Legislative Action

Issue Areas:

 
 

Arts & Culture

Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act

Federal action has been taken to protect the social and cultural diversities of Alaska's native population. The Alaska Federation of Natives had initially served to aid in passing legislation that set up the still present native corporations, while also ensuring that land was guaranteed to the Native population by the state (Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act, originally enacted in 1971 and 1980 respectively, but amended in more recent years). Now, the organization is aiming to protect the cultural aspects of the native community by advocating on their behalf at the federal level.

Percent for Art in Public Places

Arts: In 1975, the Alaska Legislature passed the Percent for Art in Public Places statute requiring the expenditure of one percent of the capital construction costs of public buildings for the acquisition and permanent installation of artwork. This initiative has served to make artistic expression an important part of the aesthetic of the Anchorage community.  Still, many conservatively minded people wish to do away with this important contribution to the arts community, which primarily stems from a lack of understanding how important it is to the future of the city.

The "Meno" street art incident. 

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Though this does not consist of legislative action, the ruling in the case did once and for all determine the APD's stand on street art. Despite much support and defiance from the local arts community, the local police department arrested and charged local Alaska street artist "Meno" for vandalizing public property. Several local institutions, including the Spenard hangout "Tap Root" have shown their support by granting "Meno" the artistic license to decorate portions of the outsides of their buildings, or to display his stencil work on their walls.

 

Community & Economic Development

U.S. Economic Development Administration

Authorized under 1965's Public Works and Economic Development Act, the EDA is an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce that partners with distressed communities throughout the United States to foster job creation, collaboration and innovation.‪ The EDA has many programs that promote economic development throughout the United States, including support of construction and upgrade of public infrastructure, planning support, and technical assistance. They even provided a grant that helped a group develop a neighborhood plan for Mountain View.

 

Youth Education & Development - Early to Middle

State Legislation:       

"P-16 Education Council" (Senate Bill 54)

Referred to Senate Education Committee 1/19/11

This bill calls for the creation of a preschool to postsecondary education council. The council would develop strategies and recommendations to ensure the long-term success of students. The strategies and recommendations would address standards for current and future college and career readiness, including the ability of high school graduates to use critical thinking and technical skills required by postsecondary educational institutions, employers; drop-out and graduation rates in secondary schools; and improved pathways to college degrees; among other things. 

"Alaska Parents as Teachers Act" (House Bill 49)

Referred to House Education Committee 3/16/11

This bill would provide for the development of a statewide parents as teachers program for the benefit of children who are under five years of age. The program would provide a system of early childhood education that is evidence-based, involves parents, and is consistent with available research and best practices for high quality early childhood education.

"Pre-Elementary School Plans Guidelines" (House Bill 154)

Referred to House Finance Committee 3/16/11

This bill would require the state to devise an early childhood education plan for students three and four years of age that incorporates the early learning guidelines that provide for effective and efficient coordination with pre-elementary programs operating in the state, including Head Start. This bill was last referred to the House Finance Committee and is awaiting further action.

 

Youth Education & Transition to Young Adulthood

Federal Legislation

No Child Left Behind Act

Under the No Child Left Behind Act, federal school funding for states, school districts, and schools is withheld or disbursed depending on schools' ability to meet certain performance standards. Performance is assessed by standardized tests. There has been much controversy surrounding the standards to which the schools are held. President Obama has made it possible to ask for a waiver provided the state still has a plan for improvement and Alaskan legislators are debating doing so.

Local Legislation

The Alaska Performance Scholarship

This scholarship provides students who take certain classes, achieve certain grades and standardized test scores, as well as file for FAFSA with descending scholarship amounts according to their level of achievement. The scholarship is in addition to the already existent UA Scholars program, though the size of the scholarship may be reduced if the student has more funding than is needed. It is believed that the scholarship plan will help improve graduation rates and the number of students attending college, though as the program is only in its first year, with the first round of students able to receive the scholarship being the class of 2011, it is unclear whether these goals will be achieved yet. 2,000 graduating seniors received the scholarship in 2011.
 

Environment & Sustainability

 

Food Security & Affordable Housing

 

Health & Mental Health

Federal Legislation

The Affordable Care Act
 
The Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in March 2010. Its goal is to give better health security by holding insurance companies accountable, lowering health care costs, and enhancing the quality of care for all Americans. The Act will not be implemented all at once, and portions of the law have already taken effect. The Affordable Care Act builds a bridge to 2014 when a new insurance marketplace will be established.

The provisions that will take over the next several years will include:

  • expanding Medicaid eligibility for people;
  • subsidizing insurance premiums for people so their maximum "out-of-pocket" payment for annual premiums will be on sliding scale;
  • providing incentives for businesses to provide health care benefits;
  • prohibiting denial of coverage and denial of claims based on pre-existing conditions;
  • establishing health insurance exchanges;
  • prohibiting insurers from establishing annual coverage caps; and 
  • support for medical research.

Local Legislative Action

The Alaska Health Care Commission

The Alaska Health Care Commission was recently established in state statute with the passage of Senate Bill 172 to serve as the state health planning and coordinating body, responsible for providing recommendations to the governor and the legislature on a comprehensive statewide health care policy and on strategies for improving the health of Alaskans.  The Commission was first established by Governor Palin on December 4, 2008 and the commission members were appointed on January 27, 2009. They met throughout 2009 and produced a report on the Commission's findings and recommendations in January 2010. Recommendations by the Commission included spending considerably more money to train new doctors and lure more already-qualified doctors into the state. These recommendations and more can be found in a summary written by the Anchorage Daily News.
 

Immigrants & Refugees

Federal/National Legislative Action

D.R.E.A.M. Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors)

First proposed to the U.S. Senate in 2001, this act proposed that illegal minors of good community standing who graduate from a U.S. high school be allowed to access higher education benefits (specifically, student aid and work study programs)—if they meet a specific set of standards. Some requirements include being in the U.S. for more than 5 years, having good moral character, and not having a criminal past (S. 1291, 2001). An amendment in 2011 states that minors who have been admitted to an institution of higher education or has joined the military is able to remain in the U.S. and can apply for a 6 year conditional permanent resident status (H.R.  1842, 2011).

 

President Barak Obama: Steve Lee, Interview with the President in support of the DREAM Act on January 27, 2011

 

DREAM Act Story: Monji Dolon, presented to the senate by Senator Durbin encouraging support for immigrants such as Monji who are successful college graduates that want to work and contribute to the U.S. economy.

REAL ID Act

This act, brought before Congress in 2005, regulates, standardizes, and increases security of all state-issued Identification cards and drivers licenses. One aim of this bill is to prohibit states from issuing valid driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. Originally, states were required to be in compliance with the higher security standards  by May 11, 2011, however a “final rule issued March 7, 2011 changes that date to January 15, 2013” (Department of Homeland Security, 2011). Requirements that states must meet to remain in compliance include:   
  • Information and security features imbedded in each card.
  • Proof of identify and lawful status of an applicant.
  • Verification of the source documents provided by an applicant, and
  • Security standards for the offices that issue licenses and identification cards.
    (Department of Homeland Security, Real ID Final Rule)

Eye To Eye: CBS News interview with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff discussing increased security measures for drivers licenses.

More Video: New Mexico Senators Ask For Extension On Real ID Law. Many states are requesting extensions on the federal deadline to have REAL ID stipulations met for drivers licenses issued in their state.

Local Legislative Action

An Act relating to issuance of driver’s licenses" (House Bill 3)

Sponsored by the members of the Republican party in the Alaska House of Representatives, this bill amends past bills which state that all Alaska issued driver’s licenses are valid for 5 years from the date of issue. From this point on, driver’s licenses issued to individuals who are not approved for residency for that amount of time will be issued a driver’s license for the amount of time they will be living here, or for one year at a time which can be renewed annually with appropriate documentation.

 

Safe Families & Safe Communities

Bill information retrieved from Governor Parnell's Choose Respect Initiative website.

"Strengthening laws related to sexual exploitation of children, domestic violence, and stalking" (House Bill 127)

Signed into law 6/23/2011, Effective 7/1/2011.

HB 127 The bill prohibits the creation of indecent images of children, online enticement of a child, and using a computer to solicit or entice a minor to engage in sexual behavior. This bill also increases the protections for victims of stalking to include those acts of following or monitoring the victim with a global positioning device, and using or installing a device to record or photograph events in the victim's home, workplace, vehicle, or on the victim's telephone or computer.  Under the protection of this bill it is illegal for adults to send sexually explicit text messages (commonly referred to as “sexting”) to children 16 and younger.

"Changes in crimes and sentences involving sexual assault and domestic violence" (Senate Bill 222)

Signed into law 5/14/2010, Effective 7/1/2010.

Senate Bill 222, sponsored by the governor, better protects children and all assault victims. The bills strengthen laws on child pornography, gives lawmakers greater discretion in sentencing defendants, and defines offensive touching that does not rise to the level of sexual assault now as a Class A misdemeanor. It also became a Class C felony to intentionally access child pornography with a computer.


 "Specific procedures for DNA retention" (Senate Bill 110)

Signed into law 5/14/2010, Effective 7/1/2010

This bill establishes a requirement that biological evidence in murder and sexual assault cases be properly retained while cases are unsolved and during the period after conviction that an offender is imprisoned. Senate Bill 110 sets new standards for DNA evidence retention and will improve the laws related to the DNA databank, establishing a task force to review issues concerning evidence.