BACK IN SESSION:
The 23rd Alaska Legislature begins its second session on Monday and will vigorously debate important issues that affect our Stateís future. Among the issues you can expect to hear a lot about:
Revenues and Expenses--Governor Murkowski has outlined his proposed budget, which will be the starting point for legislators. The Governorís proposal includes efficiencies to offset increases in formula programs like Medicaid, reducing overall spending and a target of drawing less than $400 million from the Constitutional Budget Reserve. He contemplates new revenues from tourism fees and an increase in tobacco taxes. While most in the Legislature share his overall vision, details of raising revenue and appropriating spending for important programs like education, public safety and transportation will take weeks of meetings, hearings and debate.
Worker's Compensation--One of the first issues the Legislature will be asked to address is a fix to keep Alaska's injured workers whole. A bankruptcy last summer by Fremont, one of the major insurers in Alaska, leaves a potential shortfall of $60 million in claims over the next several years. The current indemnity fund cannot cover this potential loss by itself.
To follow the action of the Legislature, visit their website often.
REMEMBERING ONE OF ALASKA'S FINEST:
On Wednesday, December 31, I attended the memorial service for Kenai police officer John Watson, who was killed on Christmas Day while protecting his community. Officer Watson was very popular in Kenai and among his fellow officers. More than 1300 people attended his memorial service to express condolences and thankfulness for his life. Remember his wife Kathy and their seven children, as well as the rest of his family and close friends, including his colleagues in the Kenai Police Department who have lost a hero.
WALL OF HISTORY AT ANC:
Next time you find yourself at the Anchorage International Airport look at the new history wall display in the South Terminal. I joined Governor Murkowski, Senator Stevens, Congressman Young, several former governors and many other friends recently for the unveiling of the display, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of powered flight and the 50th anniversary of the airport.
A DAY IN KETCHIKAN:
Last Monday, January 5, was a busy day for me with the people of Ketchikan, a community I lived in during the mid-1970s. An incredible sunrise on a clear and cold morning as I crossed by ferry from the airport on Gravina Island to the city side helped get the day off to a fine start. Commissioner of Education & Early Development Roger Sampson and I met with more than 200 school administrators, School Board members and teachers to discuss education funding, student testing and the challenges of meeting the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law. We also talked with the Ketchikan Indian Community about their education and workforce development programs, and followed that with a luncheon meeting with business people.
In the afternoon I was impressed by the bright and disciplined students at Ketchikan Christian Academy and distributed recently revised and updated Alaska Constitutions (contact my office for copies). While there I also met with Pastor Bill White from the Ketchikan Ministerial Association about their work to assist people in prison as well as meet other social needs in the community. After more meetings and dinner with other Ketchikan "Rainbirds" I returned to Juneau. Special thanks to Sue Stone, Hans and Laura Antonsen, Greg and Lisa Boles and the fine people of Ketchikan for arrangements and transportation. This community has met its economic challenges with courage and enthusiasm.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALASKA!
On January 3, Alaska celebrated its 45th birthday as a State. I remember well sitting in the corner of our home in Ninilchik and listening to President Eisenhower on the radio welcome Alaska to the Union. I was as proud of our new State as an eight-year-old boy can be! Statehood has been good for Alaska--however, the federal government still has not fulfilled all of its commitments made in our Statehood Compact. That is a challenge we need to aggressively address.
On Saturday, January 10, I will attend a function at Kulis Air National Guard Base in Anchorage honoring those who have served our country since September 11, 2001. I will return to Juneau on Sunday for the start of the legislative session on Monday. On Tuesday, January 13, at 7 pm Governor Murkowski is scheduled to give his State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature. On Wednesday, January 14, at noon I will speak at Juneau's Glacier Valley Rotary Club. Carolyn and I will attend the Red Cross Ball in Juneau on January 17, to benefit the Armed Forces Emergency Services Program. Tickets are available at Hearthside Books, and table reservations are available by calling Kristine at 463-5713.
Please share this report with interested friends and family. To subscribe or unsubscribe please visit the subscription page . If you have questions or comments please email me at Lt_Governor@gov.state.ak.us You can also reach me at (907) 465-3520 or 269-7460, or write to: Lieutenant Governor Loren Leman, PO Box 110015, Juneau, AK 99811-0015. Visit my web site: ltgov.state.ak.us.