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Tuesday, August 14, 2018
HomePolitics and PolicyUnalaska losing its Legislative Information Office

Unalaska losing its Legislative Information Office

THE COMMUNITY DIDN’T USE THE FACILITY THIS YEAR 

The Alaska Legislative Council voted Monday to close the Unalaska office it keeps open for constituents seven months out of the year.

The office is part of a network of 23 legislative offices around the state where Alaskans can testify during hearings via teleconference, and where they can send their opinions to legislators via email and watch legislative hearings live.

Hawkins

Closing the Unalaska LIO passed with all eight voting members who were present.

Sen. Anna MacKinnon and Rep. David Eastman both voted against using the savings to expand hours for the other LIOs, which had their hours cut back in 2016 during a time of budgetary belt-tightening and are now closed on Friday afternoons. Those two votes blocked Chairman Rep. David Guttenberg’s effort to reallocate the Unalaska money. MacKinnon said that during a time of tight budgets, any additional expenditures now would be prime targets for cuts during next year’s budget talks.

TESTIMONY FROM LEGISLATIVE OFFICES BY POPULATION, AND TOTAL TESTIFIERS

The Unalaska LIO opened in 2011 and is seasonally staffed December through May. The geographic differential pay scale for the office is $106,000 a year, making it one of the most expensive to operate.

The Unalaska LIO had five participants in 2016, two participants in 2017, and no participants in 2018. Meanwhile, the other 22 LIOs had their hours reduces and the 17 employees were cut from 12 months to 11.3 months,

LEGISLATIVE VOTING MACHINES TO BE REPLACED

The Legislative Council also voted on Monday to replace the old and unreliable voting system that legislators use in Juneau. The system is not supported by the vendor and began seriously failing during the 29th Legislature, despite technical and support staff efforts. There are no more Microsoft updates for the software. The cost of replacement is expected to be at least $912,700, with additional maintenance costs annually of over $17,000.

But each additional day the Legislature is in session due to voting machine malfunctions costs the State more than $100,000.

[Read the memo about the legislative voting system here.]

Attending Legislative Council were Reps. David Guttenberg, Charisse Millett, Daniel Ortiz, Louise Stutes, David Eastman, Harriet Drummond, Matt Claman, and Bryce Edgmon, who is the lawmaker who represents Unalaska.

On the Senate side were Sen. Anna MacKinnon, Sen. President Pete Kelly, and Sen. Bert Stedman. Most lawmakers outside of Anchorage attended telephonically.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

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