March 26 Capitol Report
Subcommittee closeout, UA land grant action and a new Regent
March 26 was the 67th day of the Legislative Session, and wraps up another busy week in the Capitol for the University of Alaska, including budgetary discussions and a new appointment to the Board of Regents.
House Budget Subcommittee Closes Out
The House Finance UA Budget Subcommittee concluded its work this afternoon. The subcommittee recommended a spending plan consistent with the 3-year budget compact of $257 million unrestricted general funds (UGF). This constitutes $20 million below current year levels, and $70 million below FY19. The subcommittee also added $15.7 million in relief funding to help cover losses UA has sustained during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you to Representative Adam Wool and subcommittee members for this strong vote of confidence in our university.
Unanimous Senate Support for UA Land Grant
On Monday, the Senate showed strong support for resolving UA’s land grant deficit by unanimously passing Senate Joint Resolution 8. The resolution by Senator Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak), urges a joint federal and state solution to create a permanent land endowment for our university. We appreciate the Senate’s support for solving this 100-year-old problem, and look forward to having the resolution brought up in the House Resources Committee this session.
Jepsen Appointed as Regent, Confirmations Continue
Governor Dunleavy has appointed Scott Jepsen of Anchorage to the UA Board of Regents. Jepsen is a former oil and gas industry executive with ConocoPhillips Alaska, and served on the UA Foundation Board of Directors for nine years. Next Wednesday at 8 a.m., the Governor’s other BOR appointees, Ralph Seekins and Dale Anderson, will appear before the House Education Committee for their second confirmation hearings.
Senate Finance Reviews UA Legislation
The Senate Finance Committee has been busy considering two bills related to the university. Senate Bill 32 expands UA’s existing middle college programs to every school district in Alaska. Senate Bill 36 establishes a bi-annual reporting requirement of the Board of Regents for program and institutional accreditation. The bills were heard by the committee on Monday, March 11 and on Monday, March 29.
Transportation Committee Advances Bond Package
The Senate Transportation Committee passed the General Obligation Infrastructure Bond package (SB 74) out of committee on Tuesday. Senators adopted a committee substitute and smaller version of the bill from Governor Dunleavy’s original proposal. The package would issue bonds for $303 million in infrastructure spending, including $29 million for targeted maintenance projects for university facilities. The House Finance Committee held a hearing on the House companion bill of the Governor’s proposal, HB 93, on Tuesday March 30th at 1:30 p.m.
Passing of an Alaskan Leader
Former lawmaker Gail Phillips passed away this week. Phillips represented Homer in the House for a decade, including serving two terms as speaker from 1995-1998. She was known for her tremendous energy, and her outspokenness in standing up for the rights of all people. Her lifetime of service began in her youth as a student leader at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She would later also serve as a member of the University of Alaska College of Fellows, as well as the chair of the Kenai Peninsula College Council. Phillips served on the Homer City Council and Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. She also gave freely of her time as an active volunteer with the Iditarod, a member of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, and chaired the Alaska 50th Anniversary Celebration Commission. She was elected to the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame, and UAF recognized her as a distinguished alumnus in 2013. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family.
Did You Know?
Along with classic works by Machetanz and Laurence, student art has been a highlight in the Capitol Building since 1988. The Legislature frequently displays artwork from K-12 students across Alaska, showcasing students’ varied techniques and diverse experiences.