Bush Caucus Takes Stand On Rural Issues

Bryce Edgmon with the Bush caucus of the Alaska legislature spoke to AFN delegates this morning.

Edgmon, a Democrat from Dillingham, said the caucus took a forceful stance against the photo ID mandates for voter registration and against the proposal to amend the state constitution for using state dollars for non public schools.

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“Our schools are struggling as it is under the current funding formula and we’re very concerned about making sure that we can get every state dollar possible to our schools so that our children get the quality education that not only they deserve but that our constitution mandates,” Edgmon said.

Photo by Lori Townsend, APRN - Anchorage.
Photo by Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage.

Edgmon introduced legislation in April that would allow communities along with their local non-profits, to have the authority to arm Village Public Safety Officers. He said they are the first responders in the villages.

“But they do so in a manner in rural Alaska that unfortunately is changing. A lot of our communities are featuring more violent episodes of domestic violence. And we’re seeing our VPSOs having to go in to communities, into situations where they’re facing off with a perpetrator who has a hunting rifle, or armed otherwise and our VPSOs are going  into this situation armed with pepper spray, a tazer gun, handcuffs, a baton, I believe they’ve got,” Edgmon said.

Edgmon said Governor Parnell supports the bill and Senator Donny Olson introduced the senate version. He said bush caucus members are writing an op ed piece urging strong support for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act to bring 40,000 Alaskans under the coverage.

“And under a seven year period according to ANTHC’s numbers, the state of Alaska would receive about 1.1 billion dollars without having to put up a whole lot of money to match that, so it makes complete sense to do it. We think the Governor should allow Alaska to take advantage of this program and by golly if the federal government goes under and can’t keep up their end of the Medicaid program, we’re going to be in a lot worse problems than just Medicaid, trust me on that,” he said.

He closed by thanking village administrators, saying they work hard to clarify the community needs across rural Alaska to their state representatives.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 24 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori