Giessel: Budget, PFD, public safety are session priorities
The state Senate's incoming Republican president told a business group Thursday what Alaskans can expect when lawmakers return to Juneau Jan. 15.
Sen. Cathy Giessel addressed the Resource Development Council, during a speech at the Dena'ina Center in downtown Anchorage.
In addition to the well-publicized subjects -- budget, Permanent Fund Dividend and public safety -- Giessel added one more item: trust in government.
"We understand that the public has lost trust in government," said Giessel, who will become the next Senate president. "Certainly Gov. (Mike) Dunleavy has identified that as he's spoken to people all over the state. Senate members who have run for office have heard this also.
We will be making significant effort to communicate with citizens as far as what we're doing, what we see in terms of information that informs our work. Now, communication doesn't mean just talking at people. We want to hear from Alaskans, so that's one of the mission, particularly of the Senate majority."
Giessel praised Dunleavy for hiring nationally known budget hawk Donna Arduin to help with a $1.6 billion budget deficit.
She also highlighted how strengthening the state's crime laws -- a campaign issue for most candidates last year -- will be a legislative focus.
"This is our majority's top priority," she told the crowd. "It affects everyone across the state, and it is what we will be focused on -- number one."
Afterward, Giessel said Senate Judiciary Chair Shelly Hughes (R-Wasilla) will be entrusted with advancing significant crime legislation.
"I can't predict what the governor is planning to do in terms of criminal justice reform, but I can tell you that our judiciary committee is laser-focused on it and will have a bill related to it," she said.
Giessel succeeds outgoing Fairbanks Republican Pete Kelly as president. She'll lead 13 Republicans and one Democrat who make up the majority caucus.
She gives up her post as chair for the Senate Resources Chair, which she held for six years.
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