The 22nd Legislature began Jan. 8 with the swearing in of the newly elected or re-elected members of the House and Senate. I was pleased to watch our new House delegation members being sworn in -- Drew Scalzi from District 7, Ken Lancaster from District 8 and Mike Chenault from District 9. I look forward to working with these new representatives from the Kenai Peninsula and welcome them to the Legislature.
This legislative session I will chair two Senate committees, the Community and Regional Affairs Committee and the Senate Resources Committee. I also serve on the Senate's Labor and Commerce Committee, the Legislative Council and the Ethics Committee.
I'm looking forward to the next two years, especially because my committee, Resources, will be the key component for the construction of a gas pipeline. Without question, that project is critical to Alaska's future. My background and reputation as a "numbers cruncher" made me a natural for the Senate majority to chair this very important committee at this time.
I want to make certain that Alaskans receive the benefit of our own resource. To that end, I will be working to ensure local hire and use of Alaska businesses, Alaska access to gas and a fair share of revenues for Alaskans.
Of course, the resource issues in Alaska include many things other than the gas pipeline -- waterways, lands, timber, fishing and minerals to name a few. It is certainly appropriate to have the senator from the Kenai Peninsula, where we literally have all of those natural resources, be selected to chair the Senate's Resources Committee.
The Community and Regional Affairs Committee will hold an important role this session as I will be reviewing the current statutes that define the function and duties of local governments. As a former president of the Alaska Municipal League, I have many contacts with the mayors, assemblies and councils in Alaska's municipalities. I will be working closely with them on this matter.
Since I currently serve on the Ethics Committee and the Legislative Council, it was reasonable to appoint me to continue with them to provide continuity. The Ethics Committee appointment is one that I am particularly pleased with; it requires my confirmation by both the Senate and the House and is a panel that includes public members.
The Labor and Commerce Committee appointment is a good placement for me -- I certainly understand the needs of the small business owners of Alaska!
I have the same peninsula resident staff with me again this session -- Mary Jackson from the central peninsula; Nancy Kosch from the Homer area; and Darwin Peterson from Cooper Landing. We have all worked together for some time now, so my office was up and running immediately.
Turning to local needs, I have requested assistance from the Senate Finance Committee's co-chairs to fund the juvenile detention facility. This project, estimated at $4.8 million, has been in the works for some years and it was originally scheduled for funding this year. But the governor failed to include it in his budget, so I am working to have it put into the Senate's capital budget.
Also, I want to encourage all of you to go to my home page and give your opinions on the survey I am conducting. I want to know how you feel about some state issues as well as local issues like the proposed jail facility near Kenai. Please go to: http://www.akrepublicans.org/Torgerso.htm.
Or, if you don't have Internet access, send your comments to me at: State Capitol, Room 427, Juneau, AK 99801. My telephone number is 1-800-964-5733. You can also send me a public opinion message via the Legislative Information Office.
Don't forget about our constituent teleconferences -- the first one will be Jan. 25 from 7 to 8 p.m. You can either go to the Legislative Information Office or call in to the teleconference operator who will patch you in to speak with me. The number to call is 1-888-263-1555. I started this "stay at home" service last session and we are going to offer it again this year.
Please feel free to contact me -- I need your input on the issues that are facing us and are so important to Alaska.
Sen. John Torgerson, R-Kasilof, represents District D in the Alaska Senate. He was first elected in 1994.
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