It’s that time of the year again – almost time for the illustrious Alaska legislative session to kick off!
Legislators are going back to Juneau by ferry and plane and settling back in for another 90 (or likely 120) days. In those days they’ll have to pass a budget (which means deciding on the ever-present PFD question), and everything else is up in the air–and there’s quite a lot of “everything else”. All the bills from last session that didn’t pass are still alive, with their previous committee referrals/etc, plus any new bills that come out this session (including today’s second tranche of pre-filed bills).
Luckily, like in previous sessions, we’ll be tracking what’s going on as it pertains to creating a thriving, just, and sustainable Alaska (read: we care a lot about energy and climate legislation, protecting our waters, and creating the most engaged electorate in the nation).
This session is starting with a buzz in the air about energy: as Rep. Fields said in a recent op-ed, “2024 presents unprecedented opportunities for energy development in Alaska.” We agree. Between the clearly-state Senate Majority Caucus focus on energy, steeply declining Cook Inlet gas shortage (and the potential for astronomically-priced Outside LNG import contracts), federal investment opportunities from the Biden administration – there is a clear focus on where Alaskans get energy and how to make that more affordable. We’ll be pushing for some great energy bills (or the ideas within them) to pass this session, including:
- Senator Wielechowski’s Community Energy Bill, which would enable Alaskans to own a share of a solar installation not located on their property, thus making solar more affordable and accessible to Alaskans including renters, folks who can’t afford a full installation, and more.
- Senator Gale-Tobin and Representative Sumner’s Renewable Portfolio Standard bill, which would set required milestones for renewable energy development along the railbelt to help meet the needs of the current gas crisis
- Governor Dunleavy’s Energy Independence Fund, which would create a Green Bank vehicle underneath Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, spurring more investment in renewable energy
- A funding match to the federally-awarded GRIP Funding, which would provide for Transmission upgrades along the railbelt that make it possible to add large-scale renewables and balance our energy better. This is a match–meaning Alaska needs to put $206.5 million in to get $206.5 from the feds.
We’ll also be focusing on some crucial democracy issues, because how Alaskans can use our voices affects everything. You might have been tracking the proposed ballot measure (rife with campaign ethics violations) to repeal Ranked-Choice Voting and Open Primaries–we can expect to see this play out in the session again. You can bet we’ll work to make sure that goes nowhere this session, as well as any other changes that make it harder for Alaskans to vote. In fact, after years of the legislature considering great voting reforms, we’d love to see some pass, including:
- Striking the witness signature requirement
- Creating a ballot curing process, which would allow Alaskans to fix any error on their ballot that would make their vote not get counted
- Allowing for permanent absentee voting, meaning you could choose to vote absentee forever, rather than filing to vote absentee for every single election
- Establishing same-day registration and early registration
- And a whole lot more.
And, of course, we’ll always be watching for any threats to our clean air and water. There will likely be many, like in previous sessions. Threats like Alaska taking over 404-Primacy might come up again–and we’ll let you know when and if they do, and how you can stand up against these threats to our state. As much as we want to pass the good this session, seizing on critical opportunities of time and place, it’s crucial that we are prepared to stop the worst threats.
We look forward to working with you this session to stand up for our clean air and water, healthy communities, and a strong democracy. Stay tuned for more updates–and, always, get involved! We hope to make it easy for you to stand up for the values that you care about–so don’t be a stranger, and reach out.
All the best,
The Alaska Center
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