The Twenty-third Session of the Alaska Legislature has now been under way for nearly seven weeks and quite a bit has been happening. The appointment of Representative Lisa Murkowski to the US Senate prior to the beginning of our session had a direct and important effect on this legislator. With her move, our caucus elected Representative John Coghill to replace her as Majority Leader. As organizational changes rippled down through our caucus structure I had the opportunity to move from Chairman of the Joint Legislative Budget and Audit Committee to a full seat on the House Finance Committee. I did retain a seat on the audit committee and will still have the opportunity to pursue my mission to improve the accountability of government.
District 32 will be very well represented in State finances this session. Our Senator, Con Bunde, serves on the Senate Finance Committee as well as with me on the Joint Legislative Budget and Audit Committee. Senator Bunde and I continue to work closely together on all matters of concern to our District, paying particular attention to how the recently announced budget affects our communities.
The most significant legislation I am advocating this session is HB55, a bill requested by the city of Whittier, allowing the City to construct and lease a correctional facility to the State. If approved, this project will bring over 500 construction and 450 permanent jobs to the area. This project will keep over $30 million a year from being spent to house Alaska prisoners at contract facilities in Arizona. This is a lot of money that I want to see put to use in the Turnagain Arm community, not the Arizona desert.
My attentions in Whittier also include facilitating relations and communications with the Alaska Railroad, improving and expanding small boat harbor facilities and completing the road access to Shotgun Cove. These and other well-planned developments in Whittier are important to the future of the community and all of south central Alaska.
There are several legislative and advocacy issues I am working on that effect Girdwood. HB139 extends the administrative order closing the Winner Creek area to new mining claims for ten years in order to allow further ski area development. This bill is supported by diverse interests throughout the community and provides assurance to potential investors that the State and the community favor responsible development here.
Public transportation needs in Girdwood are also on my priority list. I am working with Municipality of Anchorage officials to allow additional private sector transportation services to operate. Girdwood is slated to receive $10 million for transportation improvements from this year's federal appropriations bill. These projects will likely include including paving in the Town Square and other areas, non-motorized pathways and bus stops. These projects should bring welcome improvements.
I also successfully moved a bill through the House related to ballot measures in primary elections. HB46 directs the Division of Elections to offer a separate ballot presenting only the ballot measures and propositions being voted on. This ballot would be an additional choice for voters, allowing them to vote on issues without having to declare a party preference to receive a ballot. This is one of the few times I can remember the American Civil Liberties Union and the Republican Party both supporting the same bill.
I can be contacted by phone at 1-800-478-4950, by email at email@example.com or by regular mail to Representative Mike Hawker, State Capitol, Room 434, Juneau, Alaska, 99801. My office will be providing regular legislative updates by email. I encourage anyone interested in receiving this email to contact us. This is a great way to keep in touch, especially during the legislative session.
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Representative Mike Hawker is a Republican representing District 32, The Chugach Park District, in Southcentral Alaska. His district includes the City of Whittier, which supports the HB 55 proposal.