The Alaska House approved forming a new special committee on tribal affairs this week. It’s the first such committee of its kind. The goal is to advance strategic partnerships, and perhaps in the process, save money on a wide range of programs, especially in rural Alaska.
“The work of tribes in the areas of health, child welfare, transportation, public safety, those all exist independent of the state of Alaska," said Bethel Democrat Tiffany Zulkosky. "Because federal resources come into the state through our tribes, we have shared goals that we can capitalize on which is why we speak of this in terms of strategic partnerships. In these lean budget times, we must build upon innovative approaches that allow us to stretch state dollars farther and this is a great opportunity.”
There was some doubt about the need for yet another committee in the House. Nikiski Republican Ben Carpenter tried to point out that many tribal concerns could likely be handled in existing committees.
“It seems to me that any of the issues that might be brought before this new committee can currently be added to an agenda on any one of the other committees like state affairs or community and regional affairs. So I’m not sure I fully understand why we need to add to the level of complexity of our organization when we can already address the issues that might be brought up in this committee.”
Anchorage Democrat Geran Tarr explained that other recent tribal compacts in foster care had shown promise, and those partnerships should be expanded.
“Maybe in health care more than we’re doing now. Also in education...We know that our native corporations are some of the most successful companies, not only in Alaska but in the United States as are the non-profit health corporations. I think they can bring a lot of that business awareness and success to conversations about how we can do things related to state government.”
The resolution passed, with Carpenter’s support, on a final vote of 38-1.