March 5 Capitol Report

March 5, 2021

Budget Hearings, G.O. Bond and bills of interest 

Today is the 46th day of the Legislative session. While Thursday marked the mid-point of the regular session, a great deal of work lies ahead for lawmakers. Alaska Statute calls for a 90-day regular legislative session, but the Constitution of the State of Alaska provides for a 120-day session. Lawmakers have often fallen back on the 120-day session for completing their work.

University House Budget Subcommittee Convenes

UA Interim President Pat Pitney presented to the university’s House Finance Subcommittee today. Lawmakers convened as a committee of the whole chaired by Representative Adam Wool (D-Fairbanks) to hear an overview of UA’s FY 22 Operating Budget. The President briefed lawmakers on UA’s strategic goals and legislative priorities, and talked about the important role the university has in the state’s economy. Consideration of the Operating Budget will continue for the next several weeks as the subcommittee process continues. Next Friday, March 12, the subcommittee will hear a presentation on university research, as well as information about UA’s community campus system. You can view the House Finance Subcommittee hearing here.

G.O. Bond Hearings

Next week, the Senate Transportation Committee will continue its review of Governor Dunleavy’s G.O. Infrastructure Bond package (SB 74). If enacted by the Legislature and approved by voters following the 2021 legislative session, more than $356 million in bonds would be issued to improve transportation, education, recreation, and communications systems throughout the state. SB 74 includes $29 million for targeted maintenance projects at university facilities. Thank you to Cameron Wohlford, Christopher McConnell and Nathan Leigh for their continued work to help senators understand these important and needed improvements.

Senate Education to Hear UA-Related Bills

Next Monday, the Senate Education Committee will hear two bills of interest to the University of Alaska. 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 classes from the University of Alaska, earning both high school and college credit. UA currently operates voluntary middle college programs in partnership with schools in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Kenai Peninsula College and Mat-Su. The committee also will hear Senate Bill 36, which establishes a reporting requirement on the subject of UA systemwide accreditation in state law, and calls for the university to present reports to the legislature semi-annually.

Passing of Alaska Leaders

Alaska lost three respected leaders this week with the passing of Mike Bradner, Pat Carney and John Sackett, all of whom served in the Legislature.

Mike Bradner represented Fairbanks in the House for a decade, including serving a term as speaker. His tenure in the Legislature included highlights such as creation of the Alaska Permanent Fund, municipal revenue sharing, and the state’s petroleum tax. An alumnus of the University of Alaska, Bradner was a journalist for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. After retiring from elected office, he became a Capitol fixture as author of the subscription newsletter Legislative Digest and Alaska Economic Report with his brother Tim Bradner. The two also hosted interviews with legislators and policymakers on Gavel Alaska’s program Capitol Views. His outgoing presence in the Capitol will be missed.

Pat Carney served in the Legislature in the early 80’s and 90’s representing the Mat-Su Valley. A dairy farmer and UA alumnus, he was well respected in the Capitol and known for having a great deal of integrity and a lot of class.

John Sackett’s lifetime of service to Alaska spanned decades. At age 21 in 1966, Sackett became the youngest person ever elected to the Alaska Legislature. He spent 18 of the next 20 years representing rural Alaska in the Capitol in both the House and Senate. Sackett also was the youngest person elected President of the Tanana Chiefs Conference. As a UAF student, Sackett recalled a day when he skipped a class and went to listen to a discussion about the land claims issue. His advocacy and leadership helped further passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. He was the founding president of Doyon Ltd, and served on the UA Board of Regents. The university presented Sackett with an honorary doctorate in 2013, and Sackett Hall at UAF’s Kuskokwim Campus is named to celebrate his legacy. 

Did You Know?

Alaska’s Capitol Building does not have a dome like many traditional state capitols. When constructed in 1931 it served as the territorial federal building for Alaska, housing courtrooms, a post office, and a museum. Twenty eight years later, the building was gifted to the new State of Alaska and it has served as the seat of state government ever since.