Hot Takes In A Cold Place: The Legislative Session Rides Off

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who advocated on bills and budget items this past legislative session. Through your phenomenal effort, we stopped numerous bad bills, settled on a budget that promotes public education and put the brakes on Dunleavy’s move to take over development permitting in sensitive wetland habitats from the EPA.

To recap. Due to your advocacy via letter writing, emails, phone calls, social media pressure, and direct grassroots citizen lobbying, the following bills passed the Legislature and are headed to the Governor’s desk:

  • Tribal Recognition! HB 123 by Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky passed and will require the State of Alaska to recognize Alaska's federally recognized tribes. The federal government has a special and unique relationship with tribes that the State formally acknowledges. HB 123 will codify in Alaska law that federally recognized tribes are sovereign governments. It does not change any legal relationship. State recognition of Tribes will honor the first peoples of this land and the historical, economic, and cultural value they bring to the State. 
  • Update to Alaska Sexual Consent Law: HB 325 by Rep. Sara Rasmussen was amended to include HB 5 by Rep. Geran Tarr and changes Alaska’s 40-year-old sexual consent statutes to change how sexual assault can be prosecuted by modernizing the definition of consent. 
  • CPACE expansion: HB 227 legislation by Rep. Calvin Schrage to expand the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy statute to include upgrades that improve the climate resiliency of commercial properties.  
  • Broadband Expansion: HB 363 by Rep. Bryce Edgmon establishes the Office of Broadband to prioritize the expansion of high-quality, affordable broadband access to unserved and underserved communities and positions Alaska to receive unprecedented amounts of federal funding for broadband expansion statewide.

On the other side of the coin, you helped stop a slew of bad bills:

  • SB 39 worked to undermine local control of elections, suppress voting in Alaska, and take away the legal mechanism that adds thousands of new voters annually through Alaska's Permanent Fund dividend - the automatic voter registration statute. 
  • HB 398 would have made it impossible for Alaskans to protect waters of high ecological value as Tier III waters under the Clean Water Act.
  • SB 97 sought to give the Department of Natural Resources the power to authorize commercial development on any state land regardless of its status in an area land use plan and to repeal the Recreational River statutes that protect six popular and anadromous Mat-Su rivers: The Little Susitna River, The Deshka River, The Talkeetna River, Lake Creek, Alexander Creek, and The Talachulitna River.
  • HB 82, a bill to authorize subsurface natural gas drilling and development in Kachemak Bay, which is currently off-limits to oil and gas development.
  • HB 98 was legislation to decrease citizen participation in the Forest Land Use Plan process for timber sales.

There is a lot to unpack as a legislative session ends. This Memorial Day Weekend, we urge you to take the time to reflect on the positive outcomes of this past session and take heart in the true power of citizen advocacy in our beloved Democracy.

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