Advocacy/Legislative Update 3.6.20

Budget passes House – without a PFD

After the last several years of days/weeks long budget hearings with literally hundreds of amendments along party lines, this year’s operating budget process was relatively tame (and fast).  That is mostly due to the Governor introducing a “status quo” budget and not showing support (or really any type of emotion) for further cuts.  The fight is really shaping up to be all about the permanent fund dividend check and the amount that goes out to constituents.  It’s an election year so it is likely that we get another band-aid and not a solution to what has been the elephant in the room these last few years.  Cuts are hard.  They take courage and substantial work and research – people don’t want their services cut, but they also don’t want their PFD cut.  So…..

VPSO Reform Bill gets a Hearing

Tanana Chiefs Conference has been working for years to get lawmakers and state administrators to not only fully fund the Village Public Safety Officer Program, but also to give us the flexibility we need to recruit and retain qualified people to make positive change in our Rural communities.  Because of our loud voice and growing tensions with the Administration, House Speaker Bryce Edgmon convened a bipartisan, bicameral working group to specifically address the issues that were raised.  The outcomes of that panel were drafted into legislation with our assistance – HB287.  House Tribal Affairs held the bills first hearing this Tuesday and our own Will Mayo testified in support.  Will gave powerful testimony that can be see here at the 09:17:09 AM mark.

REAL ID getting REAL

There has been a lot of hubbub on the Administration’s handling of the upcoming deadline for REAL ID.  The Commissioner of Administration, Kelly Tshibaka, in charge of the Department of Motor Vehicles, made the news back in December after she asked people (and Tribes) for donations to fly the DMV out to Rural communities to create the REAL ID’s.  Senator Lyman Hoffman WAS NOT HEARING THAT!  In a Senate Finance hearing, the long-serving Bethel law-maker raked Commissioner Tsibaka over the coals for suggesting the Tribes should pay for something that the Administration could have easily prepared for and requested appropriations for through the supplemental budget process. Click here for the article and the video. In response to the lack of response from the Administration, House State Affairs decided to hold a hearing where Tribal Organizations could weigh in on the challenges that they were currently experiencing and anticipated during the next months on getting beneficiaries compliant with the law.  TCC, Central Council, Kawerak, and Maniilaq (basically the Alaska Regional Coalition, yay us!) provided testimony that resulted in the DMV developing a pilot program with a partnership with RAVN air to make REAL ID accessible in Rural Alaska – story here.  It’s great to see our advocacy efforts paying off!!

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