Capitol Reports May 17, 2024

May 17, 2024

The 33rd State Legislature officially adjourned on May 16, just a short time after the constitutionally mandated 121-day deadline. With the UA’s operating and capital budget largely settled, our remaining priorities were placed in House Bill 148 (HB148). UA’s Government Relations team was up late into the night as things came down to the wire, but in the end, the bill passed the Senate floor and was concurred with in the House before the session deadline expired.  

Last Minute Changes and Delays to HB148 Created High Drama in the Last 72 Hours of Session
HB148, carried by Representative Justin Ruffridge (R-Soldotna), is a critical bill for UA. By the last day of the session (May 15), HB148 included language that:

  • expanded the scope of the Alaska Performance Scholarship program, which will help with in-state enrollment, 

  • extended the sunset on the Education Tax Credit program, continuing a program that incentivizes third parties to donate to UA for educational purposes, and 

  • preserved UA’s funding allocation for the Technical Vocation and Education Program (TVEP), which supports education and training in important workforce areas like construction, heavy-duty equipment operations and maintenance, maritime navigation, and many others.

Senator Click Bishop (R-Fairbanks) worked with Senator Donnie Olson (D-Golovin) to amend the bill in Senate Finance on May 14 to add the provisions that preserved UA’s TVEP funding allocation. The bill passed out of the committee, but wasn’t heard on the Senate Floor until mid-day on May 15. 

The Senate debated several other bills throughout May 14 and 15, pushing HB148 further down the calendar. Late that afternoon, Senator Forrest Dunbar (D-Anchorage) insisted that the Senate hear HB148 so the House could concur before the end of session that night. The Senate finally heard HB148, passed it 20-0, and sent it back to the House.

The UA Government Relations Team assisted Representative Ruffridge’s office throughout the evening to ensure the House took up and concurred with the Senate changes. House Floor debates have been notoriously long this year, so there was real concern that the bill would inadvertently slip through the cracks and not be passed before session ended. Around 10:06 p.m., the House concurred on HB148.

The House remained in session after that, debating other matters past midnight until they adjourned sine die. Many other bills didn’t get passed before the end of session and will have to be put forward again next year to be considered.

Intrigue for Other UA-Focused Bills

  • Senate Bill 13 (SB13) from Senator Rob Myers (R-North Pole) is the UA textbook transparency bill. Initially, it appeared that the bill might be used as a vehicle for other policies and legislation. However, it eventually went to the floor and passed on May 15, unchanged from its original language.    

  • House Bill 120, by Representative Frank Tomaszewski (R-Fairbanks), is related to hunting, trapping, and fishing licenses for certain nonresident postsecondary students. On May 14, HB120 was amended on the Senate floor amendment related to include language on “adoption and foster care for animals,” and appeared to be headed toward passage. The House initially concurred with the Senate changes on May 15, but later reversed course and asked the Senate to rescind the amendment. The Senate did not, so the bill died.

Closing Thoughts
The legislative session moves very quickly during the final days, with many parallel moving parts and very tight timeframes. We’re very pleased that both bodies passed our key priorities in HB148 before the end of the session.

Many thanks to the students, staff, faculty, and alumni who helped raise a voice and advocated for this year. This truly could not have been done without you!

May 15, 2024

SPECIAL ADDITION: With Hours Remaining in the Regular Constitutional 121-day Session, the Legislature Faces an Uphill Battle to Complete Its Work

Tonight at midnight the 33rd State Legislature will reach its deadline for the constitutionally mandated 121-day session length. Several priority bills remain in play, and at this time it’s unclear whether lawmakers will complete their work by midnight, or vote to extend the session up to another 10 days. This comes after a weekend of long floor sessions and extensive filibustering. While the operating budget conference committee came to an agreement on the budget and a $1,650 dividend, lawmakers still need to find consensus on energy and education.


Last week the Senate "concurred", or agreed, to the changes made to the capital budget by the House. Now it awaits transmission to the Governor for final approval or veto. The budget contains $28.6 million for major maintenance at University of Alaska campuses statewide. It also includes $10 million in state funds to advance the University’s Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft System Integration, $11.1 million ($2.2 million in state matching funds and $8.9 million in federal funds) for the Alaska Railbelt Carbon Capture & Sequestration project, and $1 million for the Alaska Energy Data Storage and Access Revitalization Project.

Meanwhile, six House and Senate members have continued to meet this week in a conference committee to consider the final operating budget. The conference committee agreed on the following items for the university system:

  1. $12.2 million in state funds for compensation cost increases

  2. $3.9 million in state funds for fixed cost increases including property insurance and cyber security

  3. $416 thousand in state funds to improve campus safety and physical security

  4. $20 million for reaching R1 research status designation at UAF: $12.5 million of this comes from the Higher Education Investment Fund (HEIF), $5.4 million comes from unrestricted state funds, and $2.1 million comes from university receipts.

  5. $3.067 million for the Alaska Graduate Workers Association, including $1.766 million in unrestricted general state funds.

Priority Legislation

In a momentous decision, the Senate Finance Committee “rolled” together multiple UA legislative priorities into a single bill. House Bill 148, originally simply expanding the Alaska Performance Scholarship program, now contains updates to the Technical Vocation and Education Program (TVEP) that UA relies on for its workforce training programs and updates the Education Tax Credit program.

Alaska Performance Scholarship: House Bill 148 includes provisions that 

  • expand the period of notice for scholarships from 6 months to 18 months,

  • expand the program to include scholarships for high school students in career and technical education (CTE) programs, 

  • increases the annual award amount to $7,000 - up from $4,755

  • expands student eligibility for the scholarship from 6 years after graduation up to 8 years.

TVEP: The Senate Finance Committee made major changes to the Technical Vocation and Education Program. What originally began as a standard reauthorization of the program in House Bill 55, introduced by Representative Ashley Carrick (D-Fairbanks), morphed into a very different-looking program. Statutorily, the Alaska Workforce Investment Board has been required to allocate funds to workforce training programs offered by various institutions across the state. The University of Alaska is included in these institutions and currently receives 45 percent of the total funding. Last year, UA trained 4,888 students with these funds - 57 percent of all TVEP program participants. The Senate Finance Committee changes added two new institutions and reduced the University's allocation to 30 percent. At today’s funding level, a 15 percent reduction to the university system would amount to ~1,112 students unserved. Fortunately, the committee recognized this issue and increased the size of the total pie from which UA draws its allocation. Presently, the state TVEP funding comes from a .16 percent draw on the Unemployment Insurance Trust. The Senate’s changes increase the draw to .25 percent. With this change, the university system's current funding remains whole. Notably, the committee also removed the need for a program reauthorization every four years. Under this change, institutions receiving TVEP funds would continue to receive them in perpetuity.

Education Tax Credits: The committee also added language extending the Education Tax Credit Program. The program, set to sunset at the end of the fiscal year, provides tax credits for businesses that contribute donations or research dollars to education institutions. Currently, companies can receive up to $1 million in tax credits. In the new version included in HB 148, these businesses may receive credits for contributions up to $3 million. The program will now be extended through 2029. 

House Bill 148 passed through the Senate Finance Committee and is scheduled for a vote on the Senate Floor today. If it passes, it will be sent back to its original body. The House will need to then vote on the changes. The bill will be transmitted to the Governor if the changes are accepted. If the changes are not agreed on - a conference committee will need to meet to consider the changes.

Separately, Senate Bill 13 from Senator Rob Myers (R-Fairbanks) is poised to pass the House today. The bill requires the University of Alaska to post in its online course catalog the cost of course-related materials and which courses offer zero-cost resources. The university system has already been taking extensive steps to do this and the updated student information system will incorporate these changes.

The legislature also passed House Bill 120, by Representative Frank Tomaszewski (R-Fairbanks),  related to hunting, trapping, and fishing licenses for certain nonresident postsecondary students. The bill makes in-state licenses available to college students while they are in school at an Alaskan educational institution. The reasoning behind the bill is that out-of-state students may fall in love with the ample recreational opportunities the state offers and opt to stay in the state long-term after graduation. The bill will now be transmitted to the Governor for signature.