As the session progresses, legislators are working rapidly to introduce and pass bills before the end of the session. Monday, Feb. 19 is the last day for legislators to introduce new legislation, and I expect a flurry of bills to be brought forward in the House and Senate in the next 10 days.
Energy is on the front burner, with a joint hearing by the House and Senate Resources Committee on Wednesday afternoon. Utilities and gas producers continue to meet with legislators to identify solutions. We are at a critical juncture, and the recent cold snap strained natural gas resources to the near limit. Our situation is a supply issue, and we will be working through options to fill the gap in supply to ensure the lowest energy cost for Alaskans.
Last week, I introduced House Bill 309 regarding delegating routine optometry services. This bill would authorize a licensed optometrist to delegate routine optometry services to an assistant who meets the standards established by the Board of Examiners in Optometry. Optometrists request this legislation as a benefit to workflow and patient care.
I was proud to host a guest on Feb. 7 in the House Education Committee. Professor Paul E. Peterson is a Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government at Harvard University. Professor Peterson presented his study ranking Alaska first in charter school performance. This was the first study of its kind, and I encourage folks to listen to the testimony. We continue to address education issues, and this week, I met with superintendents, principals, teachers, and leaders from the KPB school district and districts across the state. I am committed to bringing forward solutions and thank them for sharing our needs locally and across our state.
Finally, last week I presented HB 195, the East Side of Cook Inlet Set Net Fleet Reduction Act, in the House Fisheries Committee. HB 195 would create a voluntary buyback program to produce longevity in the Cook Inlet set net fishery and provide opportunity and flexibility to all fisher groups. Our local fishing industry has experienced emergency declarations in recent years due to fishing closures. This legislation seeks to modify the number of set nets and aims to open the fishery to commercial operations as a result.
Please reach out to my office with any questions! Call 907-465-2693 or email Rep.Justin.Ruffridge@akleg.gov. Visit akleg.gov to learn more about bills, committees, and hearing schedules.