January 26, 2016
Serving Midtown, Spenard, and UMed
716 W. 4th Ave Suite 411.
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Governor Bill Walker
Lt. Governor Byron Mallot
2016 Legislative Priorities and Staff Introductions
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Greetings from Juneau, where we are already entering week two of the legislative session. This year I have introduced several bills to help to improve the lives of Alaskans statewide.
With unprecedented budget challenges and an anticipated $4 billion deficit we know where our focus should be. Along with colleagues in the House, I have introduced a proposal to create a Ways & Means committee (SCR19). My goal is to have a way to fully evaluate both proposed cuts and new revenue, allowing the Finance committees to continue with their routine budget work. It is my sincere hope that this legislation or something similar pave the way for a fiscal plan working group.
I’ve also been working with the Department of Labor on gender pay equity (SB 153). Across the US, several states have recently taken action to provide enforcement of current anti-discrimination statutes, as well as strengthen protections for workers that come forward with claims of gender-based wage discrimination. My proposal includes provisions that have recently become law in other states, including but not limited to a revision of the “bona fide factor” exception to require employer to prove any pay differential is not based on gender, the prohibition of an employer from discharging or retaliating against an employee for enforcement of anti-discrimination law, and provisions that make it unlawful for employer to prevent employees from disclosing their wages, discussing wages, or inquiring about others’ wages. Because Alaskan women earn on average $.76 for every $1.00 a man earns in the workplace, I thought that it was time to address this disparity to level this playing field.
Finally, my bill SB 156 mandates insurance companies to pay claims for an extended supply—12 months—of hormonal and other forms of contraception. For many women all across our state who work in jobs that makes them travel, such as tourism or the military, and residents in rural Alaska who do not have easy access to birth control, this will provide increased consistency in reproductive health services, in turn which will reduce unwanted pregnancies. SB 156 will guarantee that every Alaskan woman has the freedom to work in remote areas while still preserving the right to control whether and when they conceive a child.
Meet My Staff
This session I am happy to introduce my three full time staff members, as well as our new intern with the UAA Legislative Internship program.
Noah Hanson, Chief of Staff.
In his ninth legislative year with me, Noah brings experience and institutional knowledge to my office. We all rely on his organizational skills that help keep us focused, supplied, ready and on time for everything. Additionally, Noah is a crackerjack researcher, and will be lead staff for the Senate Minority Caucus. Noah will be helping me out on the budgets for Department of Education and Early Development, Labor and Workforce Development, and Public Safety.
This session Katie will be carrying legislation that relates to women’s health and gender equality. She graduated from the CUNY School of Law in 2011, with a concentration in Health Care Law, the Affordable Care Act, and Public Benefits Law. She and her husband Landon live in District I, Midtown Anchorage, with their elderly one-eyed cat “Winkie.”
This session, Samantha will focus on legislation dealing with public education and natural resources. She first came to Alaska in October 2010 to join the University of Alaska Fairbanks Masters International program, which enables graduate students in Natural Resource Management to combine their degree programs with environmental volunteer work in the Peace Corps. 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 last summer and currently resides in my district in Midtown Anchorage.
Stephen Sweet, Legislative Intern.
Stephen previously worked as an Residential Advisor at UAA, and is currently finishing his Bachelors in Political Science and expects to graduate in the spring. Stephen enjoys organizing events and exploring downtown Juneau. He will be the main contact to get access to see me. He will be working on military and veterans’ affairs, university and transportation issues.
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.
I’m Berta and I’m still listening,
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact my office.