Capitol Report - February 4, 2022

Feb. 4, 2022

COVID-19 in the Capitol as legislators take in-depth look at Operating Budget

Capitol COVID-19 Outbreak:

The House held a technical floor session on Wednesday and several standing committees were canceled after one or more members of the House tested positive for COVID-19. Many representatives were close contacts and were asked to quarantine outside of the building until they could safely return. The outbreak proved disruptive as it pushed the business of the House back by several days. Many planned hearings have been postponed until next week.

UA in the Capitol

Fortunately, the House University of Alaska Finance Subcommittee was still able to meet earlier today to review the university’s budget additions. Committee members heard from UA experts about the drone program, our heavy oil recovery method research and development, and our critical minerals and rare earth elements research. Committee members were interested in the difference between the university’s drones and those used by the U.S. military, the refinery process for heavy oil, and the environmental impacts of processing critical earth minerals. See today’s presentations here.

The Senate Finance Committee has been meeting to review the state’s finances closely. This week they first heard the State’s 10-year plan from Neil Steininger, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Following Mr. Steininger’s presentation, the committee heard an overview of Senate Bill 162, the operating budget, by Legislative Finance Director Alexei Painter. Notably, when reviewing the Constitutional Budget Reserve (CBR), Senator Bert Stedman (R-Sitka) said that he would like to separate the Higher Education Investment Fund (HEIF) from the remaining CBR funds, indicating that the Senate Finance Committee intends to preserve HEIF funds and separate them, either by law or litigation. Later, in the same presentation, Mr. Painter discussed the federal COVID-19 and infrastructure funds coming to the state. The university’s $20M capital request updating student information technology systems is currently funded from the State’s federal coronavirus capital projects fund and Mr. Painter believes it meets the federal funding guidelines because it falls under “projects enabling remote work, education, and health monitoring.” 

Upcoming Events

The university Government Relations team will have the opportunity to highlight our drones program, critical earth minerals research, heavy oil recovery research and ACEP’s work in microreactors this afternoon during an informal discussion with legislators and staff. UA experts in attendance include Dr. Cathy Cahill and Director Gwen Holdmann. 

Monday, February 7

  • 9:00 a.m.: Senate Education Committee - Consideration of Governor's Appointee: Kali Spencer to University of Alaska Board of Regents

Tuesday, Feb 8

Wednesday, Feb 9

  • 9:00 a.m.: Senate Bill 10 - “Free/Reduced Tuition for Essential Workers”
  • 11:00 a.m.: Joint Session  -  State of the Judiciary Address by Chief Justice Winfree
  • 1:30 p.m.: House Bill 281 - “Approp: Operating Budget/Loans/Fund”

Thursday, Feb 10

Friday, Feb 11

For more information, contact Director of State Relations for the University of Alaska System Chad Hutchison, cell 907-378-3946, email