 21, 2002

FINISHING UP:
During the regular session extension and five days of special session the Legislature resolved the issues--K-12 education funding, bonds for school and university construction—that remained on the table May 14. While the negotiations were sometimes difficult, we needed to do it right. The final package for schools includes additional funds for Learning Opportunity Grants and a bond proposal that will invest in new schools and repairs to existing facilities around the state. Alaskans will be able to examine the bond proposal and vote on it at the November 5 election. However, one unresolved issue is the extension of the Regulatory Commission of Alaska. The Senate Judiciary Chairman strongly believes there are reasons to delay this extension, leaving the issue unresolved. As a result, the Governor has called the Legislature back for another special session beginning June 24. I believe all of the issues regarding the Commission could have been addressed during our regular session. I am disappointed at the brinkmanship employed to resolve the issue.

WHAT DO YOU KNOW?
The Legislature passed a general obligation bond package this session totaling $236 million for new school construction and maintenance. When was the last time Alaska voters voted on general obligation bonds for schools or transportation?

  1. 1980
  2. 1962
  3. 1994
  4. 2000

SPARING YOUR POCKETBOOK:
Despite almost daily calls from some quarters this Legislature did not pass a plan that consisted of taking hundreds of millions of dollars from the incomes and Permanent Fund dividends of Alaskans, primarily working Alaskans. In one of the shortcomings of this session, the House did not approve the Senate's proposal for a constitutional spending limit. Without firmer controls on future spending I, and a majority of the Senate, believed it was premature this year to reach further into Alaskans’ wallets to pay for State government.

Meanwhile, there were other accomplishments that won't get as much attention, but will benefit our state--a capital budget that assists communities all over Alaska to build and maintain schools, provides clean water and improves roads and harbors. Responding to the increasing carnage caused by drunk drivers, we passed tougher laws on drunk driving. Those who care for our children and the elderly will face more significant screening to ensure the safety of loved ones. We reduced the Legislature's, Governor's and other budgets to pay for increased funding for K-12 and University education and to enable us to keep General Fund spending at last year's levels.

A FOND FAREWELL -- LOOKING BACK
This is my last session as a Senator, and I'm pleased to have been given the opportunity to serve Alaska for 10 years in the Senate and four years in the House. It has always been interesting and challenging, usually enjoyable -- yet occasionally difficult and combative. This year it has been all of the above.

AND LOOKING AHEAD:
It's fine to look back at what we've accomplished this year, and what I have been a part of over the last 14 years as a legislator, but with the close of this session it's also time to look to the future. The greatest challenges facing our state remain strengthening and protecting the integrity of our families, keeping our economy healthy and growing, ensuring accountability in education and giving our children the opportunity to stay in Alaska for school and work. While my days as a legislator are numbered, I will continue to work hard in other ways to make that vision a reality.

ANSWER:
a. In November 1980 voters approved over $290 million in general obligation bonds for fisheries capital improvements, water and sewer, village safe water and transportation improvements. Since 1960, Alaskans have voted on 86 separate bond issues. In 1970, 1974 and 1976 voters considered the most bond issues - 10 in EACH of those three years.


If you know of others who would like to receive my report by email, please contact me at Senator_Loren_Leman@legis.state.ak.us or 269-0240.

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