Sen. Murkowski eNewsletter 09/11/2008

Senate field hearing in Bethel

As Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, I held a field hearing in Bethel August 28 on an issue of critical importance to Alaska Natives and rural villages throughout the state – the effect of high energy costs on the lives of people in rural Alaska.

Photo: Rob Stapleton/AJOC

These rising prices have reached unprecedented levels in our Native villages and across rural Alaska, and a real concern of mine is that if we don’t find a way to provide affordable energy to these villages, we could face a huge outmigration, as soon as this winter.

While Alaska’s “resource rebate” passed by state lawmakers in August will be sending combined rebates and Permanent Fund Dividend checks of $3,269 per person starting this month, I hope to see help from the federal government for such things as increased funding for the Low

Photo: Rob Stapleton/AJOC

Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and funding of a federal grant program to help build renewable energy projects throughout the state. Of course, I will continue to advocate for opening Alaska’s energy resources to development and to get an Alaskan natural gas pipeline built. I will also be pushing a suggestion made at the hearing to get the federal energy laboratories to provide more scientific research to further Alaska alternative energy projects.  

Photo: Rob Stapleton/AJOC
Sen. Murkowski speaks with John Sargent, grant development manager for the City of Bethel, after the hearing.

Visit to the State Fair in Palmer

No trip home in August would be complete without a visit to the Alaska State Fair in Palmer. While the Fair is always updating and making changes, there are a few constants each and every year. For me, it’s checking out the flowers and the giant vegetables, stocking up on locally made hats and mittens, losing a couple bucks at the Rat Race (sponsored by the Palmer Elks Lodge and the money goes to charity) and of course enjoying the food (I’m partial to the gyros and soft-serve ice cream). This year we were blessed with warm and sunny weather for our visit to the Fair.

Roll out of the new Alaska state quarter

The United States Mint launched its new quarter-dollar coin commemorating the State of Alaska at the Alaska State Fair this year. I spoke at the ceremony, and afterwards handed out newly minted quarters to children attending the ceremony. The new quarter commemorating Alaska's statehood is the 49th coin in the United States Mint's 50 State Quarters Program. The reverse of the Alaska quarter features a grizzly bear clutching a salmon in its jaws, symbolizing Alaska's natural beauty and abundant wildlife. The North Star is depicted above the inscription "The Great Land," and additional inscriptions are "Alaska" and "1959," the year of our statehood.

Alaska Native Educational Equity Roundtable

I was proud to have been invited to help convene the Alaska Native

Educational Equity Roundtable with Senator Stevens in Anchorage, which provided a forum for educators to discuss their vision for Alaska Native education and to map out a plan for future activities.  It was a real treat to have a chance to talk over old times with State Representative Reggie Joule (photo) as we waited for the meeting to begin.  Representative Joule and I worked together in the Alaska State Legislature on community and economic development and education issues.  Clearly, these issues still drive our agendas today.

Congrats to our Blue Ribbon schools in Craig and Seward

I want to extend my heartiest congratulations to the staff, students, and parents of this year's Blue Ribbon Schools -- Craig Middle School in Craig, and William H. Seward Elementary in Seward. They all deserve to be very proud of this accomplishment, which requires creativity, hard work, teamwork, dedication and perseverance.

The Blue Ribbon Schools award distinguishes and honors schools for helping students achieve at very high levels and for making significant progress in closing the achievement gap.