Learning the ropes in Juneau

Membership on House Finance Committee enlightening, educational

Posted: Monday, January 29, 2001

First, I want to thank everyone for their support and the opportunity to make a difference. I would like to introduce my staff to all of you: Helen Donahue, Michael Huckabay (Huck) and Leonardo Wasillie from Seward. They are willing to be of assistance anytime you need our help.

Prior to taking the oath of office, there were three days of orientation. During this period we received training in ethics, a mock floor session, how to run a committee meeting, general procedures and policies and basically how things are done. In between the training we were getting our office organized and ready for business. Mavis, my wife, and friend Kris Erickson helped staff with picture hanging, computers, telephones, files and getting everything done by Jan. 8.

On Monday morning, Jan. 8 at 10 a.m., Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer administered the oath of office. I proudly took that oath to uphold the Constitution of the state of Alaska and represent House District 8 to the best of my ability.

There are 27 Republican legislators in the majority of the House. After being sworn in, there were more introductions, more explanation of the process and the dos and don'ts. All of this is educational and an important part of the process.

'It's been a fast learning curve. We are getting a handle on the process and will be responsive to our constituent cares, concerns and needs.'

Rep. Ken Lancaster

During the last Legislature, Senate Bill 281 was established as a missions and measures for all state departments. This bill is much like a check and balance; each department has a mission to follow. The Legislature will determine the measure in conjunction with the administration as to accountability. The House Finance committee began listening to the department presentations the third day of session and have had Finance meetings every day since. Most presentations were made by commissioners. This has been a very enlightening and educational process.

Each finance member is assigned at least two department budgets. The subcommittee assignments I will chair this year are Administration and Community and Economic Development. Each subcommittee consists of majority and minority members. Our subcommittees are already meeting regularly. The Finance co-chairs have given each subcommittee a Feb. 28 deadline to have the subcommittee work completed. It will then be taken to the full Finance Committee and implemented into the full operating budget for the state.

Major issues this legislative session appear to be a gas line from the North Slope to commercial markets; long range financial plan (planning and discussion); education funding; opening ANWR; railroad expansion; energy projects; and resource and economic development.

I have prefilled a bill to shorten the legislative session from 120 days to 90 days (HJR 5). It has not been scheduled for a hearing to date.

My day starts at 7:30 a.m. in the office and I am there until at least 6:30 p.m. or later. We have been visited by constituents, lobbyists for different organizations, and city officials. With all of this we continue to respond to the letters, e-mails, faxes and public opinion messages. I am fortunate to have a professional, dedicated staff. If I am in the office, they are here also. I cannot ask for more than that.

It's been a fast learning curve. We are getting a handle on the process and will be responsive to our constituent cares, concerns and needs. You can contact my office at 1-800-463-2693 or e-mail at Represen-tative_Ken_Lancaster@legis.state.ak.us.

In closing, I have to say I miss Soldotna, my wife, the dogs, my mom, my children and grandchildren! Give our office a call -- WE ARE HERE TO SERVE YOU!

Ken Lancaster is a first-term Republican representative for House District 8, the Soldotna-Seward area.

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