(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

Alaska Voices: New bill supports Alaska rural communities

“HB137 is good for seniors; it is good for Alaskans…”

  • Saturday, March 20, 2021 9:07pm
  • Opinion

• By Peter Zuyus

HB 137 was introduced by Rep. Zack Fields. The bill will keep State DMV offices open and stop the predatory and discriminatory so-called “convenience fees” charged to senior citizens and all Alaskans by so-called “private partnerships” for DMV-mandated requirements.

The community of Haines is being hard hit by this poorly crafted budget proposal. Reps. Sara Hannan and Andi Story support HB 137, as well as the people of Haines and other rural communities. Let them know you support them and HB 137.

State officials have disseminated a lot of false and conflicting information to support the closures. In one statement, the Department of Administration claims 95% of your DMV work can be online, in another that 83% of your DMV work can be done online. However, with 20% of Alaskans not having internet access, how is that possible?

These six community DMV closures were targeted because these community residents who are now referred to as “data points”, would present the least “backlash,”per testimony by Department of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka, and DOA is data analytic and data point driven.

Alaskan seniors and many of our rural area residents are required to have in-person access to a state DMV office for transactions by statute. Yet, currently lack of internet access for many transactions (20% of Alaskans and up to 30% of seniors do not have internet) prevent these fellow Alaskans from doing transactions online. So does the lack of an email address or a credit card. DMV associated requirements are mandatory, not optional, and should be provided at state DMV offices. All six of the DMV closures are profitable. The burden of several million dollars in “Convenience Fees” above the state mandated DMV fees to be forced on only some Alaskans as proposed, is unconscionable, unreasonable and unAlaskan.

By reversing the proposed state DMV closures in Delta Junction, Tok, Homer, Eagle River, Haines and Valdez, HB137 protects Alaska’s seniors, disabled, rural, lower-income and Alaska Natives from discriminatory actions based upon where they live, their age and their physical status.

By restoring the state DMV facilities to the rightful and just place in our community, HB 137 says no to harmful unregulated fees and yes to Alaskans. HB 137 is not Republican; it is not Democrat. HB137 is for and about Alaskans.

In addition, HB 137 prohibits the opening of “private partnerships” without legislative approval, effective January 2021. It eliminates the discrimination against seniors, disabled, rural, lower-income and Alaska Natives that was part of the budget proposal to close state-operated DMV offices in six rural Alaska communities. In House and Senate testimony, DOA officials testified that no private partnerships had yet been awarded for the affected communities — except Delta Junction in 2020 — testifying, that it is a legislative decision.

HB137 is good for seniors. It is good for Alaskans. It is bipartisan. It is the Alaskan way. Please tell all legislators to vote YES on HB 137.

Peter Zuyus is executive director of Seniors of Alaska, a retired technology executive and former chief information officer for the state of Alaska. Seniors of Alaska is a nonprofit organization consisting of seniors, established to represent Alaska senior citizen perspectives and to guarantee their equitable treatment by municipal, borough and state agencies.

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