From Sen. Tom Begich <[email protected]>
Subject See You in September!
Date July 15, 2020 6:34 PM
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SUBSCRIBE ‌ ‌ Dear , This will be my last electronic newsletter before September, as those of us in the legislature are not allowed by Ethics laws to use state resources to communicate with you a month before the Primary or General elections. In this issue, we talk about our schools, our health, whether there will or won’t be a special session, and your right to vote and to be counted. There’s a lot of information here, so I encourage you to take your time to review all of it. Over this past weekend, Alaska recorded its highest rates of COVID-19. Alaska had the lowest number of cases with one of the highest rates of testing in the United States since the pandemic began. So far, 20 percent of Alaskans have been tested. But, with the school year beginning for Anchorage students on August 20, we have to truly decide how we are to maintain quality public education in the face of this pandemic. The Anchorage School District (ASD) has developed a limited day plan that is attempting to balance the safety of students, teachers, and students’ families with the critical mission of education. We know that online education is less effective than in-person. However, ASD has purchased a substantial number of home tablets and other electronic tools for those families without adequate electronic access. The issue, though, is more than simply access. It is the ability to work one-on-one with kids, the attention span of some youth (different kids have different learning methods which teachers might master, but machines cannot), and the other elements of our schools that end up being missed - including kids learning to socialize with others, friendship bonds, play, collaboration, etc. We in the legislature will be watching how the State Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) rolls out their support efforts, alongside the efforts of the various school districts in the state. We must ensure that our kids do not lose educational opportunities through these unprecedented times. I mentioned the high COVID-19 counts we are experiencing over these past few days. They are only increasing. Those of us in the Senate Democratic caucus disagreed with the Attorney General’s finding that somehow state employees are “exempt” from the City’s order for masks in public spaces. Simply put, that decision is unconscionable. How is it even conceivable that the state would resist an order simply designed to keep people safe when the municipality has the authority to execute such an order? It unnecessarily politicizes mask wearing. We have requested a legal opinion from legislative attorneys on this matter, and once we receive it, I will share it with our elected leaders in Anchorage. For goodness sake, if not for your own health, for the sake of others, please wear a mask when in public, and when you can, practice social distancing. It truly is the healthy – and frankly courteous – thing to do. The legislative leadership has still not decided if there will be a special session to address 1) the flaw in the AK CARES Grant that has limited the number of businesses eligible to access that $290 million; 2) address the expiration of rental and mortgage relief and moratoriums on foreclosures; 3) the failure by the Administration to request authorization to accept and spend $3 million in federal dollars to ensure safe elections; and 4) to address the need to pass a Capital Budget that would ensure Alaska captures federal funds for infrastructure improvement and promote tourism (the last becomes more difficult if we do not get a handle on the COVID-19 health issues). The Senate Democrats came out strongly for reconvening to address these issues early on, but as of yet, no session is scheduled. I have also asked the Governor’s office to consider reconvening us, but have not heard back from them. I believe we may reconvene immediately following the Primary elections, though I am still waiting for assurances on this. If you do run into members of the legislature out there, encourage them to get us all back together. As of Friday, District J had the second highest count in the state for absentee ballot requests. This is the safe way to vote. I mailed each household a hard copy of the absentee ballot application request form. You can make that request directly online electronically (something this office along with others directly asked the Lt. Governor to do). More information on Vote Safe, Alaska developed by the Senate Democrats can be found on our Facebook page. Please get involved and ensure your vote is counted by requesting your absentee ballot today! Also, the Lt. Governor has set up an “Adopt a Precinct” program where nonprofits might adopt a polling place and then have the pay that would go to the employee go to the nonprofit. This assures that polling places adopted will not have to close due to understaffing or no staffing. Our district has the possibility of losing polling places if we do not have adequate coverage, so consider signing your organization up today. Finally, do not forget to fill out the Census! Alaska will lose millions of federal funds if we are not fully and fairly counted. Also, District J residents may lose representation in the legislature if we are not fully counted. You can access the Census online, but remember, if you don’t want them knocking on your door, fill out the Census online! It matters to all of us. These are tough times. But we are a tough people – able to face adversity with good will and character. Keep up the good fight and stay healthy. See you in September! All my best, Senator Tom Begich Senate District J 'See' You in September! For so many of our elected officials, including my own position, 2020 is an election year. Because of this, how we are ethically permitted to contact constituents with the use of public resources is limited–including this newsletter. For this reason, you will not hear from me or my staff via this platform until September. In the meantime, here are a few websites to you may visit to get direct updates on many of the policy issues near and dear to this office (click a bullet point to be redirected): Absentee Voting Anchorage School Board Updates Alaska CARES Funding Alaska Tourism Census Reporting COVID-19 State of Alaska Updates COVID-19 Municipality of Anchorage Updates Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) Daily Legislative Hearing Schedule Finally, you may absolutely contact me directly any time. My staff and I generally get back to emails ([email protected]) and phone calls (907) 269-0169) within 48 hours. Vote Safe Any voter, for any reason, may request an absentee ballot by mail. Voting is important to our democratic process. It is our civic duty and a critical component to ensuring your voice is heard. As Alaska continues to see an increase in COVID-19 cases, it is essential to stay safe. Going to a polling location may be risky and could put your family and friends in danger of exposure to COVID-19. To stay safe and protected from COVID-19, I encourage you to request an absentee ballot from the Division of Elections here: [link removed] You may also contact them via email at [email protected] or (907) 270-2700 or toll free at (877) 375-6508 if you have questions or if you would like an absentee ballot application mailed to you. Upcoming Voting Deadlines Sunday, July 19, 2020: Deadline for voters to register to vote or update their registration Monday, August 3, 2020: Absentee, in person, early vote, electronic transmission, and special needs voting begins Saturday, August 8, 2020: Deadline to receive absentee by mail applications Monday, August 17, 2020, 5pm: Deadline to receive absentee electronic transmission ballot applications Tuesday, August 18, 2020, 7am to 8pm: Primary Election Day Adopt a Precinct The Division of Elections is looking for folks to help staff voting precincts during the Alaska State Primary and General elections. Without staff, voting precincts will have to close. For additional details or to learn how your civic group can Adopt a Precinct, visit the Election Workers and Registrars website. Every Alaskan Counts Alaska currently has the lowest Census response rate in the United States. This means our state may miss out on millions of dollars in federal funding over the next decade. Please, complete your 2020 Census today to help fund schools, roads, and public services. Additionally, results from the 2020 Census are used to determine political representation at all levels of government. This has a direct impact on regulations influencing your neighborhood and laws governing Alaska. Visit to complete your Census report– it will only take 10 minutes. In my younger years, adoption always meant integrating a child into a family. Later adoption included pets, and that made sense because many people, including me, treat their pets like one of the family. I was surprised when signs across our roadways announced that a section of road was adopted. So we moved from picking up after our children, to picking up after our dogs, to picking up trash tossed out of moving cars. Okay, there’s some continuity. This year we are being asked to adopt a polling place. Really? Why? Well, because 95 percent of the usual election workers, mostly seniors, don’t want to meet and greet people just now. That takes my mind to two places. First, this is an excellent year to vote by mail. The Division of Elections decided if you are over 65 you will automatically receive an application for an absentee ballot. I’ve got a link to the form below for anyone to use.* The deadline for getting the form in is 10 days before an election. For the primary, the form must be in by Saturday, August 8 and for the general, Saturday, October 24 or you can request both elections before the primary. If that’s done you don’t have to worry about understaffed or even closed polling places. But, on the other hand, maybe you’d like to adopt a polling place. I’ve often thought that would be a fun one day job. I always like voting in person. The poll workers are pleasant and welcoming, and you can tell there’s a little camaraderie built into the job. The pay is $168 for 14 hours, plus training before hand, and it’s a service to your community because who represents you matters. Because we are living with COVID-19 for the time being, there are eight separate safety procedures at polling places this year. They include such things as moving the voting booths apart, disinfecting throughout the day, masks for all workers, and encouraging voters to do the same. Our senate district is short by 30 poll workers. We’re asking you to help either by reducing the load on the polling places by voting by mail or by voting early** or by adopting a cute and cuddly polling place to be all your very own. It won’t require staying up all night with the colic and your shoes won’t get chewed up. It also won’t hug you, lick your face, or love you…but you will still be doing a good thing. Be well, Kayla * To get an absentee ballot application: [link removed] ** Early voting locations appear on this site15 days before the election:  [link removed] Contact Me! (907) 465-3704 (Juneau / session) (907) 269-0169 (Anchorage / interim) [email protected] ‌ ‌ Sen. Tom Begich | State Capitol Building, 120 4th St, Room 11, Juneau, AK 99801 Unsubscribe [email protected] Update Profile | About Constant Contact Sent by [email protected]
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