Senator Murkowski Supports Victims of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

This week, the Supreme Court heard the appeal of the ongoing litigation between Exxon Mobil and commercial fishermen and other plaintiffs whose livelihoods were negatively impacted by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Once the Supreme Court decided to hear this case, I joined with the Senator Stevens and Congressman Young in submitting an Alaska Congressional Delegation amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court. In the brief, we argue that the award of punitive damages in this case of reckless and wanton conduct by Exxon not only is permissible under the Clean Water Act, but is supported by federal maritime law. Only punitive damages will provide those who were harmed-and continue to be harmed-with the justice and fair compensation they deserve.

This litigation simply needs to end - 19 years is too long for these plaintiffs to wait to be compensated for their lost income. I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of the plaintiffs in this case.

Breast Cancer Research Bill Approved by Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions

The Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Act of 2007, which I co-sponsored, was approved this week by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. The bill will now move to the Senate floor.

This legislation supports important research into the causes of and possible prevention strategies for breast cancer. With three million women living with breast cancer today, the disease is taking a serious toll on the entire nation. Unfortunately, the causes of breast cancer are largely unknown. This bill will further efforts to study and treat this disease.

The Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Act will ensure that scientists have the resources needed to explore the relationship between the environment and breast cancer. It would boost the research investment on the role of the environment in the development of breast cancer and also establish a national research strategy.

Specifically, it would authorize $40 million each year for Fiscal Years 2008 - 2012 to establish multi-institutional, multidisciplinary Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Centers of Excellence. Each Center would include institutions with different areas of expertise working together as well as collaborating with community organizations in the area. Modeled after the tremendously successful Breast Cancer Research Program at the Department of Defense, grants would be awarded under a competitive, peer-reviewed process that involves patient advocates

Senator Murkowski Introduces New Website.

I have recently redesigned my website to give constituents a more user-friendly site. Click here to view the new site. While you're there, check out the link to the Home Safety Council of Alaska's website which offers great tips on home safety.

Murkowski Learns About Vocational Education Opportunities in Alaska

Over the President's Day Recess I traveled to Galena, Anchorage and Seward to visit vocational education schools - Galena Interior Learning Academy, King Career Center in Anchorage, and AVTEC in Seward. I was very impressed with the programs that are available for students across the State. Students have an excellent opportunity to learn skills from engine repair and carpentry to welding and cosmetology that they can use in careers or to improve their life skills. I commend local districts and the State for investing in these important programs.

Senator Murkowski to Post Appropriations Requests Online

I will join Senator Stevens and Congressman Young in posting appropriations requests on my website. My office received nearly 500 funding requests this year from local governments, organizations and the State of Alaska.

I am joining Senator Stevens and Congressman Young in taking this step to highlight the appropriations process that the delegation goes through each year. By posting appropriations requests on our website we can demonstrate the real needs that local communities and organizations have identified across the state.

Each year, I receive requests for funding from across the state. Funding requests for fiscal year 2009 were due February 15. Constituents will soon be able to visit www.murkowski.senate.gov/approps and view information on all appropriations requests received this year including the organization requesting the appropriation, a description of the project, its location and the amount requested.

Senator Murkowski Wins Passage of Indian Health Care Improvement Act

This week, the Senate overwhelmingly voted to reauthorize the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, comprehensive legislation to modernize the Indian health care delivery system. As Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, I co-managed the bill to its first comprehensive reauthorization since 1992.

I am proud to finally deliver to Alaska Natives and American Indians a greater opportunity to receive the health care they deserve. Their needs have been neglected for far too long, but now, the Senate has passed a bill, by an overwhelming margin, that will carry the Indian health care system into the 21st Century.
There are several provisions in the bill that will impact Alaskans. Currently, Native veterans living in rural Alaska receive healthcare through the Alaska Native healthcare delivery system, which bears the costs. This bill authorizes the Veterans Administration to enter into agreements with the Alaska Native healthcare delivery system to provide reimbursements for care of Alaska Native veterans.

In response to the high rate of sexual assault and domestic violence in American Indian and Alaska Native communities the bill authorizes domestic and sexual violence prevention and treatment programs, requires protocols and policies for those programs at Indian health facilities and requires that the Indian Health Service and the US Department of Justice work together to improve forensic examinations which will enable more effective prosecutions of these acts of violence.

Since the last comprehensive reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act in 1992, mainstream health services have changed considerably, furthering the need for this legislation. The bill takes a comprehensive approach to improving Indian health care, including:
Authorizes Alaska's Dental Health Aide Therapist program and establishes a process through which the program will be evaluated;
Attempts to reduce the high rate of youth suicide in American Indian and Alaska Native communities by establishing a demonstration project, co-sponsored by Senator Murkowski, to connect at risk Native youth with behavioral health professionals using telemedicine technology;
Enables Native health providers to focus more effectively on the needs of Native Elders by expanding offerings in long term care and hospice care;
Reauthorizes Urban Indian Health Programs which provide basic health services to Alaska Natives residing in Seattle and other urban centers;
Increases the opportunities for American Indians and Alaska Natives to enter health professions;
Authorizes the Indian Health Care Improvement Fund to address backlogs in health care services to Indians;
Authorizes Health Facilities Construction;
Addresses key components of Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Indian provisions to increase access to health care; and

Improves access of the Director of the IHS to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

New Grant Program to Commemorate Alaska

Alaska Humanities Forum received a $1 million grant from the Rasmuson Foundation to launch Alaska's Statehood Experience (ASE). ASE funds are available on a competitive basis for both statewide and local community proects that explore the history of statehood, the circumstances that brought it about, and projects that address the meaning of statehood as Alaska looks ahead to the next fifty years.

The program encourages creative exploration of all aspects of Alaska's journey to statehood. The deadline for applications is May 15, 2008. Grant criteria and on-line applications are available at the Alaska Humanities Forum -- www.akhf.org.

Senator Murkowski Receives First Ever PTA Congressional Voice for Children Award

The PTA recently honored Senator Murkowski with its first-ever PTA Congressional Voice for Children Award. Senator Murkowski was honored for her dedication to a number of efforts that benefit children and education. As a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Murkowski acted as the sponsor of the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act, helped pass the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007, and is currently working on reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.