Berta's Briefings from Sen. Berta Gardner

Senator Berta Gardner

January 18, 2017

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Serving Midtown, Spenard, and UMed

1500 W Benson Blvd. #220
Anchorage, AK 99503
Phone: 907-269-0155
Call Me: 1-800-331-4930

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Governor Bill Walker
Anchorage Office
550 W. 7th Ave, Ste 1700
Anchorage, AK 99501
(907) 269-7450

Lt. Governor Byron Mallot
Anchorage Office
550 W. 7th Ave, Ste 1700
Anchorage, AK 99501
(907) 269-7460

2017 Legislative Priorities and Staff Introductions

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Sen. Gardner and Rep. Spohnholz (left) address questions about the upcoming session at a UAA panel
Sen. Gardner and Rep. Spohnholz (left)
address questions about the upcoming
session at a UAA panel

         As we start the 30th Alaska Legislature, I’d like to introduce you to my staff and give a brief summary of our goals for the session.

          Noah Hanson, Chief of Staff, begins his 10th year with me.  I am grateful to have him.  Not only does he bring experience and institutional knowledge, but I know I can rely without reservation on his judgement and organizational skills.  Noah is an avid outdoorsman who loves snowboarding and fishing.

          Samantha Harris (nee Straus) returns for a second year with me.  She loves education and natural resources management issues but will be helping me with Labor & Commerce Committee work.  After two years in The Gambia with the Peace Corps, she went to the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, to work on a master’s degree in Natural Resource Management. She is presently finishing her thesis on forest management in The Gambia based on a case study she conducted during her service. Samantha moved to Anchorage two years ago and currently resides in my district in Midtown Anchorage.

         John Church returns to Juneau for his 4th session, but first in my office.  He is researching legislation for me and also staffing me on the Community & Regional Affairs committee.  A UAA graduate in Political Science, John was an intern during the 28th legislature and worked for Representative Josephson during the 29th.  John’s family came to Alaska as part of FDR’s New Deal Program in 1935 and they still manage the same farm in Palmer to this day.

         I am extremely fortunate to have Megan Holland, a Legislative Intern, in my office this year.  Meg joins us from UAA to assist with office organization and constituent relations.  Anchorage-born, she hopes to continue working in state politics in the future.

         So, what do I expect the session to bring?  The big issue, front and center, in CAPS and italics, is to build consensus and pass a state fiscal plan – a plan which will sustain us into the future.  There is no longer any doubt that we are in a full-blown recession and today I had the opportunity to talk with Dan Robinson, Chief of Research and Analysis, with the Department of Labor.  I asked him if the state could have reduced or avoided the recession by enacting a decent fiscal plan.  His answer was “What is the cost of uncertainty?  There is no question that uncertainty has an economic cost.  Recession means a lack of confidence in the economy.  No investments are made while things are uncertain.”

         In other matters as I ponder personal legislation, high on my priority list is the recommendations coming out the legislative audit of the state crime lab.  You may remember this started when I began to look into backlogs of testing DNA collected as part of “rape kits” or, more officially of Sexual Assault Response Team exams.  The crime lab audit, which you can read here, opened a can of worms, took much longer than anticipated and resulted in a scathing review, released just last Friday.  The bottom line is that in a state with shameful rape numbers, when a victim comes forward, submits to an invasive exam in the hope of catching a perpetrator, we MUST honor their courage by ensuring that we follow through in any way we can!  How best to achieve that is the question…

         Please feel free to reach out to any of us here in Juneau with your questions and concerns, and we will be happy to assist you in any way we can.

         I’m Berta and I’m still listening,

         If you have any questions, please feel free to contact my office.

signed: Berta

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