Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Session is in full swing

My office staff and I are all back in Juneau ready to face the 2nd half of the 24th Alaska Legislature. It will be a busy yet exciting year. Alaska has a 1.2 Billion Dollar surplus and negotiations for the gas line should be completed in the near future.

My chief of staff, Rynnieva Moss, and my legislative aide's Karen Lidster and Willow Olson all made the move to Juneau to work with me again this session. I am pleased to retain the same three staffers that I have had for the last three years. They are a great help to me and my constituents.

Governor Frank Murkowski gave his annual State of the State Address before a joint session of the House and Senate last night. The governor discussed the disappointment felt that opening ANWR did not recently become a reality. He did commend the Alaska Congressional delegation on their efforts in opening ANWR.

The pending gasline negotiation were discussed and the Legislature was assured that the gasline would soon be realized. He assured us that he is pressing to finalize the contract and that he is hoping to maximize revenues and to provide good jobs for Alaskans. I will keep you updated as to the progress of the gas line talks.

On a very positive note, the governor put in a plug for my bill, House Bill 16. He is very much in favor and publicly stated that when that bill hits his desk he will sign it into law immediately. This legislation reimburses some boarding school costs incurred by the district operating the program. There are three boarding schools (Nenana, Galena,Bethel) that would qualify for reimbursement for a stipend and a roundtrip between the student’s community of residence and the school during the school year. HB 16 is in its last committee, Senate Finance, I am working diligently to get this bill out of that committee and passed into law. I am encouraged by the governor's comments.

A battle is brewing on the House Floor - Senate Bill 87, which would require that seatbelts be worn by drivers in Alaska, is up for a vote and the count will be very close. I have voted against this bill in the past and intend on doing so today. This bill encroaches on our liberties and I can not support this bill.