It was great to have folks from the Kenai and Soldotna area stopping by my office while they were visiting the Capitol this week. There were fire chiefs, resident hunter advocates, school district administrators and principals talking about the issues they are facing.
The two main themes of the week were education and energy.
I support long term funding of K-12 schools and increasing the BSA — inside the formula. Inflation has affected all of us and school districts have been hit hard by cost increases, so if we want to improve education outcomes, we must increase school funding. BSA increases need to be made in consideration of accountability measures so that we can ensure additional funding results in improved outcomes.
My office is also working on oil and gas tax policy that will provide incentives to make enough Cook Inlet natural gas available for firm supply contracts that are sufficient to meet the needs of our gas and electric utilities.
Next week will be busy for my office with hearings for seven of my bills, along with one bill sponsored by the Labor and Commerce Committee that my office is carrying.
Two bills focus on ensuring Alaskans get full benefit of our fish and game resources: SB 168 Compensation for Wrongfully Seized Game would directly compensate Alaskans when game is confiscated in error, and SB 171 Residency Req: Hunting, Trapping, Fishing would ensure only Alaskan residents are able to enjoy resident license fees and bag limits.
SB 161 Tax Exemption for Farm Use Land would encourage in-state food production by improving the program that provides farmers with property tax breaks.
SB 179 Property Transfer Tax would protect Alaskans from unfair taxation by prohibiting municipalities and the state from imposing a transfer tax, fees or other assessments on sales, grants assignments or transfer of real property.
SB 181 Child Placement; Diligent Search would provide better outcomes for foster kids by encouraging diligent searches for family placements and giving OCS more latitude to make placement decisions in kids’ best interest.
SB 183, sponsored by the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee, would protect Alaskan workers by better ensuring the Workers’ Compensation Guaranty Benefit Fund is able to pay benefits to those injured on the job.
SB 197 Residential Building Code would provide Alaskans with more confidence that their new home is safe and well-built by establishing a state residential building code in areas not covered by a municipal code.
SB 215 would address poor student outcomes and teacher retention by providing bonuses to teachers who have been certified by the National Board of Certified Teachers.
I want to hear from you, so I’m holding town hall meetings in Cooper Landing and Moose Pass on Saturday, Feb. 17 and in Kenai and Nikiski on Saturday, Feb. 24. Can’t make it? You’re welcome to call my office at 907-283-7996 or email me at Sen.Jesse.Bjorkman@akleg.gov. I hope you’ll stop by to share your questions and ideas.