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News from the Senate and House Majorities

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Sen. Rick Halford
State Capitol, Room 111
Juneau, AK 99801-1182
Phone: (907) 465-4958
Fax: (907) 465-4928


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Rep. Brian Porter
State Capitol, Room 208
Juneau, AK 99801-1182
Phone: (907) 465-4930
Fax: (907) 465-3834


22nd Legislature Ends
Successful 1st Session
Education, Alcohol, Gas Line, Economy Top Accomplishments

For Immediate Release: May 8, 2001
Contact: Senator Rick Halford at (907) 465-4958
Representative Brian Porter at (907) 465-4930

(JUNEAU) - The Twenty-Second Alaska Legislature concluded its first session Tuesday evening having successfully addressed key issues important to Alaskans, including supporting education, encouraging gas line development, fighting alcohol abuse, and building the state's infrastructure and economy.

Completion of a five-year, $250 million state government reduction plan afforded the Republican-led Majority the opportunity this year to make significant new investments in vital state functions, including education, alcohol prevention, economic development and infrastructure, legislative leaders said.

"This session has been notable for the high degree of civility and adherence to the public process members have shown in working through issues that are important to us all," said Speaker of the House Brian Porter (R-Anchorage). "Through quiet deliberation and dedication to the legislative process, we produced fewer headlines, but, I believe, more lasting results for Alaskans."

"We started the session with a number of important issues and we gave them the consideration they deserved," said Senate President Rick Halford (R-Chugiak). "We passed reforms to our competency exam laws that are fair but still expect the best from our students, we helped lay the foundation for the construction of a natural gas pipeline, and we took steps to curb Alaska's suicide epidemic."

Halford and Porter pointed to the major accomplishments of the 22nd Legislature's first session in the areas most important to Alaskans:

Education

  • Approved the biggest increase in K-12 school funding in many years, including $18.3 million more for the foundation formula, $12 million in Learning Opportunity Grants, and $2 million for charter schools
  • Provided $50.6 million to reimburse school districts for 100 percent of pupil transportation costs
  • Invested $65 million in the University of Alaska, including $30 million for an Arctic regions supercomputer, $8 million for the museum in Fairbanks, and $2.5 million for new classrooms in Juneau
  • Provided more than $100 million to build seven new schools, and to address 32 projects on the Department of Education's major maintenance list

Alcohol and Tobacco

  • Instituted tough new limits on impaired driving, including stiffer penalties for first-time and repeat offenders, lowering blood alcohol limits to 0.08 percent
  • Instituted innovative therapeutic courts to break the downward spiral of substance abuse and make Alaska's highways safer from impaired drivers
  • Enacted and reinvigorated laws designed to keep children from obtaining and drinking alcohol, and giving an expanded law enforcement force the legal tools to fight bootlegging
  • Providing about $6 million each year for tobacco cessation and prevention programs, plus $500,000 targeted specifically at keeping young Alaskans from becoming addicted to tobacco

Economic Development

  • Encouraged a route for a potential pipeline that would bring North Slope natural gas to market south along the Alaska Highway, assuring Alaskans the jobs, state revenue and economic development benefits that would come from such development
  • Encouraged long-term commitment to develop state resources, by extending the maximum pipeline right-of-way lease renewals to 30 years from 10 years, requiring a single "best-interest" finding to issue state permits for development projects with multiple phases, and clarifying when changes in a permitted activity constitutes a "substantial change"
  • Created the legal framework necessary to complete sale of the Four-Dam Pool hydroelectric facilities

Infrastructure

  • Invested $572 million for construction, maintenance and upgrade of surface transportation projects across the state
  • Leveraged $14 million in state funds to invest a total of $56 million in rural water and wastewater projects, fully funding the program
  • Authorized $352 million through bonds and other fund sources for maintenance and improvement of the Anchorage and Fairbanks international airports
  • Authorized $16 million for bonds to round out a $41.7 million funding package to build a long-needed replacement for the run-down Alaska Psychiatric Institute

"This year Alaskans said education was their top priority, and we responded, providing some of the largest increases in education funding in state history," said Sen. Dave Donley (R-Anchorage), co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. "We increased state spending on education by more than $34 million in a number of areas, including increasing the base student allocation in the education foundation funding formula. Making sure all of Alaska's students receive the best possible education is the wisest investment in our future we can make."

"Our success in the Finance Committee this year clearly demonstrates the advantages of budgeting according to missions and measures ? defining the results we want from government, and making sure it's delivering," said Rep. Eldon Mulder (R-Anchorage), co-chair of the House Finance Committee. "We saw departments, divisions and programs think more directly about what it is they're trying to do and how they're providing their services, and I think it's made them more effective in the way they've been able to deliver those services."

"The Legislature is making significant investments in Alaska's infrastructure, in the schools, roads, airports, utilities, harbors and ports that help bind our big state into a single community," said Rep. Bill Williams (R-Saxman), co-chair of the House Finance Committee. "Using state and federal funds to the best advantage, we'll build and improve roads around the state, improve water and wastewater services in our villages, build needed facilities at University of Alaska campuses, construct juvenile corrections facilities in Kenai and Fairbanks, and renovate homes for senior citizens."

"It is important to note that while we increased funding this year, we didn't erase the five years of hard work that went into cutting $250 million in unnecessary spending from the budget," said Sen. Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks), co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. "We considered each addition carefully, provided more money where it was truly needed, and still came in more than $60 million under the governor's proposed spending plan. Alaskans trust us to spend their money prudently, and we definitely did that this session."

# # #

Attachments:

Broadcasters Note: Audio comments are available on the Majority Actuality line:
1-800-478-6540 or below.

= Brian Porter, 71 K = Rick Halford, 80 K
= Eldon Mulder, 110 K

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| Sen. Halford's Page | Rep. Porter's Page |

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