We flew to Juneau on Tuesday, January 30 through Friday, February 2, for advocacy training and to meet with the offices of Alaska State Senators and Representatives.
Check out our pictures on Facebook.
What was the impetus of our fly-in? At some point in my second year as the Director of Museums Alaska, I found out museums were having following the state's Undocumented Property statute through no fault of their own. The statute is outdated.
Newspapers are disappearing in rural communities and it's prohibitively expensive for museums to post all of the required information in the four printed notices mandated in the statute before museums can gain ownership of the property.
We worked with collections professionals across the state and decided to request that the statute be updated to include the option to post the notices social media. We also added a requirement for museums to post all of the required identifying information about the property on a webpage. This would allow museums to link to that webpage in a shorter print notice after posting on social media.
Representative Ashley Carrick's office was kind enough to work with us to draft the updated statute language and introduce it in HB 231.
It is currently referred to the Judiciary and State Affairs committees.
What else did we discuss while we were there? Since we were flying in, we decided to talk about two other issues while we were there.
1. Full funding of the Alaska State Libraries, Archives, and Museums (SLAM). We took the chance to let everyone know the importance of full funding of SLAM to the entire state—through the Grant-In-Aid program and the Curator of Statewide Services position.
2. Museum Infrastructure Matching Grant Program. This is legislation that we've introduced twice before, the latest in 2015-2016 (SB 61). The purpose is to establish a infrastructure matching grant program from the state for museums—modeled after the one libraries have. We were not requesting funds, just the mechanism to award funding in the future.
Who did we meet with? We met with a lot of people! We called every State Senator and State Representative's office and were able to schedule meetings with many of them. We ended up meeting with 47 offices out of 60:
- Senator Click Bishop
- Senator Matt Claman
- Senator Forrest Dunbar
- Senator Elvi Gray-Jackson
- Senator Lyman Hoffman
- Senator Shelley Hughes
- Senator James Kaufman
- Senator Scott Kawasaki
- Senator Jesse Kiehl
- Senator Robert Myers
- Senator Donny Olson
- Senator Bert Stedman
- Senator Gary Stevens
- Senator Löki Tobin
- Senator Bill Wielechowski
- Senator David Wilson
- Representative Jennie Armstrong
- Representative Ashley Carrick
- Representative Julie Coulombe
- Representative Maxine Dibert
- Representative David Eastman
- Representative Zack Fields
- Representative Alyse Galvin
- Representative Andrew Gray
- Representative Cliff Groh
- Representative Sara Hannan
- Representative Rebecca Himschoot
- Representative DeLena Johnson
- Representative Craig Johnson
- Representative Andy Josephson
- Representative Kevin McCabe
- Representative CJ McCormick
- Representative Donna Mears
- Representative Genevieve Mina
- Representative Dan Ortiz
- Representative Mike Prax
- Representative George Rauscher
- Representative Dan Saddler
- Representative Laddie Shaw
- Representative Will Stapp
- Representative Andi Story
- Representative Louise Stutes
- Representative Jesse Sumner
- Representative Cathy Tilton
- Representative Frank Tomaszewski
- Representative Sarah Vance
- Representative Stanley Wright
We had three meetings on January 31 (Representative Story, Representative Craig Johnson's office, and Senator Wilson), three meetings on February 2 (Representative Delena Johnson, Representative McCabe, and Senator Hughes), and 41 meetings between 8am and 4:30pm on February 1. For the most part we met in groups of two, occasionally three—though when we were quadruple or quintuple booked, we were down to one person per meeting.
All of our board members wanted to participate, but due to scheduling, not everyone could join us. The representatives from Museums Alaska who participated were:
- Dixie Clough, Director
- Ashley Bivin, Secretary
- Bethany Buckingham Follett, President
- Christine Carpenter, Board Director
- Cindi Lagoudakis, Board Director
- Patricia Relay, Treasurer and Co-Chair of the Advocacy Committee
Thank you to all of our board members who participated! It was a truly exhausting day of meetings and they all did an amazing job hanging in there and advocating for museums across the state!
What did we learn? We learned so much!!
HB 231: The Undocumented Property Statute
The great news: Representative Rauscher and Representative Mina immediately co-sponsored the bill, and every single person we talked to thought that the changes we wanted to make to the Undocumented Property statute made sense. They all support the changes, and, in fact, would like us to make further changes. Potential other changes:
- Add more options to avenues for notifications like radio spots, e-bulletins for the city, grocery store announcements, etc.
- Make the seven-year waiting period shorter.
We may be able to make an amendment to the bill this year to make these changes. We will discuss it with Representative Carrick's office.
The less great news: Most people did not think the bill would pass this year because of the already overloaded legislative schedule.
The silver lining: If it doesn't pass, we can take more time to add more notification options to the undocumented property statute, adjust the waiting period, and work on the abandoned loans statute as well.
There were several people who were willing to work with us to reintroduce the bill next year in both the House and the Senate.
Full Funding for SLAM
We didn't hear objections to funding the Alaska State Libraries, Archives, and Museums at the level they are requesting, but we were asked for more information about when the last time it was fully funded (or even funded to the best level). There were also questions about past years of underfunding—how much it was underfunded and whether that began with changes in the Governor's budget or further into the process of the budget.
Luckily, Senator Löki Tobin was very helpful and introduced us to the Legislative Finance Division. Did you know that anyone in the public can ask the Legislative Finance Division to send them historical budget data? We didn't. But now we do, and you better believe we can't wait to contact an analyst and use their services!
With their help, we plan to follow up with all of our state legislators offices to send them historical data about the funding of the Alaska State Libraries, Archives, and Museums.
Infrastructure Matching Grant Program
We weren't asking for anything this legislative period. We were more so explaining the need for a matching program mechanism and we were also informing our legislators of the large amount of museums infrastructure projects that are on the horizon.
Several offices were very helpful in letting us know some potential issues we may run into if we seek to reintroduce this bill:
- After the library matching program was created, rules and regulations were never created, so the program never worked as intended. This will require more advocacy with the department in charge of the program to implement the program as intended.
- There was also talk about an office or program created by the state to help manage the federal infrastructure funds and whether that office/program could help with museum projects.
- While we are not requesting funding, the department who will have to manage the program will likely request another staff person to manage the program, so our rquest will have a fiscal note attached to it.
We will also need to do more work on our museum infrastructure project list for the state before we reintroduce the legislation to get more exact numbers and timelines for the projects.
How do we feel about the visit? We feel great! It was wonderful to connect to so many state representatives and senators and let them know who we are and what our priorities are for museums in our state. We were met with positive and helpful feedback that will allow us to improve our advocacy messages and methods going forward.
While we do not have enough funding to send as many people to Juneau as we did every year, we do think that we should send one or two people as often as we can to meet with as many people as possible and keep museums on people's minds.
We gained a lot of inspiration from this trip and will be stronger advocates for museums going forward.
A BIG THANK YOU! To everyone who came to hang out with us at the bowling alley despite of the snow. And thank you to the Alaska State Museum for some behind-the-scenes insights and tours. We really appreciate it!
And a mini thank you to the car rental agency for assigning us massive jeeps, which are unsuited to the tiny downtown streets of Juneau. But, boy, when it started snowing and didn't stop right before our big meeting day, we were grateful for extreme four-wheel drive!
A BIG CONGRATULATIONS to our two bowling champs, Sarah "Sassypants" Asper-Smith, and Ashley "Not So Crazy Cat Lady" Bivin!
I think that covers everything, but if you have any questions, please let us know!