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|Volume 8: Issue 2
||February 12th, 2016
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Education and Prisons
The two are more closely linked than you’d think. Read on.
Criminal Justice Reform Bill Gets Rolling
I met with an incredibly motivated and well-informed group of constituents about criminal justice reform lifesaving bills before the legislature this year. Eight folks from all walks of life and with many experiences are asking us to reform the prison system in order to keep Alaskans safe, reduce the repeat-offense rate, hold offenders accountable, and control prison spending. I was happy to tell them I fully support SB 91 (in fact, I’m a cosponsor,) which helps do all those things by changing the way we handle low-level offenses. The bill got its first hearings this week. I’m also a proud co-sponsor of SB 23, which increases access to the lifesaving medicine Naltrexone (also known as Narcan) which reverses overdoses of heroin and other opioids. There aren’t many bills that are truly life-and-death, but this is one that will keep people alive so they can turn their lives around.
Brandi Vrabec, Don Warden, Andrea Robertson, Sen. Egan, Kara Nelson, Jared Fortin, Shawn Jessup and Dr. Sol Neely
No Apples for Me
School boards and high school students from around the state flew in to the capital Monday and Tuesday. I got to meet with a roomful of education advocates Monday, representing districts from Chevak to Sitka. Instead of an apple for the teacher, they gave an earful to the legislator. We talked about local control of education, how tough it is to teach kids when class sizes get huge, the importance of pre-K education for needy kids, and how in the world we might pay for it all.
Here’s a selfie Dayna Nash of the Kashunamuit School District took Monday.
Then I sat down with some Juneau School Board members, a teacher, and half a dozen high schoolers representing all three of Juneau’s high schools. There’s nothing as valuable as hearing from the students themselves about their classes, their activities, and what matters to them. I was happy to tell them I support the governor’s proposal to fund education this year, including the less-than-inflation increase we put into law three years ago. We told our school districts they could count on it, and we need to follow through.
Then Came the Judge
Wednesday morning we heard from Alaska’s new Chief Justice, Craig Stowers. This was his first State of The Judiciary speech. I’ve known him for years, and it was good seeing him do the big job. There’s no question, budget cuts have already hurt the courts’ ability to handle lawsuits and child custody disputes and criminal trials. He’s bracing for more, but warned us there’s only so long before justice delayed becomes justice denied. It lends more weight to my belief that we need to address our fiscal crisis this year, not wait.
The 800-lb Gorilla
Of course, we talk about all these things, but the budget deficit keeps sucking all the air out of the room. For instance, my bill to help public employees retire in Alaska – and save the state $70 million or so over 10 years – needs another hearing to move out of committee, but it’s stalled right now while everyone focuses on the budget.
I think saving tens of millions during a budget crisis is a pretty big budget issue. So I’ll keep working on it. I just learned that some supporters of the bill did a better job explaining it than my staff. Take two minutes and watch this:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ug12v6dnwRc&feature=youtu.be
|Kudos from Juneau
Thanks to these community members for
helping make Southeast a great place to live!
- A career funding futures - The Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education is recruiting for a new executive director. That means Diane Barrans is retiring after decades of helping Alaskans finance higher education, from flight school to PhDs. Kudos Diane for making Alaska a smarter place!
Juneau Community Charter School students selling Lemonade to support a new water well in Kenya.
- Little Philanthropists - These Kindergarten, 1st and 7th graders were very successful fundraising at the Capitol on Lincoln’s Birthday. Living in Southeast, they know the benefits of clean water. That’s why they were raising money to help a village in Africa get a new drinking water well. They sold lemonade for 99 cents, so they could celebrate President Lincoln every time they made change for a dollar. Thanks kids!
Thanks for reading Legislative Corner. I hope you'll always feel welcome to contact my office, just call, write, or use one of the links in this newsletter.
Alaska State Senator
Web Site: http://alaskasenatedems.com/egan/
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