March 19 Capitol Report
Subcommittee Action, Budget Testimony and Bills on the Move
March 19 was the 60th day of the Legislative Session, and wraps up two very busy weeks in the Capitol for the University of Alaska.
Budget Process Continues in House and Senate
Lawmakers are continuing their review and consideration of FY22 appropriation bills. Throughout the week, the Senate Finance Committee held statewide public testimony on the Capital and Operating budgets. Thank you to all the UA alumni, students, staff and faculty who called in to voice their support for university funding.
Earlier today, the House Finance UA Budget Subcommittee convened to take action on the Governor’s proposed budget, as well as amendments from legislators. The subcommittee, chaired by Representative Adam Wool (D-Fairbanks), adopted an amendment adding $15.7 million in unrestricted general funds to UA’s FY22 Operating Budget by a vote of 6-5. This additional funding will be further discussed by the full House Finance Committee during the next two weeks as subcommittees finalize their agency budget recommendations. Thank you to Representative Wool and subcommittee members for this strong vote of confidence in our university. You can view the hearing here.
This show of support by the subcommittee comes on top of last Friday’s hearing on university research and UA’s community campus system. Thank you to Dr. Bradley Moran of UAF CFOS, Dr. Hajo Eicken and Dr. Nettie Labelle-Hamer of UAF Geophysical Institute, Dr. Charlene Stern of UAF CRCD, and Director Jacelyn Keys of UAA Kodiak College for a great set of presentations. You can view the hearing here.
House Committee Advances Career Tech Legislation
The House Labor & Commerce Committee has advanced legislation that will help sustain UA’s workforce development programs. House Bill 100 by Representative Adam Wool reauthorizes the Technical Vocational Education Program (TVEP). Associate Vice President for Workforce Development, Teri Cothren, provided in-depth testimony in support of the bill and its benefits for UA. Thank you also to UA alumni, staff, faculty and industry partners who called in to voice their support for the legislation. HB 100 will be heard next in the House Finance Committee.
Transportation Committee Debates General Obligation Bond Package
Next Tuesday, the Senate Transportation Committee will continue debating amendments to Governor Dunleavy’s G.O. Infrastructure Bond package (SB 74). The proposal includes $29 million for targeted maintenance projects at university facilities. However, Senator Mike Shower (R-Wasilla) has proposed an amendment removing the UAA portion of the bond package. This amendment will be debated in committee next week. Thank you to Christopher McConnell, Kim Mahoney and all UA facilities staff for their continued work advocating and informing senators on these important projects.
Senate Education Forwards UA Legislation
On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee advanced two bills related to the university. Senate Bill 32 expands UA’s existing middle college programs to every school district in Alaska. Middle colleges provide high school students the opportunity to take university classes, earning both high school and college credit. Senate Bill 36 establishes a bi-annual reporting requirement for program and institutional accreditation in the UA System. The bills have been scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee on Monday, March 22 at 9:00 a.m. During Wednesday’s meeting, the committee heard a presentation by Teri Cothren, Associate Vice President for Workforce Development, in support of Senate Bill 10 on reskilling and upskilling Alaskan workers.
Alaska Aerospace Day at the Capitol
University researchers were featured front and center this week in the Capitol. At the invitation of Lt. Governor Kevin Meyer, UAF participated in Alaska Aerospace Day. Dr. Bob McCoy, Director of the Geophysical Institute, and Dr. Cathy Cahill, Director of the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aerial Systems Integration (ACUASI), gave detailed briefings to the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee. Their presentations followed special introductions by Lt. Governor Meyer emphasizing the value of university research, and showcased the work of ACUASI and the Poker Flat Research Range. You can view the presentations here.
Land Grant Resolutions Moves Forward
The Senate Resources Committee advanced Senate Joint Resolution 8 on Monday calling for a solution to UA's land grant deficit. The resolution by Senator Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak), seeks a joint federal and state solution to create a permanent land endowment for our university. Although UA is a land grant institution, it has not received its full land entitlement and is due approximately 360,000 acres. Resolving this issue is vital to sustaining the university for years into the future. We appreciate lawmakers’ willingness to bring awareness to this 100-year old problem, and look forward to working with them to move this resolution through the legislature.