Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Mid-April Update from Juneau

HJR 27 passed the House unanimously yesterday. The resolution urges Congress to reopen the legislatively approved allotments in the Tongass National Forest, which were closed under the court case, Shields v. United States. This Act also urges Congress to amend the Alaska Native Vietnam Veterans Allotment Act to give a fair opportunity to obtain allotments. Representative Thomas, pictured to the left with Rep. Harris and me during a press conference, spoke in favor of the resolution on the House Floor. Rep. Thomas and I are both Vietnam War veterans.

I recently testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on HB 400 which prohibits confiscation of legal firearms during a disaster. I introduced the legislation to make sure what happened after Katrina in New Orleans doesn't happen in Alaska. The Senate amendment to House Bill 400 changes the penalty imposed on individuals that violate the provisions of this bill. An elected official or individual in a governmental position will forfeit their office or position if found guilty; the Alaska Police Standards Council will enforce sanctions against police officers.

The Senate Judiciary committee also passed out HB 408 the Family Rights Act of 2006. This legislation gets us to the maximum amount of transparency for OCS to disclose multiple reports of harm for multiple victims and multiple perpetrators in a single case. An amendment in Judiciary incorporates HB 346 by Representative Neuman into HB 408. HB 346 requires training of OCS social workers to include learning the constitutional and statutory rights of the children and their parents, require them to work with law enforcement to prevent compromising evidence, and requiring them to disclose to the accused the specific complaint or allegation without disclosing the reporter. The bill also limits who has access to permanent fund dividends that are placed in a trust for children in state custody. Both HB 408 and HB 400 are scheduled to be heard in Senate Finance on Saturday.

I always enjoy having constituents drop in to say hello. Gerry Benshoof was in Juneau recently working with the local Delta Kappa Gamma.

Ethel Stoneman came to Juneau again this year to talk about Interior Alaska weatherization programs. Both Ethel and Gerry live off Badger Road and are neighbors of mine, as well as, constituents.

Here I am comparing pictures of grandchildren with former Senator Johne Binkley. Everyone who comes to visit me has to look at pictures of my three grandchildren, Alexander, Joseph, and Grace.

We like to have a little fun while working hard down here in Juneau. Here we are singing "When I'm 64" to Representative Sharon Cissna on her 64th birthday.

Representative Cissna (in the blue dress) appreciated the song but thought we could improve greatly on the singing.

My dad is coming to town on Thursday to spend some time with other surviving members of the Constitutional Convention. Here he is shown speaking to a gathering of delegates and historians five years ago in Juneau.

This picture was taken five years ago when delegates and staff met in Juneau. Participants who will be returning this year are delegates, Victor Fischer, and George Sundberg, and staff members, Judge Thomas Stewart and Katie Hurley.

Here I am talking to staff during an impromptu staff meeting. My staff is assisting me in carrying twelve pieces of legislation, doing homework for my committee assignments, and responding to constituent requests.

I have been working in Judiciary Committee to get SB 20, the "Laci Peterson Bill", moved out of committee. I am hopeful it will pass out this week. I am also working to move HJR 32 which puts the same sex benefits issue on the ballot as a constitutional amendment. Here I am talking iwth Representative Peggy Wilson who is also a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

Another recent visitor is former Senator Clem Tillion. He came to Alaska on the SS Aleutian right after World War II. His doctor thought Alaska would rid him of his malaria because of the cold weather. In 1961, this commercial fisherman from Halibut Cove entered the political world after then Representative Leo Rhode sent Clem a Bush Line saying "Congratulations, you're running for the house". He served seven terms in the State House and two terms in the State Senate. He was Senate President from 1979 to 1980.

Here I am with Representative Norman Rokeberg, Yoshio Uchiyama from the Consul Office of Japan in Seattle, and Consul General of Japan Kazou Tanaka from the Seattle Office.
Just before coming to Juneau in January I met with Tammy Sandoval, Deputy Commissioner of Health & Social Services and OCS manager, and Dianne Olsen, Chief AG Supervisor for Department of Law, regarding HB 53 and how it has changed the way Child in Need of Aid cases are handled. The result of that meeting is my friendly takeover of the Governor's House Bill 408.

I also met with Fred Van Wallanga, Chair of the Citizen's Review Panel, regarding HB 53 and OCS before coming to Juneau. The Citizen's Review Panel has become very active and recently completed a review of the Mat-Su OCS Office in Wasilla.

Legislators have experienced a huge learning curve this session on the taxation of oil companies and the elimination of ELF. I have been receiving calls from people saying we are not taking this issue seriously. Quite the contrary we have held more committee meetings on the petroleum production tax than any other legislation that has been addressed during my eight years in the legislature. I even have received calls that we are sitting on the contract for the gasline. We haven't seen the contract. Would you have us vote on something we haven't read?

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski was in town several weeks ago to address a Joint Session of the House and Senate. She talked about the issues in the Congress and how they affect Alaska.

It seems like just yesterday that we packed our office in North Pole to move to Juneau for session. In three short weeks we will pack them up again for the move back to North Pole.