Legislative Update

March 9, 2014

The Alaska Legislature is past the half-way mark.  A few bills of interest to me and hopefully the readers.

HB 220, Exit Exam Removal (not actual title but subject).  This has passed through Education Committee and now is in Finance.  It has had one hearing in Finance and it is being looked at closely before coming up again.  The issue is the transition language.  Mr Morris, Commissioner of DEED is all over the board with this.  First this would save $2.7 million a year!  Great!  Then, well, the Department of Law feels a transition is needed to stop lawsuits from students who didn’t get a diploma, so testing till 2017.  That would cost $900,000 a year so really a savings of @1.8 million.  Then, when the transition language was changed to 2015, well, that only impacts those Seniors for 2014 who didn’t pass the test when they took it when they were Sophmore, that number was around 2,500.  Then at Finance Committee the cost is now $1.4 million a year to give the test to those who didn’t pass in 2014.  Yet he forgot to tell the committee it would only be about 2,500 taking the test!  Not to mention that he said in the Senate Education Committee, that this removal of this test would remove the assessment exams at 3, 4, 8 and 10th grades with an additional savings (found out later, possibly $5 million a year).  I testified about the above to the Finance Committee as well as the Education Committee’s as this moved forward.  Rep Stoltze is looking hard at the real numbers and impact on this.  It is a good possibility (Les Gara even wants to get the kids diploma’s and no transition) that the transition aspect may be dropped.  If you want the kids who have passed all courses, gotten their 21.5 credits to get their diploma no matter if they pass this final test this year, then call and e-mail your Representatives and Senators!

HB 199 and SB 98, Arming VPSO’s.  HB 199 is going to the House floor for a vote this Monday, the 10th or March.  Overall a good bill and DPS has really stepped up to this.  My major lingering concern (DPS has assured working with the non-profits) is that the employers, the non-profits (native corps) are not fully up on VPSO’s, especially now that they will be armed.  I have seen the “good old boy” system first hand and they could fire someone if someone complains about an alleged “misuse” of carrying the firearm.  I have testified on that many times and the last testimony at the Senate, I was assured that DPS would be backing up the VPSO’s.  I guess now it is a wait and see what the non-profits will do.  Overall, the VPSO’s do need to be armed, should have been all along.

These are just a couple bills that I have a great deal of interest in, not counting HJR 22, HB 248, both dealing with Convention of States for purpose of proposing amendments to the US Constitution.  There are issues with these, but I and Wayne (directors for Citizen Initiatives) are working on getting these issues resolved come the new session in 2015.

For those who want a hand in what our legislature is doing, but work and can’t testify, go to Gavel to Gavel on the internet http://www.360north.org and look at the archives, then write you Rep and Senator to express your opinion and direction you want them to go.




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