Senator Murkowski - eNewsletter 05-06-09

Murkowski Introduces Southeast Initiatives

Sen. Murkowski introduces the U.S. Ferry Investment Act, part of her Southeast Initiative legislation. With Senator Murkowski are (left) David Moseley, Director of Washington State Ferries, Congressman Rick Larsen (D-WA-2) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).

Over the past few weeks, I have introduced four bills aimed at growing the economy in Southeast Alaska. As we all know, the Southeast region has been hard hit the downturn in the timber industry, a growing decline in state government employment in the region and we expect a potential decline in tourism this year. I’ve introduced these legislative measures in an effort to try to help reverse these trends.

The bills are:

  • The Sealaska land settlement bill would allow Sealaska Corporation, the regional Alaska Native Corporation for Southeast Alaska, to satisfy its remaining land entitlement under terms of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

  • The Southeast Alaska Timber Industry Retooling and Restructuring Act would help firms retool to maintain jobs in the region.  Sen. Begich has cosponsored both the Sealaska bill and this timber industry retooling bill.

  • The Unrecognized Southeast Alaska Native Communities Recognition and Compensation Act would set up urban corporations for Alaskan Natives in Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Tenakee and Haines.

  • The U.S. Ferry Systems Investment Act would invest $200 million a year in funding ferry systems across the country starting in fiscal year 2010. The Alaska Marine Highway system could access these funds as we update our aging fleet of ferries.

A national radio reporter interviews Sen. Murkowski following her press conference on the U.S. Ferry Investment Act.

Supporting Alaska's Military Families

I have signed on to two pieces of important legislation this Congress that will benefit Alaska’s military families. The first would reduce the distance required for reimbursement when military families travel to specialty medical care providers and the second would allow military spouses to retain their Alaska residency, if they choose, for voting and tax purposes, when they move with their spouse to locations outside Alaska.

The Care Affordability for Military Families Act (S.476) would reduce the one-way travel distance required for reimbursement from 100 miles to 50 miles when military families must travel to specialty medical care providers. For example, under the current system, families traveling from Delta Junction, the nearest community to Fort Greely, to a specialist in Fairbanks would not be reimbursed for their approximately 90-mile journey, but would be reimbursed under this bill.

The second bill, the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act (S.475), would protect the right of military spouses to vote in their home state, and guarantee their right to vote in U.S. elections while living abroad. It also would establish that the income tax domicile for a military spouse is the individual’s home state. This means that the spouses of Alaska’s service members who are residents of Alaska can maintain their home state of Alaska regardless of where they are relocated while in the military.

I look forward to working with my colleagues in moving these bills through the Senate so that our military men and women can receive the support that they deserve while serving our country.

Murkowski Advocates Arctic Policy

Sen. Murkowski addresses a Senate Foreign Relations round table discussion on Arctic Policy. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) is the chairman of the panel.

This past Tuesday, I spoke before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about two important issues surrounding Arctic Policy - the need for enhancing polar icebreaker capability and ratifying the Law of the Sea Treaty.  At present, Russia has 18 icebreakers and is planning to build three more, Finland has seven and Canada six. The United States has two working icebreakers and a third in caretaker status. These icebreakers are vital to keeping our waterways open for travel and commerce. I also urged the Senate to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty. The Arctic has substantial implications for shipping, tourism, the environment, research, security and oil and gas production, as well as the indigenous people of the region. As other Arctic nations move forward with policies and actions designed to protect their interests in this region, the United States must also do the same. Senate ratification of this Treaty is vital to our national interest.

Murkowski Introduces Legislation for Alaskan and Hawaiian Natives

I have recently introduced legislation designed to better coordinate the delivery of federal economic aid to American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians. This legislation, called the Native American Challenge Demonstration Project Act of 2009, seeks to better manage the distribution of federal funds to tribal entities from federal agencies. The legislation proposes a new way to deliver and coordinate federal economic aid by placing a greater emphasis on local decision-making, explicit development objectives and results-based measurement to evaluate success.

Joining me as original co-sponsors of the bill are Sens. Mark Begich (D-AK), Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and Daniel Akaka (D-HI).

Reaching out to Alaskans

Last Wednesday, I hosted my first teletownhall meeting with Alaskans. This was the first time we have used this technology that allows me to speak with several thousand Alaskans at once. During my first call, I was thrilled to have over 5,500 participants who had questions on a number of issues including the swine flu, education, federal spending, energy and the federal stimulus package. If you were missed on this townhall call-around and would like to join us on our next call, please sign up here.

In addition to my townhalls, I am still maintaining a presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Come follow me on Facebook and on Twitter (@lisamurkowski). My latest videos are also available on my YouTube page.

Welcoming Alaskans to Washington

Recently, I met with Alaskans in Washington for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s 2009 Policy Conference. The Alaska delegation was led by David Gottstein of Anchorage and included UAF Student Body President Brandon Meston.

Sen. Begich, Congressman Young and I welcome a group of students from West High in Anchorage who were participating in the "We the People" competition.

Here is a little more informal photo of the Alaska Congressional delegation, as we waited for the West High students to arrive.