There were many issues addressed during the 2001 legislative session. Education, public safety, the permanent fund dividend program, medical care, senior citizen care and funding for many important programs were only a few.
Education appropriations, from early learning to postsecondary student loans, were not enough. It is no longer enough to provide Alaska students with the best education possible. Now, as a result of violent acts or threats at our schools, we have to be concerned with the safety of our children. No child can be too safe in school, and it's the responsibility of the Legislature and the local school districts to ensure student and teacher safety.
It also is the responsibility of parents to make sure our children do not carry weapons to school. And, if they see weapons, our children need to know it is safe to tell a teacher. Schools are learning sanctuaries, not battlefields. Our teachers should not have to worry about threats from students as young as 7 or 8 in the classroom. Each of us had a teacher who made a difference in our lives. And who would educate doctors, engineers and construction workers how to do their jobs, if not for our teachers?
We are fortunate in Alaska that many senior citizens remain in Alaska after retirement. Our seniors have the potential to be utilized to help our children grow into productive adults. My own grandmother is still living and gives me guidance every chance she gets.
I view my elders as potential problem solvers and among the most appreciative group of people who live in Alaska. When I visit one of the senior centers, I am always greeted with smiles and many thanks for anything I may have done. If you want to feel good, go and have lunch with the seniors in your area. And take the time to listen to the stories they have to tell.
During the interim, I have asked my staff to look for grants, regardless of the source, to assist children, senior citizens and any others. In fact, we have already located grants having the potential to help folks.
All of us are working hard to find alternate funding for Alaskans' needs. It's not fast funding, and it takes work from all of us. Together my staff and I will do what we can to help. If you need help or information, call my office at 283-7223.
As I was driving home with my son after the session, I had time to reflect on the past five months in Juneau. For the most part, I found my fellow legislators to be honest, caring individuals. I have learned much in the short time in Juneau. I learned a little controversial debate is good for the legislative process. I also learned that there are many people who depend on good decisions from the Legislature.
In a perfect world, we would not need more police officers, social workers and private or expanded prisons. the Legislature increased funding for the Alaska State Troopers and Village Public Safety Officers.
But our world is not perfect and tough issues have to be addressed right along with child support, potholes and permanent fund problems.
My office door is open on the second floor of the old court building at 145 Main Street Loop. I invite each and every one who reads this or knows someone who has a problem to stop in my office. It has been an honor to represent you in the Legislature, and now it is time to make a difference in new and innovative ways. Please let me know if we can help.
Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, is in his first year of legislative office.
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