The Capitol Report: February 26, 2018

By Miles Baker
Associate Vice President Government Relations

February 26, 2018

Greetings from Juneau. Today is the 42nd day of the legislative session -- it’s hard to believe the 90-day regular session is almost half way through! Last week was a very busy week for the university, including five committee hearings in Juneau and President Johnsen’s State of the University address in Anchorage.

University Budget

Today saw a big step forward in achieving the university’s budget goal. I’m happy to report that just this evening the House Finance Committee voted to make a substantial investment in the University of Alaska.

During the closeout hearing of the university’s budget subcommittee last week, an amendment by Rep. Adam Wool added $19 million to the university’s operating budget. Subcommittee chair Rep. David Guttenberg presented that amendment to the full House Finance Committee this evening and it passed on a vote of 8-3. This is exciting news and brings the university’s FY19 operating budget to $336 million. It’s also exciting because the funding received bipartisan support both in the subcommittee and the full finance committee. A big thank you to Rep. Wool, Rep. Guttenberg and all representatives who supported this amendment.

The House Finance Committee has announced public testimony for the operating budget this week. Now is a great to time to get involved by contacting your legislator or testifying in support of the university’s budget. Your voice can make a big difference.

Education Tax Credit

Legislation to extend the Education Tax Credit is gaining momentum. This morning the House Education Committee passed HB 233 out of committee. This bill, along with its companion bill SB 116, would extend this important tax credit by six years. Both bills are now awaiting consideration in the House and Senate Finance Committees. It’s great to see this legislation move forward.

State of the University

President Johnsen delivered the annual State of the University address last Tuesday, February 20 at UAA's Lucy Cuddy Hall. This year's address was the keynote presentation at Commonwealth North's monthly luncheon and was attended by faculty, students, and community and business leaders.

As part of the address, President Johnsen discussed the university’s efforts to sustain high quality programs in the face of four successive years of budget cuts. He spoke about the importance of the Board of Regents' budget request of $341 million, and how state support is crucial to ensure the university will meet Alaska's workforce and educational needs. Video of the address is available online at www.alaska.edu/pres/sou.

He also emphasized the university's role in innovation and entrepreneurship, announcing UAF's new business incubator Center ICE (Center for Innovation, Commercialization, and Entrepreneurship) that will accelerate business start-ups in the UA system. He also announced the inaugural President's Innovation Challenge, which will bring UAA students and Anchorage community members together to tackle a local problem with innovative solutions. You can find out more information at: www.uapresidentsinnovationchallenge.com.


It was great to welcome our three university alumni associations to Juneau last week. The UA All Alumni Fly-In, “UA Impact”, is a big help in promoting UA and helping to advocate for our legislative agenda. We also had several university faculty and staff in Juneau last week for the Juneau Economic Development Corporation’s Innovation Summit. It was great to have everyone in town to showcase research and work being done by the university to grow Alaska’s economy. Many of these faculty and staff members also came to the Capitol to present to legislators.

UAA’s Business Enterprise Institute hosted a lunch & learn information session last Wednesday, February 21st which can be viewed here:


Later that day, Jon Bittner of the Alaska Small Business Development Center presented to the House Labor & Commerce Committee about trends in Alaska business start-ups. You can view his presentation here: http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Meeting/Detail?Meeting=HL%26C%202018-02-21%2015:15:00#tab4_4

Dr. Brad Moran, Dean of the UAF College of Fisheries & Ocean Sciences, gave a very informative presentation to the House Fisheries Committee on Thursday, February 22nd which can be viewed here: http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Meeting/Detail?Meeting=HFSH%202018-02-22%2010:00:00#tab4_4

On Friday February 23rd, UAF Vice Chancellor for Research Larry Hinzman led a presentation to a joint hearing of the House and Senate Education Committees. The hearing showcased university research and its role in solving issues facing Alaska. Dr. Peter Wembley of the UAF Geophysical Institute and Professor George Roe of the Alaska Center for Energy & Power (ACEP) also participated in the hearing. Their presentation can be viewed here:


Capitol Happenings

Alaska’s U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan both passed through Juneau recently to deliver their respective addresses to the legislature. You can view Sen. Murkowski’s speech here: https://www.360north.org/gavel/video/?clientID=2147483647&eventID=2018021307 and Sen. Sullivan’s speech here: https://www.360north.org/gavel/video/?clientID=2147483647&eventID=2018021345

Both bodies of the legislature will welcome a new member this week. Governor Walker has appointed Mike Shower (R-Mat-Su) to the Senate and Tiffany Zulkosky (D-Bethel) to the House. The appointments were confirmed by the legislators of their respective political parties as required by law. Senator Shower was sworn in today. Upon Zulkosky’s swearing-in, the legislature will have a full membership for the first time this session.

Thank you for your continued support of the University of Alaska.

For more information, contact Miles Baker at miles.baker@alaska.edu or visit www.alaska.edu/state

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