Legislative updates

Summary of the 2010 legislative session results:

Alaska state capitol building in Juneau
The sculpture of a grizzly bear stands near a public building a block away from the state Capitol in Juneau.

The 26th Alaska State Legislature adjourned 'sine die' in the wee hours of April 19. A number of university issues came to the forefront of discussions this year, including the funding for UA capital projects, consideration of a merit and needs-based scholarship program, the long-debated university land grant issue, as well as the yearly operating budget discussions. The following information is a brief summary of UA-related budget and legislative issues this session. Web links are provided for more information.

FY11 operating budget
The FY 2011 state operating budget was passed the last day of the legislative session. This budget totals $4.44 billion in state general funds, $1.937 billion in federal funds, and $1.8 billion in other funds.

UA received a $12.9 million increase, 3.9%, over the current fiscal year, covering the majority of the university's fixed costs. The total UA budget represents a little over 10% of the state operating budget.

With one exception, the six-member Conference Committee (Senators Hoffman, Stedman and Thomas, and Representatives Hawker, Stoltze and Gara) adopted the Senate Finance recommendations for the UA budget, the House intent language and seven appropriations (Senate version) with a transfer of 3% of university funds to provide more flexibility to the Board of Regents in the more rigid structure.

The exception was from the House Finance version of the operating budget was the ANSEP piece ($940,000 to the Dept. of Education for K-12 bridging.) (See UA Budget)
Now that the legislature has adjourned, the operating budget will be sent to the Governor for consideration. Typically, this happens within the next several weeks to allow for review time prior to Governor's vetoes 20 working days after he receives it. 

FY11 capital budget
As predicted, the GO Bond bill (HB 424) was one of the very last items to pass the legislature before adjournment. Also passed in the last hours was the final version of the FY11 capital budget (see: SB 230), (a total of $3.1 billion) which includes the following UA projects:

General fund dollars:

  • $37.5 million for deferred maintenance projects
  • $ 5.0 million for UAA Engineering facility planning and design
  • $10.0 million for UAF engineering & technology project design and development
  • $ 1.4 million for community campus planning
  • $ 1.8 million for Kenai Peninsula College Student Housing
  • $250,000 for Kachemak Bay Campus – New Facility Completion

$400,000 for SE campus mining machinery simulators

Also receipt authority for:

  • $20.6 million for receipt authority for Life Sciences Facility
  • $15.0 million for receipt authority for UA

Note: The capital budget does not contain any general fund dollars for the Life Sciences Facility, the Regents' only new construction priority. Instead, this project, along with a number of other UA projects in certain legislative districts, is being funded with a State General Obligation (GO) bond package to be placed on the November general election ballot for voter consideration, in SB 230 and HB 424. These bills include:

$88.0 million           UAF Life Sciences Classroom and Lab Facility
$60.0 million           UAA Community Arena and Athletic Facility
$14.5 million           Kenai campus career and technical education center
$16.0 million           Kenai campus student housing
$23.5 million           MatSu campus Valley center for art and learning
$ 5.0 million            Prince William Sound Community College campus R&R

Also included in the GO bond bill is:

$20.0 million           Mt. Edgecumbe High School aquatic facility
$18.5 million           State Library/Archives/Museum facility
$46.5 million           Alakanuk K-12 school replacement
$49.9 million           Kipnuk K-12 school renovation/addition
$32.1 million           Kwigillingok K-12 school renovation/addition
$20.0 million           Dept of Fish and Game Near Island Research Facility
$ 3.2 million            City of Klawock for Prince of Wales Island Voc Ed Center
($ 4.77 million           Bond sale expenses)

Total GO bond is $397,200,000, which includes $207,000,000 for UA.

Legislation

A number of bills worked their way through the committee process during the last days of session and made it to the floor just in time for adjournment. Any bill not acted on by both bodies and passed, 'died' on April 18th at midnight, the end of the two-year legislative session. The following is a brief summary of legislation that passed this year, legislation that may have an impact on UA, and bills that did not pass, but worthy of mention.

Higher Education Student Financial Aid - SB 221 was the vehicle which turned into a 'compromise' bill to expand the AlaskAdvantage program, establishing an Alaska Merit Scholarship Program (without new funding) establishing a short-term 15-member joint member advisory task force on higher ed and career readiness, and a longer-term 20-member advisory task force on higher ed and career readiness. $400,000 was included in a fiscal note to allow ACPE to award up to $3,000/year (was $2,000/year) in AlaskAdvantage grants, for a total not exceeding $12,000 over a six-year period, in addition to the current funding of $1.05 million.

Although it did not pass this year, one version of SB 174 included funding to partially pay for the UA Scholars Program, and open the scholarship up to the top 15% of Alaska High School graduates.


Higher Education Tax Credits SB 236 increases the amount of tax exemption given for contributions to an institution of higher education, with a cap of $5 million per year.

UPMIFA (Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act) - House Bill 416 passed on April 18th with virtually no amendments throughout the legislative process. It replaces obsolete rules and concepts of investment and management of endowments and charitable funds currently in use. It provides current, industry best practices guidelines, essential to proper management.

UA Debt Authorization - HB 184 provides an increase to debt authorization for UA from $1 million to a new limit of $2.5 million per year.

Bills worthy of mention that did pass and may have an impact on UA:

SB 220 – State omnibus energy legislation
HB 306 – State Energy Policy

Bills worthy of mention that did not pass:
SB 226 – Certificates of Participation for the UA Life Sciences Facility and State Crime Lab
SB 56 – Appropriation for Life Sciences Facility
HB 234, HB 295 and SB 225 – UA Land Grant
HB 235 – Professional Student Exchange Loan Forgiveness
HB 297 and SB 224 – Postsecondary Scholarships (GPS)
SB 206 – Appropriation for University Engineering Buildings ($100M)


April 13, 2010

FY11 Operating Budget
The Conference Committee finalized the FY11 state operating budget yesterday afternoon with a few open items yet to be determined. The six members consist of: Senators Hoffman, Stedman and Thomas, and Representatives Hawker, Stoltze and Gara.

The Conference Committee has been given limited powers, meaning the only items open for discussion were those that differed between the House and Senate. The committee and accepted the Senate numbers for the open items on the UA budget. The only number from the House budget was the ANSEP piece ($940,000 to the Dept. of Education for K-12 bridging.) (See UA Budget )They accepted the intent language from the House, kept the seven appropriations, and included the 3% transfer of funds to the BOR for more flexibility.

Once the few open items are resolved, the House and the Senate will approve the Conference Committee version on both floors before adjournment. It will then be sent to the Governor for consideration.

FY11 Capital Budget
Now the focus is on the FY11 capital budget.  It’s complicated. Bottom line is the Life Sciences Facility may be funded with a number of funding sources, including a general obligation bond, a university revenue bond, and general fund dollars. As of April 12, the House passed a $397.2 million GO bond bill to include $207 million for UA, including full funding of the Life Sciences Facility at $88 million, as well as several UA building projects, including:

$88.0 million Life Sciences Facility
$60.0 million UAA community arena and athletic facility
$14.5 million Kenai campus housing and technical education
$16.0 million Kenai campus housing
$23.5 million MatSu campus Valley center for art and learning
$ 5.0 million Prince William Sound Community College campus R&R

Also included in the GO Bond bill is:

$20.0 million Mt. Edgecumbe High School aquatic facility
$18.5 million State Library/Archives/Museum facility
$46.5 million Alakanuk K-12 school replacement
$49.9 million Kipnuk K-12 school renovation/addition
$32.1 million Kwigillingok K-12 school renovation/addition
$20.0 million Dept of Fish and Game Near Island Research Facility
$ 3.2 million City of Klawock for Prince of Wales Island Voc Ed Center
$ 4.77 million Bond sale expenses

Although the House Finance Committee noted intent to fund the Life Sciences Facility and UAA Sports Facility with some cash, the actions on the House Floor would indicate funding will come from the GO bonds. Total capital spending could be over $2.8 billion when the actions are finalized. Note there is currently $12.2 billion in state savings account.

The Senate has been holding onto the FY11 capital budget (SB 230), which includes over $2.2 billion in spending. The University projects funded with general fund dollars include $37.5M for deferred maintenance, $1.4M for community campus planning, and $5M for the UAA Engineering facility planning. Also included is $20.6M (UA revenue bond) for the Life Sciences Facility, $15M in receipt authority.

Bottom line on UA capital projects: It’s not over until the legislature adjourns.

Pending legislation

A number of bills are working their way through the committee process, and committees are now working through the early hours of the evening and weekend to get the hearings completed before the legislature adjourns April 18th. Any bill not acted on by both bodies and passed, will die on April 18th at midnight.

GPS – Probably will not pass this year, and the Department of Education will continue to work through the issues in this regard. However, SB 174 would include funding to partially pay for the UA Scholars Program, and open the scholarship up to the top 15% of Alaska High School graduates.

Higher Education Tax Credits – SB 236 has made its way over to the House Finance Committee and it looks like there is still time for passage. The House version (HB 367) has already had a number of hearings on the House side.


March 30, 2010

The Alaska State Senate has just passed their version of the FY11 state operating budget. With three weeks remaining in this legislative session, the '24 hour rule' will be invoked by the legislature once the Conference Committee on the FY11 operating budget is announced, possibility as early as next week. This means that the legislature can post legislation for a hearing 24 hours prior to the committee hearing. Expect bills to be moving at an accelerated pace through the legislative process at this juncture, as these are the last days of a two-year session, due to adjourn April 19. Also know that all bills not passed 'die' at the end, meaning work starts all over again the next legislative session.

FY11 operating budget
A detailed summary, including information regarding the differences in proposed intent language regarding a funding ratio, as well as a Senate version of a 3% funding scenario for 'system-wide appropriation' to address the Senate's version with seven appropriations. The full summary is available at: www.alaska.edu/state/fast-facts/

In addition, differences between the House and Senate budgets include the following highlights:

SENATE

4.3 percent increase in state general funds over the current fiscal year, for a total $14 million increment. The Senate proposes seven separate appropriations to the university.

$257,400 of compensation and increases in day-to-day expenses (fixed costs) would not be covered. The Senate budget revised the amount appropriated under the so-called "fuel trigger" by increasing the trigger start point and moving some one-time utility funds to base funding ($1.6 million).

The Senate version would support $950,000 for priority programs. It also includes program funding for the Alaska Natives in Science and Engineering Program at UAA ($1.2 million); the Alaska Summer Research Academy engineering component at UAF ($75,000); technology-based math and summer bridge programs ($150,000); and the Marine Advisory Program, part of UAF SeaGrant ($300,000).


HOUSE

$11.8 million increment, or a 3.6 percent increase in state funds over the current fiscal year. The House proposes a single appropriation (as did the governor.)

$832,400 of compensation and other fixed costs would not be covered. The House budget revised the amount appropriated under the "fuel trigger" by increasing the trigger start point and moving some one-time utility funds to base funding ($1.6 million).

The House version provided $950,000 in program money. Money for ANSEP, at $960,000 was included in the state Department of Education budget.


The operating budget process:
The Board of Regents submitted their FY11 operating budget request to the Governor last fall. The Governor submitted his budget, including his recommendations for the UA budget, to the legislature for consideration in January. The House and Senate have completed their deliberations on their versions of funding to operate state government. Now it is up to a Conference Committee, consisting of three members from each body, typically the co-chairs of the Finance Committees and one member from each House. The Conference Committee will meet in a formal committee setting (towards the very end of session), to negotiate the differences between the House and Senate versions. No additional funding is added to the budget. Only differing line items are open for discussion, and the Committee votes on which number to accept.

Once the Conference Committee is done with their work, the bill goes back to the House and Senate floors for final passage. It then travels to the Governor's desk for consideration. Once the bill is received by the Governor, he has 30 days to consider the budget before it is finalized. The budget goes into effect July 1, 2010. In rare occasions, the legislature has called for a special session to override the Governor's veto items. Typically, the budget stands once it is signed by the Governor without further legislative action.

FY11 capital budget
Now that legislative work on the operating budget is essentially done except for the Conference Committee actions, you will see action on the FY11 capital budget to provide for the infrastructure of state government, i.e. buildings, repairs and renovations, roads and airports, etc. As they say, 'it's not over until it is over' which is certainly the case with the capital budget deliberations. The capital budget is one of the last items of business before the legislature adjourns, as it contains 'bargaining chips' for the various legislative districts.

Key to the capital budget discussions this year is the UA Life Sciences Facility, as well as deferred maintenance. The Senate Finance Committee has held its public hearing on this budget, receiving over two hours of testimony during a statewide teleconference held on March 24th. Senate bills now under consideration include SB 230, (state FY11 capital budget including 37.5 million for UA deferred maintenance, $1.4 million for community campus planning) as well as SB 226 (Life Science/Crime Lab COP funding). Funding for engineering facilities ($10m request from the Regents for planning, and SB 206 (UAA/UAF Engineering facilities).

Postsecondary Scholarships

Hearings on these bills continue through the process, and amended versions of HB 297 and SB 224 includes a 'needs based' component. The fiscal note starts out at $14 million and is accelerated to $35 million five years out. The UA student governance leaders have been very active in supporting a needs-based scholarship, and work continues to sort out the details of the program.

Higher education tax credits
HB 367 and SB 236 provide cash contributions to an Alaskan educational or vocational institution. Under the current versions, donors receive a tax credit of 50 percent for contributions up to $100,000; 100% tax credit for contributions between $100,000 and $300,000, and a 50 percent tax credit for contributions over $300,000 and up to a maximum of $25 million per year. Both bills are in their respective Finance Committees.

UA Land Grant
Hearings continue on this legislation. HB 295 remains in the House Resources Committee after the last hearing.

Kudos
Thanks to all who participated in the recent Senate Finance Committee teleconference on the state operating budget. Your active involvement keeps the University front and center in the minds of the legislators, which is most effective when it comes time to determine budget outcomes.
Stay tuned for one more opportunity to participate in the House Finance Committee capital budget teleconference not yet announced.


March 15 – 19, 2010

With less than 30 days left before the Legislature adjourns April 19, much is happening in Juneau. Here's the latest regarding the University of Alaska.

Operating Budget:

After one meeting with UA, the Senate Finance Subcommittee (SFS) closed out the FY11 operating budget March 18, essentially restoring the Governor's budget numbers with several caveats. The subcommittee also amended intent language regarding a general fund ratio to UA-generated revenue. The subcommittee would increase the UA budget by 3.8 percent over the current fiscal year.

Major differences include the number of appropriations. The Governor and House propose one appropriation for UA; the Senate split it into seven appropriations spread throughout the campuses.

The SFS allocated 3 percent of UA funding into a 'systemwide appropriation' to give the Board of Regents flexibility in allocating funds between campuses when necessary, due to the multiple appropriations. This is a net zero change in the overall budget.

The subcommittee plan includes the following general fund distributions:

  • $1.2 million for the Alaska Natives in Science and Engineering Program
  • $314,200 for Anchorage fixed cost priorities
  • $300,000 for the Marine Advisory Program
  • $ 75,000 for the Alaska Summer Research Academy
  • $150,000 for individual technology based math and Summer Bridge Program at UAF
  • $260,800 for UA community campuses for additional lease cost increases

The Subcommittee also amended the House intent language to direct UA to move to a long-term goal of providing a higher ratio of other funding to balance state general funds (125 general fund to 100 percent other funds).

Expect the Senate Finance Committee to address the budget in committee late next week, with possible action by the full Senate soon after that. Once the Senate passes its version, the budget will go to a Conference Committee with the House.

The Senate Finance Committee will hold its statewide teleconference on Wednesday, 9 a.m., March 24. Public testimony is limited to two minutes each at the following Legislative Information Office locations:
9 – 9:45 a.m. Juneau
10 – 10:45 a.m. Kenai, Valdez, Ketchikan, Kodiak, Seward, Matsu, Glennallen, Tok
1:30 – 2:15 p.m. Fairbanks
2:30 – 3:15 p.m. Anchorage
3:30 – 4 p.m. Sitka, Wrangell, Petersburg, Homer, Dillingham, Cordova
4:15 – 5 p.m. Bethel, Kotzebue, Barrow, Nome, Delta Junction, Offnets

Capital Budget Status
On March 15, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on SB 226 to address the "certificate of participation" revenue bonding mechanism proposed for the Life Science Classroom and Lab facility, the top new construction priority of the Board of Regents.

Deven Mitchell from the Department of Revenue discussed the details of financing state capital projects with this method. No action was taken. Jay Quakenbush, Alaska Builders and Trades; Blake Williams, Central Labor Council; and Don Ethridge, AFL-CIO, testified in support of the Life Sciences facility.

On March 16, the Senate Finance Committee heard from UA President Mark Hamilton; Kit Duke, UA's chief facilities officer; and Michelle Rizk, UA associate vice president for budget, on the details of the university's capital budget request. The committee also held a statewide public hearing on March 18 on capital budget needs. The committee now will now look at the deferred maintenance and new construction requests from all agencies, municipalities, the university, court system and communities throughout Alaska.

Key items to the university's capital budget request are the deferred maintenance projects ($37.5 million in Governor's legislation), as well as the Life Sciences facility ($88 million) and planning money ($10 million) for the Engineering facilities at UAA and UAF. Funding scenarios, i.e. straight general fund dollars or a general obligation bond, are under discussion, as well as the COP revenue bonding mechanism. The capital budget is typically one of the last items to come before the House and Senate before they adjourn, so expect more discussion and opportunities for advocacy in the days ahead.

The House version of the UA Lands bill (HB 295) is in House Resources, its third committee of referral, and has had numerous hearings and amendments. Expect more action before the end of session.

The Governor's Performance Scholarship legislation has been heard in both the Senate and House Education Committees multiple times, and UA students have been advocating for a 'needs based' component to be included in the legislation. (HB 297 and SB 224) The merit based GPS is estimated to cost approximately $20 million per year once the program is up and running. The new fiscal note indicates a start of $14.5 million in FY12 and going up each year to show a total of $37 million in FY15. The Education Committee substitute for HB 297 addresses the 'needs based' aspect, and requires the student to qualify for the merit-based scholarship and demonstrate need for financial assistance. HB 297 is being heard in the House Finance Committee on March 22.

Kudos –
This past Tuesday, the UA Boosters Caucus had its fourth hearing on an overview of the university from various perspectives. This last meeting included individuals from the private sector who shared their experiences and support of university programs. Many thanks to these participants, including:

Jim Johnsen, Sr. Vice President of Administration, Doyon
Bruce Lamoureux, Chief Operating Officer, Providence Health
Doug Murray, President, Murray and Associates
John Aho, retired Vice President, CH2M-Hill
Boyd Morgenthaler, President, AMC Engineers
Jack Wilbur, President, Design Alaska Inc.
Anne Brooks, P.E., Owner Brooks and Associates
Eric Eriksen, AEL&P Vice-President of Transmission and Distribution

Five students from the Rural Alaska Honors Institute (RAHI) and Denise Wartes, the Executive Director, traveled to Juneau to present their documentary films at two legislative hearings and met with their legislators March 16. A special luncheon sponsored by the Senate Special Committee on World Trade, Technology & Innovation, and the House Special Committee on Economic Development, Trade & Tourism was held for legislators, staff and public officials to view the films and meet the student creators. This presentation was also broadcast on Gavel to Gavel 360 North.

Recognition goes to:
Corey Joseph from Kwigillingok ('A River without a River")
Jayna Kelly from Pilot Station ("Living Alaskan Life")
Samantha Foss from Pedro Bay ("Pedro Bay and the Pebble Mine")
Laura Fox from Takotna ("Takotna")
Nellie Iyapana from Little Diomede ("Let Your Light Shine")
Also shown:
Jerica Aamodt from Barrow ("Barrow and Global Warming")

The Staff Alliance leaders were also in Juneau for several days this past week to advocate for the University of Alaska. They spent time meeting with legislators and attending committee hearings. Thanks to:

Maria Russell, Chair, Staff Alliance and President-elect, UAF Staff Council
Martin Klein, President, UAF Staff Council
Megan Carlson, President, UAA Classified Council
Russell Pressley, President, UAA APT Council
Cynthia Rogers, President, UAS Staff Council
Gwenna Rogers, Vice President, UAS Staff Council
Vicky Inkster, Member, UAS Staff Council
Kim Eames, President, Statewide Administration Assembly
Lisa Sporleder, Member, Statewide Staff Alliance
Melodee Munson, UAA winner, 2005 Staff Make Students Count award
Suzanne Browner, member, UAA APT Council

Next Week
March 22 - HB 297 – GPS legislation in House Finance
March 21-23 - UAF Alumni Board members meeting with legislators
March 24 – Senate Finance Committee statewide teleconference on the state operating budget
All week - Continuing hearings on the State operating budget in Senate Finance

On behalf of UA, thank you for all your help in supporting our university system.


March 12, 2010

The legislative session is more than half over, and there is still much to be completed before April 19. Many university advocates are actively working to promote this institution and it is greatly appreciated!

FY11 operating budget

The House Finance Committee reviewed the FY11 operating budget, and added back the utility cost surcharges of approximately $1.6 million, as well as a complicated funding formula to hold the university at a 'level' rate of spending based on the percentage of general funds vs. 'other' non-state funds. Amendments to include the Marine Advisory Program funding and new programs as requested by the UA Board of Regents both failed in the committee. House action concludes March 12th, and although an amendment was considered to add in the new UA programs, it failed.

Meanwhile, the Senate Finance Subcommittee on the UA Budget (also a 'committee of the whole'), met last week, and will meet again on March 16th to close out their version of the FY11 operating budget for the university.

Note: Expect the Senate Finance Committee will be holding a statewide legislative teleconference around March 25 or 26 to ask the public for input about the FY11 operating budget. Although testimony is limited to two minutes, it is a great way to get out and show support for the university, or any other state-funded entity for that matter.

FY11 Capital Budget
Discussions are now being started on consideration of the FY11 capital budget, the funding that provides buildings and infrastructures. A hearing on SB 226, the Governor's bill to finance the Life Sciences Facility with Certificates of Participation, has its first hearing in the Senate Finance Committee March 15th.

There are several scenarios for funding the Life Sciences facility, the UA Board of Regents only new construction priority for FY11. This includes the Governor's legislation to fund it with 'Certificates of Participation', a revenue bonding mechanism of sorts, straight general fund appropriation, or a general obligation bond which would be presented to the voters in the upcoming general election this November. 'Build America' bonds are also being talked about, as the interest rates are lower than a GO bond rate because the federal govt. 'buys down' the interest rate to make it more affordable. Currently, the Build America Bond rates are at 3%. 

The university has a long list of deferred maintenance projects, as do all state agencies. The Governor introduced SB 253 and HB 325 to grant $100 million to start to address these projects, including $37.5 million of UA projects. Although the Governor had indicated he wanted this bill to pass early in the session to get the projects out in the street for this next construction season, more detailed information has been requested on state projects before the House Finance Committee will consider the legislation. The university has provided a very detailed list of projects, and stands ready to address questions regarding our request. 

Expect more action in the capital budget area once the operating budget gets through the House and Senate.

Legislation:
Scholarships - Both the House and Senate Education Committees have been working through a version of the postsecondary scholarships, commonly referred to as the “GPS” bill, or Governor's Performance Scholarship legislation. UA students have been very active in supporting this legislation as well as including a 'needs based' component to the bill. Expect committee substitutes to come out of both committees shortly, with an expanded fiscal note, meaning it will cost more than the original estimate of $20 million per year.
Education Tax Credits - The House has currently introduced a bill mirroring the Senate version of the education tax credits to postsecondary institutions in the state. Multiple hearings have transpired, and the Department of Revenue is weighing in on the ramifications to state coffers. This legislation would increase the amount of tax credits a business or corporation could receive by donating funds to the university or other qualifying postsecondary entity in the state.
UA Lands legislation – The House version of this bill (HB 295) has moved out of the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee, and still has two more committees of referral before it can come to a floor vote in the House. A hearing is scheduled for March 17th in the House Resources Committee. The most recent version of the bill would transfer about 200,000 acres of land to the university. This is the sixth time this legislation has been before the legislature, having been struck down by the Alaska Supreme Court due to an issue of funding appropriations. 

Recent advocacy efforts:
Kudos to all those that participated in the recent House Finance Committee's statewide teleconference on the FY11 operating budget. Committee members heard from university supporters representing all areas of the state.

A group of the Coalition of Student Leaders is in Juneau this week to advocate for the university budget and scholarship programs. Most of these students attempted to get into Juneau earlier this session to join the rest of the student leaders, and instead, gained a great deal of knowledge about Southeast Alaska as they waited for the fog to lift in the capital city.

The Staff Alliance will be coming to Juneau March 15-16, and the UAF Alumni Association Board members will be here March 21-23.

Five UAF Rural Alaska Honors Institute graduates (high school students) will be in Juneau March 16th to present their short documentary films about their villages created during last summers' program. The films were written and created by: Corey Joseph from Kwigillingok, Jayna Kelly from Pilot Station, Laura Fox from Takotna, Samantha Foss from Pedro Bay, Jerica Aamodt from Barrow, and Nellie Iyapana from Diomede. To view their films, see:  http://www.yahdiimedia.com/rahifilmfest.html.

Speaking of students, eight UA students and one student from the University of Utah are working in legislative offices this session in the UA Legislative Internship Program run by Clive Thomas, Professor of Political Science and statewide program coordinator at UAS. They are: Michael Dunning, (UAA), working for Rep. Peggy Wilson, Robert Ervine (UAA), working for Rep. Lindsey Holmes, Brenda Hannah, (UAF), working for Sen. John Coghill, Amy Hundertmark, (UAF), working for Rep. David Guttenberg, Quinn Kendall, (University of Utah), working for Sen. Bettye Davis, Jennifer Penaherrera (UAF), working for Rep. Paul Seaton, Ellie Sica, (UAS), working for Rep. Berta Gartner, Megan Rodgers, (UAA), working for Sen. Bill Wielechowski,and Peder Terland, (UAA), working for Rep. Pete Petersen.

It is a well known fact that some interns go onto legislative staff positions, as well as run for public offices, winning legislative seats in their home districts. Kudos to these students for spending the legislative session working with constituents, assisting with legislation and learning the legislative process firsthand.  

Cooperative Extension Service agents, as well as 4-H leaders and students, and Future Farmers of America leaders were also in Juneau recently to learn about the legislative process, and advocate for the university.

Next week:
Hearings on SB 226 – Life Sciences facility (3/15 – Senate Finance Committee), UA FY11 operating budget closeout in Senate Finance Subcommittee (March 16); UA Lands (HB 295) in House Resources (March 17); UA Boosters Caucus – Private sector – (March 17); RAHI students documentary film premier (March 16)


Weeks of February 14-27, 2010

FY11 Operating Budget
The House Finance Subcommittee closed out the university's FY11 operating budget request this past week, cutting the Governor's budget by $2.3 million. The amended budget does not support additional energy costs borne by UAF due to weather and energy cost increases, nor does it support a request to fund new costs associated with two new facilities, (the Integrated Science Facility in Anchorage, and the additional cost to UAF now that the State Virology Building is on line.) In addition, the members considered a future funding formula to fund the operating budget based on state general fund support as a percentage of the total funds the university raises elsewhere.

Happenings:
UA Student Governance Coalition members met in Juneau this past week to learn about the legislative process and meet with legislators on issues important to their membership, including needs-based funding for students. Many of the students learned about the process the hard way as they flew throughout Alaska and Seattle trying to land in Juneau during a very foggy weekend. Needless to say, not all made it into the capital city, and some have plans to try again. Those members that did make it into Juneau were able to meet with many legislators and staff, and met with the UA Boosters Caucus, as well as UAF Chancellor Rogers and Dept. of Education Commissioner Larry LeDoux. Kudos to all the students who participated – in and out of Juneau!

Special Note:
The House Finance Committee has posted times and locations for their only statewide teleconference on the FY11 state operating budget March 2nd and 3rd. This is your opportunity to tell the legislators what is important to you about the university budget in terms of programs, research, outreach, and higher education in Alaska.

What to expect in the next few weeks:
Many members of the legislature will be traveling to Washington DC to attend the annual Energy Council meetings, so expect committee hearings and floor sessions to be in recess until March 9th. Once they get back, the House will be in full gear to pass the FY11 state operating budget, and the Senate is already having subcommittee hearings on the same subject, with the intent to get their version of the budget on the Senate floor by March 22nd or so.

The UAF Alumni Association will be in Juneau March 21-23 to meet with legislators and staff about issues important to the organization, including the Life Sciences Facility, deferred maintenance funding, and legislation dealing with education tax credits, and the Governor's Performance Scholarship program.

Also note that when the operating budget deliberations are being finalized, the capital project budgets will be under discussion. While it is typical not to see the results until the very end of session, it's not too early to send in letters of support for Life Sciences, and deferred maintenance at UA. The session ends April 19, 2010.


Review of week of February 8-12, 2010

Coming up week of February 16-21, 2010

The legislature is heading into finishing up the first month of session, with two months to go as of Feb. 19. This report is a review of the week of Feb. 8-12, and an overview of this current week of Feb. 15-21 as it relates to university issues.

FY11 Operating/Capital Budgets:
This past week, all three UA Chancellors testified before the House Finance Subcommittee on the UA budget, each talking about the partnerships, cooperation and continuity between the three major academic units. The Co-Chairs of House Finance wanted to know if the university was one entity, or three, and also asked the group to explain the organizational structure of the university, as it is different from that of a state agency. The Subcommittee is comprised of all the members of the full committee, although not all members were present. Note the House Finance Subcommittee will continue to meet on Tuesday mornings until they close out the University FY11 operating budget.

Note the current plan is for the House to complete their operating budget deliberations before March 15th, and the Senate plans to finish their subcommittee hearings by March 22nd or so, giving the body time to override any vetoes by the governor before adjourning on April 19th.

The three chancellors also testified before the new UA Boosters Caucus, again talking about the coordination between the university campuses, and each talked about some of the specifics of their respective units. The UA Boosters Caucus was formed this past December to provide support on matters pertaining to the University. This ad-hoc group has four co-chairs, including Senators Ellis and Thomas, and Representatives Dahlstrom and Fairclough. They intend to meet four times during session, and the first meeting was devoted to talking to the Chancellors about their respective campuses. They will also be meeting with the Student Governance Coalition on February 22, and plan a meeting with the Board of Regents, as well as one with members of the public prior to adjournment.

Another budget bill of note is the Governor's deferred maintenance bill (HB 325 and SB 253), which would provide 'early' funding of a $100 million list of capital projects aimed at public buildings and infrastructures. Included in these bills is $37.5 million for the University's deferred maintenance projects, figured on a percentage of total university buildings in relationship to all state buildings.

Note: Be prepared to participate in the House Finance Committee's statewide FY11 operating budget teleconference, due to come up possibly as early as the last week in February. These times will be posted on our website when we learn of the hearing. This is one of two times in the legislative session where the public is asked to comment on the various aspects of the state operating budget, and although a time allotment of 2 minutes is posted, the more individuals that testify from every area of the state, the better. Stay tuned!


Legislation:

Life Sciences: SB 56, an appropriation bill for the Life Sciences Facility, was heard in the Senate Education Committee and moved out to the next committee of referral, the Senate Finance Committee – Senators Thomas, Stevens, and Davis each signed 'do pass' on the committee report.

Engineering: Also heard and passed out was SB 206, a $100 million appropriation bill to fund both an engineering facility on the UAA campus and the UAF campus. This bill also received the same referral to Senate Finance, and Senators Thomas, Meyer, Stevens and Davis signed 'do pass'.

These bills will now sit in the Senate Finance Committee until such time as the Co-Chairs decide to hold hearings on the FY11 capital budget.

UA Lands Bills: One version of the UA Lands bill (HB 295) was also moved to the next committee of referral after being amended in the House Education Committee. The Committee Substitute deleted a portion of the land listed in the original version of the bill. This bill still has three committees to pass through before a House Floor hearing.

Education Tax Credits: SB 236, the education tax credit legislation, has been introduced on the Senate side. Currently, the law allows for an education tax credit of 50% of the first $100,000 given to an educational institution in the state, and 10% from $100,000 to $200,000. This bill would give a 50% tax credit for contributions over $200,000.

Governor's Performance Scholarship: SB 224 has had several hearings in the Senate Education Committee, and a committee substitute is in the works to consider a needs-based scholarship program as well. The committee is hearing the bill again this week.

Other items of interest:
Note the Board of Regents will be meeting in Fairbanks this week on Feb. 17-18, and will take public testimony on Thursday, Feb. 18 from 9 to 10 a.m. in person only. They will also be deliberating over their selection choices for the next university president, and will narrow the choices down to between 2-4 candidates. The remaining candidates will then meet with the Fairbanks community on March 1, the Anchorage community on March 2 and in Juneau on March 3. A full schedule and candidate names will be posted on the Regents' website when the names and times become available. (See: www.alaska.edu/bor/)

This week February 15 - 21:
Juneau Meetings:
Feb. 21 – 24 Coalition of Student Leaders meet in Juneau
Feb. 23 – Annual UAF Alumni Ice Cream Social – House Speaker's Chambers


Feb. 5, 2010

Three weeks into the 90-day session, and legislators' calendars are already packed with meetings, appointments, receptions, and House budget subcommittee hearings. School District representatives from around the state are due to land in Juneau this coming week.

FY11 Operating/Capital Budget:
The House Finance Subcommittee on the UA budget consists of all members of the House Finance Committee, as does the Senate's UA subcommittee makeup. To date, there have been two hearings on the operating budget, with the next one scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 9th with all three UA Chancellors giving overviews of their campuses.

The Senate Education Committee will have a hearing on February 10th regarding the Life Sciences Facility, and Engineering facilities at UAA and UAF.

The Governor's bill on funding $100 million of deferred maintenance projects, including $37.5 million of UA projects, is up for a hearing in House Finance Feb. 9th and 10th.

Legislation:
The UA Lands issue is again before the legislature. The issue is two fold – one to reauthorize prior conveyances of lands to the state's land-grant university, and also to address the issue of 'designated receipts'. The House bill has picked up its fourth committee of referral and has now had two hearings this session. The Senate bill has not had a hearing yet. A hearing on HB 295 is scheduled for Feb. 8th in the House Education Committee. In addition, HB 234 also addresses this issue.

The Governor's Performance Scholarship (HB 297 and SB 224) has had hearings in both the House and Senate Education Committees. Discussions center around the metrics of awards, as well as needs-based scholarships for Alaskan students. Another hearing is scheduled for Feb. 12th.

Professional Student Exchange loan forgiveness legislation is receiving some attention in the House Education Committee, and another hearing is scheduled for Feb. 8th in the House Education Committee.

Hearings of note:
The Senate Labor and Commerce Committee met this past week to get an overview from the Department of Commerce, Community and Regional Development, AIDEA, the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce and Representative Austerman's staff regarding an analysis of economic development opportunities through the state of Alaska. Rep. Austerman was recently appointed to chair the House Finance Subcommittee on Fiscal Policy. A newly formed ad-hoc committee known as the "UA Boosters Caucus" will meet on February 10th in the new Beltz Committee Room in the renovated Thomas Stewart Building located next to the Capitol building. Members include Senators Ellis, Thomas, Paskvan, Egan, French, Stevens, Wielechowski, Menard, and Representatives Holmes, Kelly, Gatto, Gardner, Guttenberg, Munoz, Petersen, and Ramras….. All three Chancellors are scheduled to speak at the meeting.

A new staff listing is available now. Please note there have been a number of office changes since last year, so be sure to check the roster before venturing into the Capitol Building.

Be sure to bookmark the calendar listing upcoming legislative committee hearings relative to UA issues.


Jan. 30, 2010

The Second Session of the 26th Alaska State Legislature began on Jan. 19, 2010, and is off to a quick start. The committee hearing calendars are action-packed.

Operating budget: The UA Board of Regents FY11 operating and capital budgets was submitted to the Governor in November. Gov. Parnell's FY11 operating budget for the university, at $339 million in state appropriations, includes money for most of the university's fixed costs as well as $950,000 in new money for energy programs.



The House Finance Subcommittee on the UA Budget now consists of 'a committee of the whole'; the Senate Finance Committee has this arrangement as well. Representative Anna Fairclough chairs this subcommittee.

The first of many hearings by the House Finance Subcommittee on the UA budget this past week to set the stage for discussions. Regent Mary Hughes and President Hamilton addressed the members about the UA FY11 operating and capital budget request.

Capital Budget: The UA Board of Regents for many years has put maintenance as its first priority in the system's annual capital budgets. Gov. Sean Parnell announced a five-year, $100 million per year plan to improve public buildings and infrastructure, which would provide the UA system with $37.5 million per year.

Thanks to the efforts of many UAF Alumni, Fairbanks community leaders and organizations, UAF students, faculty and staff, the Life Sciences project is the regents' No. 1 new construction request for the FY11 budget cycle. The governor also announced his support for the Life Sciences Classroom and Lab Facility (SB 226), a statewide research and teaching facility on the UAF campus, and addressed it in his 'State of the State' address on January 20th. A similar bill was introduced by Sen. Thomas (SB 56) last session. The Senate Education Committee will be holding a hearing on this bill on February 10th.

Legislation: Here are some bills of interest to the university:

  • Governor's Performance Scholarship (HB 297 and SB 224)
    Legislators have begun to examine the Governor's new 'GPS' proposal to provide state-funded scholarships for academic achievement of Alaska's high school graduates. Expect to hear much discussion in Juneau this session on this subject.
  • UA Land Grant legislation - (HB 295 and SB 225)
    These bills address the resolution of the UA Land Grant issue.  The bill received a referral to four committees, and it had one hearing this past week.
  • Establish an advisory task force on higher education (SB 221)
    This legislation would establish a 13-member advisory task force to examine the many issues concerning 'college readiness'.
  • Also see: Upcoming legislative committee hearings calendar.

2010 Session Commences

A new legislative session has commenced and the next 90 days will fly by fast. Already the legislature has scheduled hearings, and many groups have been meeting with legislators and staff in Juneau.

A number of legislators have been appointed to House and Senate seats vacated for various reasons this past interim. Representative Coghill has replaced Senator Therriault in the Senate when he left to work with the Governor in oil and gas issues; Tammy Wilson (North Pole) was appointed to take Coghill's seat in the House; and Neal Foster was appointed to his (late) father's House seat.

This year, the university's FY11 operating budget was submitted to the Governor by the Board of Regents, and the governor chose to fund the 'fixed costs' as well as a few requests for CES and energy-related programs.

Issues to follow this year include the Governor's Performance Scholarship and needs-based scholarships, UA Land Grant, energy programs, and in particular, the Life Sciences Facility, the Regent's only new construction project request for FY11, as well as the deferred maintenance projects throughout the system.

Thank you for all you do to support the University of Alaska. Your active advocacy makes a difference in the legislative arena.

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