With so much at stake, public needs to engage

  • Thursday, January 7, 2016 5:26pm
  • Opinion

Among the remarks from state Sen. Peter Micciche during a Tuesday luncheon, perhaps the most important came during the end of his presentation, when he urged central Kenai Peninsula residents to be engaged with the political process.

Indeed, the Legislature will be handling some big issues during the session that starts Jan. 19 — the Alaska LNG project, a $3.5 billion budget deficit, budget cuts, changes to the permanent fund, a potential income or state sales tax, just to name a few.

Too often, it seems legislators are making decisions in a vacuum, with little input from those affected early in the process. The outcry generally only comes after a decision has already been made.

“If we’re going to make government efficient, but still deliver the services you expect, you have to engage,” Micciche said.

Fortunately in Alaska, engaging public officials is not difficult. For starters, lawmakers are generally accessible. In a small community, we frequently cross paths with elected officials at one function or another.

If none of those options work, you can reach them by phone or email. Here’s contact information for local legislators during the session:

— Sen. Peter Micciche (District O): 1-800-964-5733, Senator.Peter.Micciche@akleg.gov

— Sen. Gary Stevens (District P): 1-800-821-4925, Senator.Gary.Stevens@akleg.gov

— Rep. Mike Chenault, House Speaker (District 29): 1-800-469-3779, Rep.Mike.Chenault@akleg.gov

— Rep. Kurt Olson (District 30): 1-800-463-2693, Rep.Kurt.Olson@akleg.gov

— Rep. Paul Seaton (District 31): 1-800-665-2689, Rep.Paul.Seaton@akleg.gov

Before you call or email, it’s best to make sure you’re familiar with the subject on which you wish to comment. Sen. Micciche suggested tuning in to Gavel Alaska on 360 North to watch legislative hearings — maybe not every hearing, but at least the ones concerning the issues you’re interested in.

One of the best resources is the Legislative Information Office, located at 145 Main Street Loop, No. 217, in Kenai. LIO staff can connect people with information about the Legislature, session schedules, updates on legislation and contact information for lawmakers. The LIO also hosts numerous teleconferences throughout the session, allowing residents to listen and offer comment to legislators in person. To contact the LIO, call 907-283-2030, or email Kenai.LIO@akleg.gov.

More information on legislation can be found on the Legislature’s website, akleg.gov. Online streaming of hearings may be found at alaskalegislature.tv/.

Legislators also need to hear from you. The LIO hosts periodic constituent meetings with area lawmakers, and residents can talk can call or email during the session.

Remember, government of, by and for the people only works if the people are engaged. Stay informed and become a part of the process that will shape our state for years to come.

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