News From Senator Begich; September 13, 2010
Growing and Supporting Alaska Small Business As a small businessman, I understand that small businesses have created two-thirds of the nation's new jobs over the past 15 years. That's why I am working with my colleagues to encourage Senate approval of a measure designed to help small business expand and create even more jobs. The Senate resumes work today after the summer congressional break. One of my top priorities is passage of the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act, which was stalled by Republicans in August over election year politics. The bill would create an estimated 500,000 sorely needed new jobs through tax cuts, increased access to credit, export incentives, enhanced opportunity for small business to win federal contracts and lending incentives. Small business is big business for Alaska's economy, with more than 16,000 small businesses in our state comprising about 56 percent of all private sector employment. I had an especially busy August back home, visiting with Alaskans across the state on issues from aviation safety to improved care for our veterans. This weekend I look forward to returning to Anchorage to participate in numerous events, including the annual Boys and Girls auction.
Senator Mark Begich
Begich Supports Suit Challenging Federal Off-shore Development Delay As part of his comprehensive effort to permit oil and gas development off Alaska's northern coast, Sen. Begich is backing a lawsuit filed last week by the State of Alaska seeking to overturn a federal delay. Following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Obama administration imposed a moratorium on further offshore development, which killed jobs for proposed work in Alaska's Beaufort and Chukchi seas. "The lack of consultation by the Obama administration with Alaska in this process is an obvious oversight," Begich said. "I will continue to fight for the voices of Alaskans to be heard. The ban fails to recognize the strict standards and practices in Alaska and the clear difference between high pressure deepwater exploration and Alaska's shallow water exploration." The senator also has introduced several bills designed to provide more resources to deal with offshore development, including spill prevention, additional Coast Guard facilities and more responsibility for companies that spill oil.
The Alaska Report: Summer Interns
In the September episode of the Alaska Report, Sen. Begich hosts two congressional fellows serving in his Washington D.C. office: Lieutenant Colonel Glenn Johnson of the U.S. Army and Lieutenant Commander Bill Mowitt of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Congressional Fellows are staffers provided by federal agencies. They bring unique expertise to important issues and help Sen. Begich serve Alaskans.
"Frankenfish" A Risk to Wild Alaska Salmon and Alaska Jobs A decision to approve a hybrid Atlantic salmon as the first genetically engineered animal for human consumption is a risky precedent, a threat to Alaska wild salmon and comes with little if any public participation, according to Sen. Begich. "Let's call this genetically engineered fish for what it is: 'Frankenfish'," Begich said. "Approval of genetically modified salmon, the first such hybrid to be considered for human consumption, is unprecedented, risky and a threat to the survival of wild species." The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) holds hearings later this month on whether to okay a hybrid Atlantic salmon modified with a Chinook salmon growth gene and an antifreeze gene from an eel, the ocean pout. The genetic modifications are intended to speed the growth rate of the hybrid-engineered species. Begich urged greater participation, protesting that the public has only been given a few days of public hearings to digest a 180-page technical report. "Alaska made the right decision 20 years ago when we banned farmed salmon and other finfish in our waters and focused instead on management practices that sustain and grow our wild salmon," Begich said.
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Alaska's View From The Hill
Speaking with KTVA's Matt Felling, Sen. Begich shared his thoughts on efforts to improve the Alaska economy, military operations in Afghanistan and BP's report on the Deepwater Horizon accident.
Small Alaska Hospitals Benefit from Begich Provision Hospitals in Juneau, Sitka and Soldotna will continue to provide qualifying Alaska Medicare beneficiaries with care and services following the five-year extension of the Rural Community Hospital demonstration program. The program is extended and expanded to additional hospitals thanks to legislative text authored by Sen. Begich in the 2010 health care reform legislation. Extension of the demonstration program will allow hospitals to receive enhanced reimbursement for inpatient services. This expands the ability of selected hospitals to provide care to Alaskans and improves their ability to attract and retain highly qualified medical personnel. Meanwhile, another federal program is providing a $40 million loan to the Southcentral Foundation for construction of a new primary care clinic in the Mat-Su Borough. The project is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which Begich supported. The new Valley Native Primary Care Center will be built in Wasilla and improve health care delivery to Alaska Natives living in Palmer, Wasilla and other Mat-Su communities. With an estimated staff of 250, the project also will create jobs for residents of the region.
Alaskans on Technology's Cutting-Edge with Federal Grants
In July Sen. Begich hosted a roundtable discussion on Alaska broadband development in Anchorage.
Enhanced public library offerings, free public video-teleconferencing and better use of the Internet in rural Alaska is the goal of nearly $10 million in grants for Alaska entities, being announced today. The University of Alaska Fairbanks will receive $4.5 million, with an additional $2.4 in matching funds, to promote broadband adoption and access across the state especially targeted at improving digital literacy for 88,000 rural Alaskans. Close to 90 jobs will be created in health care, education and technology assistance. Another US Department of Commerce grant of $5.4 million is to the state Department of Education & Early Development to enhance public computer centers at 104 libraries and launch an innovative free public videoconferencing network available to all Alaska public library users.