House creates first ever Tribal Affairs committee

House creates first ever Tribal Affairs committee

Committee will focus on partnerships between tribes and state government.

The Alaska House of Representatives created its first ever Special Committee on Tribal Affairs.

The House passed a resolution 37-1 to create the committee Monday morning, with Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, carrying the dissenting vote.

Creating this Special Committee on Tribal Affairs was a longtime goal of Rep. Bryce Edgmon, i-Dillingham, who is the first Alaska Native Speaker of the House.

“We’ve never had a committee to deal solely with tribal issues in the Legislature,” Edgmon said in a written statement. “This is not just about tribal compacting; it is about basic and critical issues like health, children’s services, law enforcement, economic development, and other needs that can be met at the village level.”

Freshman Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky, D-Bethel, will chair the committee.

“Alaska tribes have been working to improve the health and welfare of their communities since well before statehood,” Zulkosky said in an email to the Empire. “As in any other government-to-government relationship, local knowledge strengthens and improves outcomes, allowing our systems to deliver the most efficient and effective services across Alaska. As a result, the federal government, tribes and the state have all benefited.”

She said the establishment of the committee would help “bridge the historical and political divisions, while elevating opportunities to improve partnerships.”

And she hopes the committee would help the state maintain solvency for programs that have direct impact on tribes, in the midst of this fiscal crisis.

“These significant cuts make creating sustainable communities across Alaska that much harder,” Zulkosky said in the email. “In recent years, the state and tribes have worked hard to develop partnerships that realize inefficiencies, avoid duplication and save state general fund dollars. Any proposals that compromise those relationships and that progress, takes us in the wrong direction.”

The following representatives will join Zulkosky on the committee: Reps. Edgmon, Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage; John Lincoln, D-Kotzebue; Dave Talerico, R-Healy and Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka.

• Contact reporter Kevin Baird at 523-2258 or Follow him on Twitter at @alaska_kev.

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