Capitol Report January 26: President Pitney Visits the Capitol

January 26, 2024

This week, lawmakers continued to hear individual legislation, and both the Senate and the House received budget updates from the directors of the Office of Management and Budget and the Legislative Finance Division. Members of both bodies were interested in the University of Alaska’s budget requests: primarily our compensation increases and our deferred maintenance. President Pitney met with lawmakers in person to share updates on both issues as well as the importance of reauthorizing the Technical Vocational Education Program, extending Education Tax Credits, and expanding the Alaska Performance Scholarship program. 

Separately, UAA Provost Denise Runge was in the capitol presenting to both the House and Senate Labor & Commerce committees. In her presentation “UAA Workforce Solutions for Alaska,” Provost Runge shared the great work that UAA and its associated community campuses are doing to build the workforce in critical areas like nursing, process technology, and aviation maintenance, to name a few. You can tune into the presentations here and here.

Advocating in the Capital

One of the most common questions the UA State Relations Office receives from staff and faculty is if they may come to Juneau and advocate for the university system. The answer is a resounding yes. However, there are a few important distinctions to make before visiting lawmakers:

  • As employees of a state entity, university employees are subject to the same rules as other public employees. Public employees may advocate to lawmakers, however, they must indicate that they represent only themselves and are not speaking on behalf of the university system.
  • University employees may not “lobby” lawmakers. The Alaska Public Offices Commission’s Manual of Instructions for Lobbyists and Employers of Lobbyists defines a lobbyist as a person who:
  • 1) is employed or contracted and receives payments, including reimbursement for travel and living expenses, to communicate with any public official to influence legislative or administrative action for more than 10 hours in any 30-day period in one calendar year. Or
  •  2) represents oneself as engaging in the influencing of legislative or administrative action as a business, occupation, or profession

A person who receives no compensation, including reimbursement of personal expenses, and limits lobbying activities to appearances before public sessions of the legislature or public proceedings of state agencies is not considered to be a lobbyist. 

  • University employees may “advocate” in the Capitol. The key critical difference between advocacy and lobbying is that a person who is lobbying attempts to influence the outcome of a legislative or administrative action, while an advocate only educates about specific issues. In other words, university employees may not ask for a specific vote on any legislation, however, they may “educate” a lawmaker about an issue by sharing stories, anecdotes, observations, and concerns about an issue from their perspectives.

Tips for advocacy: 

  1. Know your lawmakers: The Alaska Legislature has a handy map tool that allows a person to identify their representatives and senators. Simply fill in your address and check out the map to find your lawmakers.
  2. Schedule a meeting with your lawmaker before your visit: The legislature posts information about its members and legislation on its award-winning webpage. Office information for each lawmaker is available online and can be used to schedule meetings with representatives and senators.
  3. Know your “pitch”: Lawmakers’ time is extremely limited and meetings may be as short as 15 minutes. If you are speaking with lawmakers, have your “elevator pitch” ready. Be prepared to share your ideas, and concerns right away. If you are just popping in for a social call, please let the office staff know ahead of time so they can find an appropriate time for you to do so.
  4. Be prepared to be flexible: Oftentimes, floor sessions or committee meetings run long. These take precedence over meetings, and you will need to be prepared to reschedule should one of these events occur.

Helpful resources for advocating can be found on the UA State Government Relations website. Check out our “Tips for Advocates” or the “UA System Fast Facts” overview for starters. You can also learn more about the university system's state budget request, our deferred maintenance strategy, and much more. 


To read more of this week's Capitol Report, visit Capitol Report 2024.