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KNBA News - Senate reduces state budget $63 million; Parents, educators speak up for sex ed

State Senate pares another $63 million from House budget

Based on a story by APRN’s Juneau Correspondent Andrew Kitchenman

With the state facing a $3.5 billion budget deficit, House and Senate Legislative leaders have focused on cuts to the state budget before finding ways to raise new or additional revenues.

The Senate voted Monday on a state government budget that goes $63 million deeper in cuts than the House budget passed Friday, thanks in part to a $100 million cut to the executive branch.

Minority caucus Democrats had proposed amendments to eliminate that cut and to restore money for several programs, including Permanent Fund inflation proofing and senior benefits. Those amendments failed.

Anchorage Democratic Senator Berta Gardner said the state can afford to fund the education measures she included in one amendment.

“This amendment chooses education and Alaska’s children over projects that may once have been a great idea but that we simply can’t afford any more,” said Gardner. “The amendment restores pre-K education, Online with Libraries, the teacher mentor program, and the unallocated 10-million-dollar university cut.”

The cost of Gardner’s amendment would have been offset by cuts to infrastructure projects that have stalled in part due to their high costs – including the $4.5 billion Susitna-Watana hydroelectric dam, the $782 million Knik Arm bridge, and a $437 million road to northwest Alaska’s Ambler mining district.

But Eagle River Republican Senator Anna MacKinnon said it would be wrong to use cuts to construction projects to pay for budget items that will pop up every year.

“We have tough decisions to make, and I appreciate scrubbing the budget and looking at one-time funding to fulfill re-occurring costs, but it’s just not the way to do business. You do not take one-time money, and invest it in re-occurring costs,” said McKinnon. “It just, it just means we’re going to face the same battle next year.”

The state House and Senate will consider major changes to oil and gas tax credits and the Permanent Fund, as well as overhauls to Medicaid and the criminal justice system.  They will then resolve the differences between their versions of the budget through a conference committee of House and Senate negotiators. 

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Lawmakers hear pushback on bill to bar Planned Parenthood from schools

By Hannah Colton, KDLG - Dillingham

After clearing the Alaska Senate last month, a bill that would bar “abortion providers” like Planned Parenthood from teaching in public schools has been taken up in the House.

Senate Bill 89 would require parents to opt their kids in to lessons on human sexuality.

Monday morning, the public took the opportunity to push back against the bill.

There was still some confusion among House Education committee members Monday morning about exactly how Senate Bill 89 would affect parents’ involvement in their children’s education, since parents can already opt their children out of any lesson or activity.

But members of the public – including educators, parents, and healthcare professionals – gave passionate testimony, mostly in opposition to the bill.

Among them was Aurora Hoefferle, a UAA student from Dillingham. She said as a future educator, she doesn’t want younger students to grow up like she did, without quality sex education in school.

“I received most of my sexual education from the internet, and not from sources that I’m particularly proud to name today," said Hoefferle. "I’m not a parent, but I’m sure if I had a child I would much rather have them learn about sexuality and health from an approved and accurate curriculum than by just Googling ‘sex.’”

Just a few callers testified in support of the bill.

Elijah Rohagen said it’s important that kids receive sexual education, but only at the discretion of their parents.

“Planned Parenthood is known for providing abortions, and even if abortions only make up 3 percent [of their services], as they claim, they still are providing abortions. Which is murder, there’s no sugar-coating it," said Rohagen. "So allowing them to teach sexual education and give out their info in our schools is like allowing a murderer to babysit your kids because 97 percent of the time he’s doing good things. You would never let that happen with your kids, and this must and should not happen in our state.”

EnzinaMarrari of Anchorage used to be an educator with Planned Parenthood. She told the committee that during her five years in that role, it was never her job to recruit clients nor provide information about abortion services to students.

"My job was to provide comprehensive sexual health education at no charge, to reduce the rate of sexually transmitted infections, to prevent unintended pregnancies," Marrari said, "and to provide students with fact-based information to make healthy, empowered, and informed decisions."

House Education Committee Chair Rep. Wes Keller called the bill important for “parental rights” and “transparency." A staffer in Keller's office said the Committee plans to take up S.B. 89 again this week or Monday the 21st at the latest.

Last Friday, the Senate Education Committee heard comment overwhelmingly in opposition to a companion bill, Senate Bill 191, which outlines penalties for employees who bring Planned Parenthood curriculum into schools, and has been flagged as "constitutionally problematic" by the legislature's legal counsel.  The Senate Education Committee will take up S.B. 191 again Tuesday afternoon.

  

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