The House of Representatives passed HB 130, a bill granting nearly 250,000 acres of state land to "fund" the University of Alaska in an archaic mode that came into existence when Abraham Lincoln was president. It is now moving through the Senate as SB 96. This bill, introduced on behalf of the governor, actually seems to be about privatizing land, not funding the university. SB 96 transfers control of state land that we Alaskans have entrusted to the Department of Natural Resources to manage. I am not against privatizing land, but cloaking the process as a land transfer with no contribution from the affected municipalities under the guise of funding the university is shameful.
HB 130/SB 96 is deeply flawed. It's a land transfer drawn up in secrecy by the DNR and the university over reportedly one to three years' time with no notice and no input from the communities and boroughs that will be affected. The original required public hearing for HB 130 was a sham. The bill was announced three days before one two-hour session of public testimony was to be taken, and then it was to be voted on by a committee. Thankfully vehement public and municipal outcry slowed the process considerably.
True funding for the university through land transfer would be realized through Rep. Eric Croft's resourceful suggestion to replace the controversial acreage in Southeast with Point Thompson, up near the Beaufort Sea, which is oil and gas land. Croft presented plenty of solid statistics to support this amendment, but was voted down both in committee and on the floor. SB 96 should not pass out of the Senate Finance Committee until Croft's amendment and the public's outrage have been further scrutinized.
Most of the representatives consider this bill a "stinker." But they still voted it off the floor. There is no hurry to pass this bill during this session. It is up to the citizens of Southeast to take issue with this controversial bill that will be damaging to many communities in our area. Time is running out; we must all speak to our senators and neighbors now. Call your representative and tell him that you oppose SB 96; its passing will denigrate our faith in our representatives, the governor's office, the DNR and the University of Alaska.
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