Leg with Louie – April 27

Final Days of Leg Session: Stay Alert!
HB 130

There are a lot of moving pieces at the end of the second session of a Legislature – it is a time of suspense and surprise which can turn into an 11th hour frenzy of bill passage – like the champagne after the cork is blown off – legislation that has been bottled up in the respective Finance committees or in the Rules Committees can often come out and pass swiftly – propelled by unseen negotiations, horse-trading, compromises great and small.  It is this precise time when a political operative worth their salt can get items added to bills that escape thorough public review.  That is what happened with HB 130.

Gov. Walker introduced the simple bill – which made clerical boundary changes to critical habitat areas and wildlife refuges and it passed the House in 2017 on a near unanimous vote. In the Senate, the Resources Committee chair used the bill as a vehicle to revise the mission of Alaska wildlife refuges – from “protection” of wildlife to “conservation” of wildlife and to rename a number of wildlife refuges by adding the term “hunting preserve” to the title. The Walker Administration is actively supporting this change which occurred without any public process.  While The Alaska Center fully supports and endorses the rights of Alaskans to hunt on public lands – we also support good government, and a strong public process.

The Walker Administration is assuring House members that the change in mission from “protecting” wildlife to “conserving” wildlife makes no material difference. They are incorrect and misleading. Words matter and intent matters.

There is a discussion to be had about the words “protect” and “conserve”, and a renaming of wildlife refuges and why people want to do this. The Walker Administration should file a separate bill on the matter if it actually agrees this is a worthwhile policy call.  They should open public testimony on the bill, and invite Alaskans to share their opinion.

Absent a public process HB 130 should not pass out of the House. Contact House Leadership and ask them politely to please consider not moving this bill forward. In addition to your own representative, contact House Majority Leader, Representative Chris Tuck, and House Speaker, Representative Bryce Edgmon, and House Rules Committee Chair – Representative Gabrielle Ledoux. Do this today. Thank you.

-Louie Flora, Government Affairs Director

 Capital Budget Update
The Senate Finance Committee released a work draft of its proposed capital budget on Wednesday. So far, the committee has retained the governor’s proposed use of $11 million in Renewable Energy Grant funding for a number of small hydro and wind power generation projects, and a sea water heat pump project. These allocations make sense, have been vetted by the Renewable Energy Fund Advisory Council, and should be maintained by the legislature as the capital budget moves forward. We will let you know if anything changes.
Annual Auction
This weekly legislative update is made possible through the generous support of AK Center members, and the annual auction helps give us the financial firepower to keep a boots on the ground presence in Juneau during the legislative session
As we prepare to leave the legislative session behind and dive into election season (when we hold our public officials accountable) your support at the annual auction will help us thrive.  With your support we can keep our shoulder to the wheel in unending and patriotic work of civic engagement.
The annual auction and party is a great opportunity to see old friends and meet new ones and to support the work of the Alaska Center (which includes, but is not limited to – community organizing to increase solar power in Anchorage, taking thousands of kids on outdoor education adventures each year, sponsoring a youth civic summit in the Alaska Legislature, supporting bills in the AK Legislature and ordinances in municipalities, communicating to members via emails and social media, phone banking, event hosting, public speaking, vetting and supporting specific legislative and municipal candidates, and pushing to modernize salmon habitat laws).
We have a big year ahead of us and we must stay vigilant but it will be great to take a moment and toast to the work we’ve done so far.
See you there!
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