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Rep. Sarah Vance updates Homer City Council on the Legislative Session

Rep. Sarah Vance

Alaska State House Representative, Sarah Vance is back in Homer after this year’s legislative session. She said it was good to be home.

During Monday’s City Council meeting, Representative Vance gave a presentation to the council highlighting her work in the legislature. She said that securing funding for a Deep Water Port expansion was her “number one capital project priority for our district.” The capital budget included other allocations specific to our district, including 14.2 million dollars of federal funding for the Phase Two improvement project for the Homer Airport.

Rep. Vance said she was proud to cosponsor HB 325, which focused on domestic violence and sexual assult. The bill was modified in the Senate to “modernize the definition of consent.”

“When it comes to giving consent. It's someone's free will and it's affirmative,” said Rep. Vance. “And if that's not present, then those considerations will be taken into account.”

A provision of that bill was closing a loophole for sexual offenders. Now, if a sexual offender changes their name they will be required to re-register their new name to the statewide sexual offender list.

Vance also co-sponsored HB 123 during her first year in the Legislature, while she was on the newly appointed Tribal Affairs Committee. HB 123 was an official recognition by the Legislature of federally recognized tribes.

“Our federally recognized tribes have not been recognized by the state legislature,” said Rep. Vance. “The courts have recognized them and the Executive Branch, but not the Legislature. And there was a lot of consternation of what this might mean as far as the state's responsibility. And we were able to work this out legally and in statute that it did not change the relationship that the Federal Government has to the tribes or vice versa. But this allows [us to] recognize that you are your own tribal government and have a very special place in Alaska. ”

Rep. Vance said she was happy about the passage of the Alaska Reads Act, which narrowly passed the House in a 21-19 vote.

She said the Alaska Reads Act carried several provisions, including tools to help kids read by age nine, and Pre- K grants for reading specialists to aid districts that are struggling.

Vance also mentioned ‘less glamorous’ victories, such as securing funding for the removal of derelict and abandoned vehicles.

Although the legislative session is complete and will have no special sessions, the budget is not entirely set into stone. Governor Mike Dunleavy still has the right to exercise line item vetoes to the budget.

During Monday's city council meeting Mayor Ken Castner questioned the process.

“Is there a specific strategy on why the budget hasn't been read over to the governor?” asked Castner.

“That, Mayor Castner, I do not know,” replied Vance. “It goes through our Legislative Finance [Division] and [they] make sure that any conforming changes that are done are unnecessary. I've not heard any other reason as to why it is still in the process of being transmitted to him right now.”

“And he can't do his vetoing until it is transmitted to him?” asked Mayor Castner.

“Correct,” replied Vance.

During Comments of the Public, Vance discussed the PFD, which she had neglected to mention in her initial presentation. She wanted to clarify the distribution of the dividend and an added $650 Energy Relief grant. She said many legislators have proposed an early July distribution of the Energy Relief Funds to offset inflation and higher gas prices.

“In talking with the governor's office last week, I got clarification as to why that decision has not yet been finalized,” said Vance. “That is not something that comes at the whim of the governor, it’s more of a legal and monetary decision.”

Vance says that the Governor’s legal team is looking into the effects on lower income families for a July or October distribution of the Energy Relief Funds.

Originally from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia, Desiree has called Alaska ‘home’ for almost two decades. Her involvement in radio began over 10 years, first as a volunteer DJ at KBBI, later as a host and producer, and now in her current role as a reporter. Her passions include stories relating to agriculture, food systems and rural issues. In her spare time, she can often be found riding her bicycle, creating art from handmade paper, or working in the garden.