Capitol Report for Feb. 28

Government Relations

Capitol report

February 28, 2020

Capitol Report

Budget Update

The House Finance Committee passed its version of the FY21 Operating Budget out of committee today.
During Thursday’s committee debate, Co-Chair Jennifer Johnston introduced an amendment to remove $10.5 million added by UA’s Budget Subcommittee for compensation increases. Rep. Johnston stated she would be looking to direct other types of funding to UA through the FY21 Capital Budget. The amendment passed on a final vote of 9-2 with Representatives Wool and Josephson voting in opposition. Representatives LeBon, Ortiz, Johnston, Foster, Knopp, Carpenter, Sullivan-Leonard, Tilton and Merrick voted in favor. You can watch the debate here.
Currently UA’s FY21 state Operating Budget stands at $277 million unrestricted general funds (UGF), which is $25 million below current year levels, and $50 million below FY19. This spending plan is consistent with the 3-year budget compact signed in August. The Operating Budget will be up for consideration and amendments on the House Floor beginning Monday.
Lt. Governor Meyer Visits UAF
Lieutenant Governor Kevin Meyer visited UAF today for an in-depth tour and briefing on our university’s research on arctic and aerospace issues. The afternoon-long visit included presentations from several UA research institute faculty covering a range of subjects from climate and national security, to transportation and industry research. Thank you to Chancellor White and the entire team at UAF for putting together such an informative tour, and showcasing our university’s excellence in arctic research. While in Fairbanks, the Lt. Governor will also be meeting with President Johnsen and later dropping the puck at tonight’s Governor’s Cup hockey game between the UAF Nanooks and UAA Seawolves.
State of the University
University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen gave his State of the University address in Anchorage today. The event served as the keynote speech at the 6th Annual AlaskaCAN! Educational Equity Conference. The AlaskaCAN! Network works to increase educational attainment in our state. The group has set a goal of having 65 percent of Alaskans (up from 54 percent) hold a postsecondary credential – whether apprenticeship, certificate, or advanced degree – by the year 2025.
In his address, President Johnsen shared the vision for higher education in Alaska. This vision is based on literally thousands of inputs from hundreds of people across the state responding to two simple, but powerful questions: What if? Why not? The vision for UA in 2040 is for a seamless higher education system, a network if you will, with access for students and faculty and staff no matter where they are in their lives.

President Johnsen talked about UA’s plan to address the budget cuts. He noted that the university is working hard in D.C. to increase funding for research in areas ranging from the environment and behavioral health to national security. Our universities and campuses are stepping up recruitment and marketing, getting the word out there about just how well UA helps our students realize their dreams.  While the University of Alaska will need to make tough decisions, the interests of our students come first. 
You can view the speech and transcript of the address at
Bills Moving in the Capitol
During the 31st Alaska Legislature 648 bills and resolutions have been introduced, of which 65 have passed both bodies. The personal bill deadline for individual lawmakers to submit legislation passed last Monday February 24. This procedural deadline allows the Legislature to narrow in and prioritize bills as it moves towards the second half of session. Here are a few of the UA related bills we will be tracking and engaged in next week.
  • HB 155 - Adds career and technical education to the list of subjects high school students can pursue to qualify for the Alaska Performance Scholarship
  • HB 159 – Changes the service and reimbursement requirements for the WWAMI Medical Program
  • HB 193 - Adds a second verse to Alaska’s State Song which is held in trust by the UA Foundation
  • HB 282 - Creates an Office of Public Policy Events at UA Campuses
  • SB 30 – Expands Middle College and dual enrollment programs
  • SJR 19 - Recommends changes in UA’s organizational structure to have chancellors report directly to the UA Board of Regents
Capitol Happenings
The Senate Finance Committee held its confirmation hearing for UA Student Regent Cachet Garret on Monday. You can view the hearing here. Regent Garret’s appointment has been referred to the House and Senate Education Committees, and will ultimately be considered along with other boards and commissions nominations at a joint session of the Legislature later in session.