Presidents Day Recess in Alaska
Sen. Murkowski delivers her annual address to a joint session of the Alaska Legislature.
Over the Presidents Day recess, I returned home and delivered my annual speech to the Alaska Legislature. My eighth such address, it is always a highlight of the year, to return to the House chamber where my career as a legislator began.
The focus of my address was the health of Alaska's economy. As reported in Alaska Economic Trends, "Alaska's 21-year streak of job growth ended in 2009. It was a good run...." Those words should be a wakeup call to all of us. It is critical that all Alaskans focus their energy this year on what needs to be done to strengthen Alaska's industries, including petroleum, fishing, tourism, timber and mining.
Petroleum remains the most critical determinant of the health of Alaska's economy. The State must do all that it can to encourage the energy companies that are currently doing business to stay and to continue their search for oil reserves that will keep the Trans Alaska Pipeline filled. We must also encourage international energy companies that have not worked in Alaska to come. I am fighting hard in Washington against efforts to impose new taxes on the oil and gas industry that threaten to make America - and therefore Alaska - one of the least desirable places in the world to explore and develop. And I am also helping to lead the fight for Outer Continental Shelf revenue sharing for Alaska and other coastal states.
While I agree that over time oil will, and should, steadily decline as a percentage of our total energy mix, there's no denying that America is going to need large amounts of oil for decades to come. I remain optimistic that Alaska is well positioned to support America's gradual transition to natural gas as a primary energy source. To maintain that position we must move forward and build the gasline. Although the window for a gasline remains open, that shouldn't be read as an invitation to procrastinate. Maybe America can wait for Alaska's natural gas, and perhaps industry can wait but Alaska cannot wait. We can't wait because the other parts of Alaska's economy are not strong enough to carry the State as our oil reserves inevitably decline.
Sen. Murkowski offers her global insights on the tense conflicts in the Middle East to the Alaska World Affairs Council.
Following my address to the Legislature, I traveled to Anchorage where I addressed the Alaska World Affairs Council. I focused my remarks on my recent trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan and also spoke about the challenges we face in Iraq and Iran. If you'd like to read or listen to my speech, you can find them both on my official website.
While in Juneau, Sen. Murkowski dropped by Gary Lehnhart's senior American government class at Juneau-Douglas High School to discuss issues that were on the students' minds. Alaskan Students Helping Other Students Learn Around the World
On the heels of my trip to Afghanistan, I want to recognize the efforts of the students and staff at Aurora Elementary School in Anchorage. The school's Student Council and Service Learning Club have embarked on a project collecting supplies such as pens, pencils, spiral notebooks, notebook paper, colored pencils and hand-operated pencil sharpeners for Afghan school children. These supplies, along with letters from students at Aurora Elementary to students in Afghanistan, will be distributed by American soldiers serving in the Konar River Valley.
The idea for this project came from teacher Lee Miller, whose son, Zach, wrote to his mother about the impoverished learning conditions that children in the Konar region face. Zach is a 2004 graduate of Chugiak High School and is serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan.FAA Grants Three-Year Exemption to Iditarod Air Force
2009 Iditarod Champion Lance Mackey and Sen. Murkowski pause for a picture before the ceremonial start of last year's race.
The FAA has granted the Iditarod Air Force a three-year exemption to fly in support of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race through the 2012 race.
The all-volunteer Iditarod Air Force has been flying in support of the race for more than 20 years, but has had to apply for exemptions from the FAA for the past two years. FAA regulations prohibit volunteer pilots from accepting any cost deferments such as fuel, accommodations or food - not even a bowl of hot soup. The Iditarod Air Force flies food and fuel to checkpoints for both dogs and mushers, transports volunteers, judges, and veterinarians as well as moves dropped or scratched dogs. I look forward to assisting the Iditarod Air Force in finding a permanent solution to this issue and being present at the ceremonial start of Alaska's Last Great Race.Recognizing Alaska's Women Leaders
March is Women's History Month and following her speech to the Alaska Legislature, Sen. Murkowski visited with some of the female members of the State Legislature. Pictured with Sen. Murkowski are, (rear row, from left) Reps. Cathy Munoz, Sharon Cissna, Sen. Linda Menard, Reps. Peggy Wilson, Berta Gardner, Beth Kerttula and Anna Fairclough. Seated, from left, are Sens. Bettye Davis and Lesil McGuire.
Another leading Alaskan woman is Ellen Campbell, of Juneau. Campbell was a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP, during World War II. The WASP were pioneers in the integration of women pilots into the military. In addition to Campbell, Nancy Baker and Virginia Wood, both of Fairbanks, also served as WASP. The service of these three women and all WASP veterans will be recognized when the WASP are awarded the Congressional Gold Medal later this month at a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol. From the Photo Album
While at the Capitol, Sen. Murkowski visited with students from the Polaris K-12 school in Anchorage, who were on a special trip to visit the Alaska Legislature. The students were in Juneau to offer their support of HB 14, naming the Alaskan Malamute as official state dog.
Before her speech to the Alaska Legislature, Sen. Murkowski posed with students serving as Senate pages. With Sen. Murkowski are, (back row, from left), Matthew Neuman, Scott Bergmann, Russell Barney, Drew Lindow, Jessica Gozelski. In the front row are, from left, Assistant Sergeant At Arms Kelsey Potdevin, Sergeant At Arms Emily Peyton, Amanda Stoltze, Lea Shipman.
Prior to her speech to the Legislature, Sen. Murkowski shares a laugh with (from left) Rep. Bill Stoltze, former legislator Eldon Mulder and Rep. Stoltze's aide James Armstrong. Photo courtesy of the Juneau Empire.
On her recent visit, Sen. Murkowski met with the women of Fort Wainwright Spouses Club in Fairbanks.
Also in Fairbanks, Sen. Murkowski visited the Ice Park and took a tour with Wally Cox. In addition to world class ice sculptures, the Ice Park sports a play area for kids with an ice maze and sledding chutes. Known for having the ‘best ice in the world' competitors from around the world were in Fairbanks to compete in this annual event. Since 1998, the ice used in the competition has been taken from O'Grady pond which is adjacent to the ice park.
Gov. Sean Parnell paid a visit to Sen. Murkowski while in Washington for the National Governors Association Winter Meeting. A Bit of Alaska in Washington
Recent snowfalls - over 30 inches - shut down most of Washington. Despite the snows, Sen. Murkowski's office was open and visiting Alaskans still made it to her office for meetings.